Nyack Hospital has released an article on the best practices to protect your body from injuries caused by digital device overuse. According to Nyack Hospital staff, injuries to elbows, wrists, and hands are becoming increasingly common, since the use of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other digital devices are utilized consistently for multiple hours on a daily basis.
Jason Fond, MD, the Director of Orthopedic Surgery at Nyack Hospital, discusses how there are many ways to avoid developing (or worsening) injuries to the hands, wrists, and elbows, simply by being aware and taking a few simple precautionary steps: “We started seeing patients coming in with hand and wrist overuse injuries when the BlackBerry became popular years ago…Now, people use cell phones and tablets for all aspects of their work and social life. We are seeing many cases of carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis, caused by overuse of tendons and muscles in the hand, arm and wrist…What often starts as a minor irritation can end up as a major health issue if a person continues to use their devices without a break.” The painful and progessive carpal tunnel syndrome that causes numbness and tingling in the hand and wrist area, and even sharp pain shooting up through the arm is one common injury resulting from device overuse.
Nyack Hospital’s article notes how the condition is caused by a pressure on a nerve (the median nerve) which runs from the forearm into the palm: “The nerve runs through a small space in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. Tendons are cord-like structures that connect bone to muscle. Tendinitis, or inflammation of the tendons, often results from overuse of the tendon. They are found throughout the body, including hands, shoulders, elbows, wrists, feet, hips, knees, and ankles. The types of tendinitis most often caused by digital device overuse are commonly called tennis elbow (an injury to the outer elbow tendon) or golfer’s elbow (injury to the inner elbow tendon).” As a result of tendinitis injuries, and more commonly the “tennis elbow” or “golfer’s elbow,” pain can radiate throughout the elbow, upper arm, and forearm. Also when it comes to device overuse, many experience neck and/or back strain, resulting from hunching over a phone or tablet for long periods of time. Even while sitting up straight, one may naturally begin to curve their spine, and keep their neck forward, which causes strain repeatedly over time.
Check out some tips to avoid injury due to digital device overuse:
*Limit screen time
*Take regular breaks
*Gently stretch your wrists and neck
*Change your body position often
*Stand up and walk around every half hour
*Keep your shoulders relaxed and your elbows close to your body, with your hands, wrists, forearms and thighs parallel
*Adjust your chair height so your feet are flat on the floor and your knees equal to, or slightly lower than, your hips
In order to combat the uncomfort and pain from these conditions, Dr. Fond suggests the following: “A brace can be used on the wrist, elbow, or hand to provide support, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication can be taken to reduce inflammation and pain.” Also exploring tools that can help cut down on typing, such as voice texting or voice emailing, will help alleviate some pain. If an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen does not relieve symptoms or take care of the problem, Dr. Fond says it is time to consult a doctor. He further notes: “If the pain is affecting job performance, a patient should seek a medical evaluation. The quicker an issue is addressed, the sooner the symptoms can be reversed or made better. It can also reduce the risk of the problem extending to other areas such as the shoulder.”
Some who face digital overuse injuries benefit from physical therapy, as it increases strength and flexibility of the tendons in the hand, wrist and arm, and in some cases, corticosteroid injections can provide temporary relief for carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis.
Dr. Fond states: “Surgery is a last resort if all other treatments fail…when a person undergoes surgery, they require a period of rehabilitation that includes rest and avoiding use of digital devices…I tell patients if they modify their behavior before their problem becomes too severe, they can avoid surgery and rehab.”
For more on digital device overuse, important reference numbers, and more, please visit the Nyack hospital’s website and article here.