Why You Need to Be Wary of Technology Related Injuries
Written by: Louis Ezrick, PT, DPT, CEO at Evolve Physical Therapy
Technology has made our lives simpler by making just about everything more convenient and easier for us. From talking to shopping, working at our jobs, along with everything in between, technology has and still is making most things easier for the masses. But is technology silently killing us? Perhaps, some could say it’s making us lazier? Truth be told, convenience can often come with a price. So yes, technology can also impact our lives in a negative way, which is evidenced in things like computer-related injuries statistics. Here are some ways technology-related injuries are silently hurting us and our bodies.
Prevent Technology-Related Injuries By Giving Your Thumbs A Break
Gone are the days that a phone is only used for calling. Our cellular phones and mobile devices are used for texting, scheduling, writing, working, tracking movement and exercise, and the list goes on and on! Because of the prolonged use of our small handy devices, our thumbs can suffer a tech-related injury called DeQuervain's Tenosynovitis. Due to the repetitive motions our thumbs do when we interact with our apps and devices, prolonged overuse can cause microtears and injuries in our hands.
So, give your thumbs a break! For hand pain relief, try to use your other fingers when typing on those handy-dandy phones.
Don’t Forget Your Wrists
Another essential item most of us use daily are our laptops and computers. They allow us to write, make reports, general work tasks, communicate, all the way to running and managing a business! Well, prolonged use of these devices also has its downsides when it comes to computer-related injuries.
Typing and using your mouse involves repetitive wrist motions that can lead to compression and inflammation of structures in your wrist. You can develop a condition called Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This is one of the most common computer mouse related injuries, and can result in pain and weakness in your hands. The best way to avoid this is to keep your wrists in a neutral position. Take a break from typing every hour and do a quick stretch and use rotational movements of your hands.
Avoid Tech-Related Injuries Like the Gorilla Arm
Yes, there is now such a thing called Gorilla Arm Syndrome. Anyone can be diagnosed with this computer-related injury. Gorilla Arm Syndrome can happen when you lift your arms in front of you to interact with display screens without support for a prolonged period of time.
Lifting your arms mid-air without support is not ergonomically friendly and can cause serious computer related injuries in the workplace. It only results in pain and fatigue in the shoulder and neck areas. Instead, consider working at a desk with adequate (and correct!) arm support or limit your use of touch screens!
Hold Your Phones Up
Flexing your head forward as you look down on your phone actually has damaging effects to your spine. You might not realize this but your head is pretty heavy, and can weigh up to 10lbs. Plus, it can get even heavier as you tilt your head forward. A forward head tilted at 30 degrees can equate to a 40-pound head. If it’s tilted at 60 degrees, the head weighs approximately 60 lbs. The greater the forward tilt, the heavier your head gets and results in more strain on the neck.
Try to avoid this technology-related injury by making a conscious effort of straightening your back when using your devices. Or perhaps you can raise your phone a little higher. Give your neck a little stretch before you send your next text message!
Sitting Is The New Smoking of Technology-Related Injuries
Research indicates that we sit too much these days and it is slowly killing us. Due to technology, it’s much easier to sit down, watch TV, use your smartphone, use your laptop, or play video games. Even ordering take out or buying stuff online can be done without getting off your butt.
If your work requires you to spend a lot of time sitting in front of a desk, make it a habit to stand up and stretch for a few minutes every hour. Or, maybe invest in an adjustable stand up desk to help prevent computer-related injuries in the workplace.
What Can A Physical Therapist Do To Help You Prevent Computer-Related Injuries?
A Physical Therapist is trained, educated, and extremely knowledgeable about posture, alignment, and movement. These are the three main criteria that are usually affected when we experience tech-related injuries. We experience pain and discomfort due to repetitive motions like typing, prolonged sitting, and using thumbs for texting. A physical therapist will conduct a full examination based on your complaints. Then, they will work with you on a program that will help you to ultimately get rid of the pain and discomfort caused by your tech-related injuries.
So What Should You Expect?
After the initial assessment, your physical therapist will need to lessen your pain first. Inflammation from your muscle fibers or other structures from tech-related injuries cause this pain. Reducing this will help you tolerate and perform the exercises your therapist will teach you later on. Your physical therapist may also use either hot or cold compress packs to ease your pain. Another pain relief option is the use of electrical stimulation to override pain signals your nerves send to your brain.
Your physical therapist will then provide stretching exercises to the affected muscles. When we assume a position for a long period of time, such as when we work in front of a desk all day, some muscles tend to tighten up causing an imbalance in the structures or your body. For example, common computer-related injuries include your back muscles getting tight from all of the sitting. Or, your neck and shoulders may get tight due to over-playing video games. As such, a physical therapist may also provide manual therapy to help further align your bones and joints.
After fixing your alignment and relieving pressure off of your soft tissue, your physical therapist will then teach you exercises to strengthen your muscles. This may sound counter-productive for a body that is already in pain from technology-related injuries. But, it will help your muscles cope with the strain from doing repetitive work. For example, you would need your core muscles to be strong and stable to prevent any back pain from sitting too long. Aside from this, your muscle endurance should increase as well so that they - your muscles - can tolerate future prolonged usage.
What To Do After Physical Therapy?
You will have to see your physical therapist until you have fully recovered from your tech-related injuries. That means when there is absolutely no more pain or discomfort. Your physical therapist will give you a take home program that you will need to continue to do so that your symptoms will not return. Your physical therapist will also give you tips on ergonomic strategies to prevent any more instances of computer-related injuries in the workplace and at home.
Here are easy ways to reduce your risk of technology-related injuries:
- Take frequent breaks! Make it a habit to stand up, stretch or walk around even just for ten minutes every hour. Consider going out of the building during lunch break and walk around the block. Get yourself moving!
- Always assume good posture. When we slouch or sit with terrible posture, we are ultimately putting a tremendous amount of strain on our neck, shoulder, and back muscles. Adjust your workstation to the right height so that you can work with good posture. Invest in a stand up desk, a good ergonomic chair, or a gaming chair if you spend a lot of time playing video games.
- Make sure your wrists are in a neutral position and straight when using your keyboard or mouse. Keep in mind that your elbows should be at a 90 degree angle when working at a desk.
- Exercise regularly! It’s so easy for our muscles to stiffen and tighten up if we don’t make a variety of movements. If your body starts to stiffen up then pain will definitely follow next.
Finding A Physical Therapist That's Right for You
Technology can silently hurt and kill us, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are products and equipment that can assist and support our bodies as we use technology. These days, there are new unique products becoming more readily available every day. As technology has made everything more convenient and easier for us, we still have to remember to keep it moving! Remember, our bodies are made for movement and not being stuck in one sedentary position all day.
If you’re experiencing undesirable symptoms from computer-related injuries like pain, tingling, or weakness, don’t hesitate to see a doctor or a physical therapist. Use the BetterPT website or app to make an appointment with a qualified physician today. You don’t even need a referral to book: Direct access makes it easier than ever. No doctor’s referral needed, no long calls with insurance, no excessive paperwork. Get the treatment you need for your tech-related injuries today to start living pain-free.
Louis Ezrick is the Founder and CEO of Evolve. He holds a Master's of Physical Therapy from SUNY Downstate College of Medicine and a Bachelors of Science from the University of Delaware.There’s physical therapy, there’s training, and then there’s EVOLVE. Evolve Physical Therapy uses the science of biomechanics merged with fitness to help their patients get better and stay better!