Handheld technology is evolving rapidly, forcing our bodies to constantly adapt to new smartphones, tablets, and other devices. With a staggering 95% of Americans owning a cell phone, 77% owning a smartphone, and 50% owning a tablet, there are innumerable opportunities for hand and wrist injuries. In fact, nearly 15,000 Americans per year are now treated for these injuries, and age does not seem to be a contributing factor. Constant use of devices is our new reality, and so are wrist and hand injuries. Here are some ways to protect yourself.
Watch for Symptoms
Hand and wrist injuries from handheld devices tend to start out minor and gradually worsen. Keep a close eye out for any of the following symptoms:
- Numbness, tingling, burning, or shooting pains
- Aches, soreness or, cramping
- Deep, localized pain and swelling
If you experience any of these symptoms, stop using your device and stretch your hands and wrists. Call a physical therapist if the symptoms do not respond to basic stretching and rest.
Even if you are not yet having problems, preventive exercises can help reduce your risk for wrist and hand injuries.
Strengthen your extensors: Wrap a rubber band around your fingertips and then open and close your hand several times. This helps to strengthen the muscles that hold your phone.
Combat carpal tunnel: First, make a fist. Then extend your fingers to point straight up, thumb neutral. Bend your wrist backwards, and then separate your thumb. Finally, separate your fingers, while using your other hand to pull on your thumb.
Build the intrinsic muscles: Start with your palm facing forward, fingers pointing to the sky. Curl your fingers into a hooked fist, then slide them into a full fist. Finally, extend your fingers down your palm into a straight fist.
Some simple changes in your behaviors and habits can vastly reduce your risk for injuries.
Put down your phone: When surfing the internet or checking your email, place your phone on a table or your lap, use a stand, or prop it on a pillow. This provides more support for the arms and helps to reduce neck strain.
Change activities: Repetitive motion injuries are the most common type of handheld device-related injuries. Switch up what you’re doing at least once per hour.
Switch thumbs: Although you probably have a main texting thumb, change hands or fingers every now and then. This rests your dominant thumb and helps build your muscles more equally.
Reduce fatigue: At least once per hour, look away from your device at something at least 20 feet from you. This reduces fatigue and eye strain.
Keep it neutral: Hold your device with a neutral grip, wrists straight. If you have trouble maintaining this position, put the device down on something or add a case that fits your hands.
Want to Learn More?
If you are ready for the latest treatments for your pain or injury, we invite you to contact us today at (212) 213-3480 to learn how we can help.