Do electronic devices come up in conversations with patients about hand or wrist pain?
Indeed, this is a familiar account for so many: after hours of typing away on my computer or scrolling through Facebook on my Smartphone, I feel a twinge of pain in my hand, or the need to flex my wrist!
The world of today is known as the `revolution of technology`! This is the era of Smartphone, game controllers, computers and laptops - the keyboard, mouse and the touch screens of tablets. It goes without saying that everyone is mastering the art of texting, emailing, web surfing and even selfie-taking. But along with this digital prowess, we have picked up some unexpected side effect s and it is not surprising that symptoms occur from everyday wear and tear or from overuse and this is why more and more people all over the globe are experiencing pain in their hands and wrists.
Comprised of dozens of small bones, our hands and wrists may get sore, easily enough. The wrist is among the most complex areas in our body, with eight lined up bones (the Carpals) that are connected with the two long bones of the forearm (the Radius and Ulna). All these bones are connected by ligaments that keep the joints together while giving a wide range of motion for our hands. There is also an array of tendons that pass the wrist and control the movement of our wrist, fingers, and thumb. Because each constituent serves a unique purpose in the overall motion if even one area gets sore, we are going to feel it - something is definitely amiss!
Problems affecting the hands or wrists can make the simplest of tasks painful and limited. A routine movement such as lifting a cup of tea, combing the hair or brushing the teeth, can ignite pain or cause us to stop. Sometimes the pain may be agonizing enough to cause us to change the way we do things, such as buttoning a shirt, opening the lid of a jar or even working on our laptops.
Regretfully true, Orthopaedicians are observing a colossal rise in the incidence of technology-related hand and wrist problems worldwide, as they are being overused for new movements that nothing has prepared them for. Arthritis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Tendonitis (e.g. trigger finger) and Quervain's Tenosynovitis are some of the most common conditions that can be brought upon by overuse of the hands and wrists through all those repetitive movements of typing, texting, swiping and surfing.
So, what to do?
Yes, it seems you cannot just take your eyes off those glowing screens! However, there are things you can do to ward off technology-related hand or wrist pain, and it is advisable to strike a balance between superfluous use of technology and healthy life. Begin by taking note of your habits and the ergonomics of your work. How much time do you spend on technology? Is there a chance to send voice messages instead of typing them out? Are your keyboard and mouse in proper alignment with your arms and wrists? Do you schedule `break` time from your electronic device?
Consider giving your thumb some rest by using your forefinger to text or trying the voice feature on your phone to send messages. Some stretching would be of great help; open and close your fingers throughout the day to keep your tendons agile. While on the computer, ensure that your desk, chair, and screen are aligned in an ergonomic fashion, and always keep the arm and wrist aligned while typing.
If pain is creeping in, you can help relieve the pain at home. Applying ice to the sore area can help relieve the pain and improve movement. Over the counter, anti-inflammatory medications may help if needed. It goes without saying that giving your achy hand or wrist rest is a must.
Worsening pain that interferes with day-to-day activities, presence of numbness or tingling, difficulty in performing simple hand/wrist movements, weakness that makes holding things difficult, inability to flex or straighten a joint, swelling and/or tenderness are all indicators of the need for an appointment with your Orthopaedician who will assess your complaint and offer the most appropriate management plan based upon the cause of your symptoms. Successful evaluation and treatment of hand and wrist ailments and injuries require extensive knowledge of the complex function of the hand and wrist, a deep understanding of the mechanism of problems, presentations, and complications related to overuse of technology, as well as particular expertise in treating the full spectrum of hand and wrist disorders.
As a matter of fact, technology is an inevitable component of our lives nowadays and it does make our lives better. We rely on technology and related repetitive chores to do our work, socialize and more. It may seem hard for us to believe, considering that we use our hands and wrists to do almost everything, but some of the most common hand and wrist problems may be induced by overuse and repetitive technology-related movements. So the more we work on prevention and are well-informed on how to protect our hands and wrists, the more we are able to avoid overuse injuries from daily activities that are difficult to stay away from… Do not allow technology to get the better of you!
Dr. Kutaiba Salman
Hand & Wrist Expert