Fitness Facts: Pain caused by electronic devices
By Connie Colbert
Director, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic
Cellphones and tablets are changing the way we access information throughout the day. But using these devices can change our posture in ways that may be detrimental and cause unnecessary aches and pains.
Here are some examples:
Neck pain: Heavy smartphone use often will cause neck pain because of the twisting and tilting of your neck to different angles to view the devices. Chiropractors also say that working in front of the computer or your laptop for longer than eight hours without using proper posture may be a major cause of neck pain in the workplace.
Thumb pain: The thumb may be overworked because of texting and scrolling. If these motions are done excessively, you could develop tendinitis (inflammation) in the tendons of your thumb.
Elbow pain: Keeping your elbow bent in a flexed position (such as when you hold your phone out in front of you) may strain the nerves that pass through the elbow joint, causing pain and tingling that can radiate from there to the hand. Many people keep their wrists in a fixed position while texting, which can put extra stress on the muscles of the forearm. Straining those muscles may lead to pain in the elbow, such as the pain from playing tennis or golf.
Wrist pain (sometimes called “text claw”): This is the pain you may get when your wrists are in a fixed texting position for an extended period. Holding your wrist in this position sometimes can lead to tendinitis, which causes wrist pain, aching, numbness and the loss of strength. It can make you very miserable, and small tasks may seem hard to complete.
How do I avoid these problems when it is necessary to use these devices? Here are some tips:
- Try your best to mix it up and use other fingers besides your thumb when scrolling or texting.
- Rather than tilting your head down, keep it up and bring your phone higher to meet it.
- Switch hands often, especially when you’re reading an article that requires you to hold your phone for a long time.
- Throughout the day, pay attention to your posture. Stand up straight with your shoulders back and make a conscious effort to resist slouching.
- Alternate hands when you use your phone. It helps not only your elbow but also your wrists. Try to do most of your daily work at a desktop or laptop – many people have better ergonomic setups at their computer (such as wrist pads). If you do not have an ergonomic set-up, ask your supervisor to obtain one (especially if you spend many hours at your desk per day).
Prevention is the key to avoiding these aches, strains and pains. But if you are experiencing them now, see a health care provider for specific treatment such as wrist brace, ice, heat, stretching exercises and possibly anti-inflammatory medications.