Hey, how’s your neck these days? Your thumb? Your elbow? It’s not that strange a question these days. In the wake of our dependence on smart phones, ipad and tablets there are a new crop of injuries plaguing chiropractic offices everywhere. Are your thumbs feeling sore after a day of texting? Or perhaps your elbow has been bothering you recently from all that mousing. If you are one of the million Torontonians addicted to their devices, chances are you have suffered from one of these technology-induced injuries. So what can you do about injuries that that come from screen addiction?
Well, first of all, you can use strategies to avoid them in the first place. How? Just like this.
How to avoid the 4 most common screen addiction injuries
Screen Addiction Injury 1: Smartphone Thumb
With each text send, tweet tweeted, or email returned you are repeatedly using the flexor muscles of the thumb. Over time the tendons of these muscles can become inflamed and then painful. This is also known as tendonitis. Here’s what you can do to help reduce your chances of developing this injury.
1. Rest your thumb.
Consider using your index or middle finger or better yet use your voice to dictate a message.
2. Stretch out your thumb.
Start by putting your hand out as if you are about to make a handshake. Then bend your down wrist away from your thumb. Lastly, use your other hand to passively flex your thumb down towards the ground.
Screen Addiction Injury 2: Text Neck
As you lean over your laptop or stare down at your phone to read this, you are increasing the pressure on the muscles and joints of your neck. This can lead to pain and/ or inflammation in the neck and upper shoulders. Headaches and stiffness are other common symptoms of text neck. Keep these tips in mind to avoid this injury from happening to you.
1. Raise the phone.
Move the cell phone (and other devices) to eye level so the head doesn’t have to be tilted forward.
2. Take frequent breaks.
Spend some time away from the phone. If you’re returning a lot of email, change to a desktop which allows for better ergonomics. Change positions while texting. Consider lying on back with supportive pillows under your neck if at home.
3. Stand up straight.
Good posture, with the shoulders pulled back and down, keeps the body aligned in a neutral position and reduces the pressure on the spine
4. Stretch the neck.
Tuck the chin down toward the neck, then slowly raise it up toward the ceiling. Rotate the head so that it is looking out over one shoulder, then turn slowly and rotate in the other direction. Rotate the shoulders in a clockwise then counter clockwise direction while holding the arms down by the sides of the body.
Screen Addiction Injury 3: Mousing Elbow
Repetitive clicking on the mouse can often irritate the muscles of the forearm. As the forearm fatigues your muscles contract and constrict resulting in a tight feeling in your forearms as well as pain at the attachment point on your elbow. The elbow itself may be tender to touch due to inflammation at that point. Posture at your desk plays a key role in preventing this injury.
1. Arm Posture.
Ensure that your upper arm and forearms maintain a 90-degree angle. A quick way to fix this angle is to move your chair up or down to help adjust the angle of your arm.
2. Keyboard Posture.
Keep your keyboard flat, do not raise the back. If raised your wrists are forced into extension which puts strain on your forearm extensor muscles and tendons. Your hand, wrist and mouse should be level. If you can’t adjust the back of your keyboard is to raise the front of your keyboard with a small book or magazine.
3. Mouse Posture.
Avoid having to reach for your mouse. If you have a short cable, switch to a wireless mouse. Size matters! Using a mouse that is too small causes tension and strain on your fingers and wrist because they are constantly engaged. Your hand should be relaxed when gripping and holding the mouse.
Screen Addiction Injury 4: Screen Fatigue
An online poll of 28,000 Canadians, conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Google, found that Smartphone owners admitted to spending roughly 86 per cent of their time, or seven hours a day staring at a screen (laptop, tablet, phone etc.). This can lead to fatigue of the eye muscles resulting in headaches and pressure around the eyes. Consider these tips to avoid your eyes from tiring out.
1. The Rule Of 20s.
Look away from your computer at least every 20 minutes and gaze at a distant object (at least 20 feet away) for at least 20 seconds.
2. 5-minute mini breaks.
Also consider taking more mini-breaks during the day. A few simple 5 minute breaks, away from your screen, can help to significantly reduce the occurrence of screen fatigue.