Have you noticed that you are spending more time texting or using your smartphone? What about your e-reader or tablet? The new ultra books allow you to touch the screen, like your other portable devices, and will eventually add insult to injury. If you learn about the types of stress and repetitive injuries that your new devices will cause, you can prevent them from occurring.
I see 3 types of technology injuries in my office:
Ulnar Nerve Compression
Picture your arms when you text or read your device, especially from your elbow down to your fingers. Notice how your elbows are in a flexion (bent) position without support from a chair arm or desk edge? You are probably cutting off your nerve flow down the ulnar nerve. You know, the "funny bone" nerve that sits in the grove by your elbow? By texting or looking down at your screen for long periods of time you are compressing that area and causing numbness in your fingers.
If your fingers are numb or tingling and stretching your arms them makes them feel better, this is happening to you.
- Limit your time spent on tech devices, especially if you are lying in bed and your neck is also in flexion.The ulnar nerve starts in your lower neck, so bending that can cause a double compression.
- Stretch your arms to stretch this nerve. Stand straight with your arms to your sides. Start with your right arm, keeps you elbow straight, now bend your wrist backwards so that your palm faces the floor and your fingers pointing to the sides (like a penguin). Lift your arm sideways, keeping your arm straight and your wrist bent. You should feel a tug, maybe making the numbness increase a bit. Stop here and hold this stretch for 10 seconds. Repeat 3x. Change sides.
- Massage the back of your elbow, at your triceps. It may be tender, so use heat or Arnica cream to help the soreness. Spend a good amount of time massaging in small circles all the way up to your armpits. This helps relax the muscle and increases circulation. Are you surprised how sore you are?
Soreness in the pad below the thumb is a frequent complaint. Accompanied by cramping of the muscle or pain in the joint. It's a unfortunate place to get arthritis because of how much we rely on our thumbs. The best treatment is prevention, so take care of your thumbs now.
- Again, limit the time spent texting. If you are returning emails, use a computer or other device with a physical keyboard. This lets you use your other fingers in a better ergonomic situation.
- Massage your thumb from the web to the wrist. Don't forget to do both sides. I especially like Traumeel, or another arnica based cream to help relieve the muscle tension.
Rotator Cuff Trigger Points
Trigger points in the teres muscle of your shoulder's rotator cuff is a common problem for people that type a lot and use their mouse. If your mousing arm is not close to your side at a 90 degree angle, then you are holding it up without letting it rest. Trigger points in this muscle can also cause your arm to go tingly or get numb. New ultra book computers allow you to use the screen for scrolling so your arm will even be more compromised in this position.
- Install a keyboard tray so that your mouse and keyboard can fit along side each other. This way your elbows can maintain a 90 degree shape. If you can't put a tray under your desk, rest your elbows as close to your body while using your mouse and typing.
- Stretch your teres muscle by bringing your arm across your body at a 90 degree angle: Bend your elbow, with the back of your other hand, contact the outside part of your elbow and bring it towards mid line. You will feel a stretch in the armpit part of your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds. Do both sides 3x a day.
- You can massage this trigger point by your armpit with your other hand. Travel 2 inches around, focusing on your back just below the junction of your arm and torso. If you get a professional massage, you may notice how sensitive this area is, and may even feel like it's vibrating or recreating the numbness sensation down your arm.
As always, I suggest making an appointment for a tune-up for your spine and extremities. We can detect any problems before they become worse. And possibly, fix that distressed area.