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Dealing with Technology-induced Hand and Neck Pain

One of the conditions that multispecialty healthcare and pain management centers in Brooklyn, NYC treat is pain or injuries caused by the use of mobile phones and computers.

Hand Pain

What Can Prolonged Mobile and Computer Use Do?

Technology does make our lives better, but it also causes the side effect of injuries or pain brought about by the frequent use of these gadgets. Frequent use of the keyboard for sending emails or compiling documents, constant use of the mobile phone for texting, and straining the eyes through prolonged gazing at the computer screen or your smartphone can cause health issues. Along with strain to the eyes and the brain, they also cause musculoskeletal injuries such as damages to the wrist, elbow and fingers.

Side Effects of Texting and Typing

Let’s start with two activities that typically characterize our cyber age lifestyle – texting and typing. These seem to be pretty harmless, but they are repetitive actions that can cause hand pain if you’re prone to osteoarthritis, which is the cartilage in your joints wearing away. The repetitive movement from texting can cause strain in the cartilage and aggravate the osteoarthritis symptoms.

  • De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

    But even if you aren’t osteoarthritis-prone, there are other conditions you could face due to the frequent typing and texting. Too much use of the thumbs for texting could result in overuse or strain of the tendons between the wrist and the thumb. This condition is De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. Among the symptoms is pain in the region around the thumb that can transfer to the forearm suddenly or gradually.

  • Stenosing Tenosynovitis

    And if you’re pushing buttons too hard, you could face inflammation surrounding the tendons that enable your fingers to bend. This increases the chances of stenosing tenosynovitis or trigger finger. You can feel a popping sensation, pain or the feeling of the digit locking as you straighten or bend it.

  • Aggravating Carpal Tunnel and Cubital Tunnel Syndromes

    You can also experience a tingling sensation or numbness in your fingers such as the index finger, thumb, middle finger or the ring finger. These symptoms mimic those of carpal tunnel syndrome, which is the compression of the median nerve while passing through the carpal tunnel area of the wrist. But typing does not cause carpal tunnel syndrome unless you already have it, in which case it could get aggravated.

    Again, if you already have cubital tunnel syndrome, you could aggravate this condition if you lean too much on your elbows. The cubital tunnel syndrome is a condition where your ulnar nerve gets compressed while passing through the cubital tunnel, which is the tissue close to the elbow.

Treating These Hand Conditions

To treat these hand conditions, the first thing you need to do is stop texting and typing for a short time. Just take a break to give the strained muscles and nerves a rest.

  • Advanced, multispecialty healthcare centers can provide various pain management treatment procedures here such as physical therapy, chiropractic care, transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS), etc.
  • You may be prescribed medications such as analgesics and muscle relaxants. In some cases, steroid injections may be necessary. It all depends on the severity of the injury, but if you identify the injury and take a break immediately, or modify your workplace so as to use your laptop, desktop or mobile phone in a different manner, you can give your strained muscles and nerves some relief.

According to the Harvard Health Letter, using a stylus rather than your thumb for texting on the mobile phone could give it some rest and relief from the pain. Or you could use the other fingers if it’s the thumb that’s hurting. To deal with carpal tunnel pain symptoms, Harvard suggests arranging your workstation in such a manner as to ensure your forearms are positioned parallel to your workplace floor and your wrists are not bent but straight, in line with the forearms. Your elbows must be relaxed and bending at an angle of 90 degrees at your waist. Harvard-affiliated orthopedic surgeon Dr. Tamara Rozental even suggests using a vertical mouse kept right in front rather than on the side.

Strain to the Back and Neck

There could also be strain caused to your back and neck when you keep looking at your mobile phone, desktop or laptop for a long time. The strain is usually caused when your posture is such that you have to bend and look at the screen. Since looking down for a long period of time stretches your upper back and neck’s ligaments, tendons and muscles, you experience pain. But this is a temporary kind of pain that is unlikely to cause any permanent issues to the back or neck, says Harvard-affiliated orthopedic surgeon Dr. Andrew White.

Strain to the neck and back can also cause the occipital nerve to be strained in the region where the spine connects to the skull base. As a result, you could experience headaches. Taking periodic breaks and maintaining the right posture can help you manage this pain.

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