Technology is everywhere, we can’t avoid it. And, we use it a lot. On average, Americans send over 40 emails a day! And we spend close to 23 hours a week texting. Gamers, however, spend an average of 7 hours a week playing video games. Wow, that’s a lot of technology time! So, how is it causing joint problems?
Your joints get more of a workout than you realize. The repetitive keystrokes and clicks can aggravate conditions, causing joint problems. In fact, they are at as great of a risk as athletes! Repetitive actions put a strain on our bodies.
The way we use devices is no different. So, what damage is caused? Studies have found that joint problems seem to worsen. And after repetitive texting or typing, hand & wrist pain gets worse. The good news is that many of these conditions are treatable!
This condition does not have a clear definition. However, it typically refers to one of two things.
1. Trigger Thumb: This is the constriction of a flexor tendon in the thumb. Texting and holding a smartphone can cause this. Symptoms include popping when you bend or straighten the thumb. In some cases, the thumb can get locked too.
Treatment for trigger thumb is available. And cortisone injections are the most common. Cortisone reduces pain and restores mobility in most cases. For severe cases, surgery can also be used. The procedure releases the pulley at the base of the thumb. The tendon will be able to move more freely. This reduces pain and improves mobility.
If you experience pain when using a smartphone, change your habits. Try holding the phone with your other hand. You can also type with your index finger. Avoid repetitive motions where you can.
2. Thumb Arthritis: This occurs at the carpometacarpal joint. This is where the wrist and thumb connect. Gripping your phone and texting create pinching motions. These forces can worsen symptoms and existing conditions.
It is not yet known if phone use causes this condition. However, there is a link between repetitive use and increased pain. Rest and treatment can help alleviate pain. But, there is no cure for this condition.
Typical treatments include cortisone shots and splints. If symptoms persist, you may need a carpometacarpal arthroplasty. This involves removing part of the trapezium bone. Removing the arthritic bone can improve function and relieve pain.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Other parts of your body are also affected by technology. Elbows also bear the brunt of repetitive use. Common actions that affect the elbow include:
- Holding your phone to your ear.
- Resting your elbow on a desk hard surface.
- Keeping your arms bent while using a mouse.
The above positions contribute to cubital tunnel syndrome. Increased tension in the tunnel also can occur. This affects the ulnar nerve which passes through the elbow. The main symptom of cubital tunnel syndrome is numbness. Tingling in the ring and pinky fingers also occur. Many also experience soreness inside the elbow.
You can relieve elbow pain by using padding when resting on a hard surface. You also need to avoid pressure on the back of the elbow. Avoid positions that keep your elbows flexed for an extended time.
Use a hands-free device when possible. Sit away from your computer so your elbows are straighter. Sleep with a splint to prevent too much bending at night.
These minor changes can ease the pain. In severe cases, you may need surgery to reduce pressure from the nerve. Therefore, reducing symptoms and preventing the risk of permanent nerve damage.
Prevention Tips for Techie Joint Problems
Each of these conditions mostly affects individuals in their 30s, and older. They are rare in children. But, children should avoid repetitive stress injuries. It is never too early to start.
Below are a few ideas to help adults and children, such as:
- Let your thumb rest. Use the index finger to text. Use voice features to send messages.
- Stretch. Wrist circles can help. Open and close your fingers during the day. This keeps the tendons in your hand nimble.
- Call instead of texting. Use speaker phones for longer calls.
- Track how much you use your phone. Think of ways to cut back.
- Out the phone away when you are with friends and family.
- Limit video gameplay