Any repetitive motion, by any part of the body, can make you vulnerable to injury. While we often think of activity-related injuries in terms of sports injuries or physically demanding jobs, our more sedentary lifestyles and technological prowess can yield their own set of potential physical problems. For now, we’ll focus on the ways your hands and digits can be negatively affected by the repetitive motions connected to the use of our tech toys — er, um, our work-related communication devices.
Wrist Pain from Thumb-Sweeping Motions
Many handheld devices, including the ever-popular iPhone, features a manual “unlock” feature that requires a sweeping motion across the bottom of the screen, from left to right. Most people opt to hold the phone in their right hands and use their right thumbs to complete the task.
When an individual makes that motion dozens or hundreds of times a day, the tendons of the thumb pass through a compartment of the wrist that functions to keep tendons in place. Since it is an unusual motion (though not out of the normal range of motion for the thumb), it can cause painful irritation within the compartment of the wrist. The clinical term for this condition is De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis.
As you might guess, this condition is being increasingly diagnosed, particularly among young people. If you’re experiencing pain in your wrist, as a result of thumb sweeping, it’s important that you stop making that motion with your thumb. Instead, you can opt to use your other hand or use one of your fingers to unlock your device.
Stiff Hand Muscles from Limited Use
Most of us use our hands all day, in a limited fashion: We type, text, use our computer’s mouse, and perform other work-related functions. Because we use our hands so often, we can easily neglect stretching and maintaining them — or seeing the need to do so. Those activities for which we regularly use our hands fail to use many of our hands’ muscles, though, which can lead to chronic stiffness. A healthy hand should be able to hold an open-palm position, with fingers bent so that the pads are touching the top part of the palm and the first knuckles remain completely straight.
If you are unable to make or hold the “healthy hand position” as described above, some simple stretching exercises can help you regain strength and dexterity, as well as relieve any stiffness. Check out the video below, which shows two options: using fingers of one hand to push other fingers into position, one at a time, and holding all fingers of one hand in position, on their own.
If one or more of your fingers cannot easily move into the stretch position, while others have no issues, you may have a traumatized finger. In such a case, we recommend you see a doctor who specializes in hand injuries, so the problem does not escalate and cause additional pain or decreased movement.
PhysioDC of Washington, D.C.
Daniel Baumstark and his professional team of physical therapists operate a boutique physical therapy office in downtown Washington, D.C. From athletes to government officials, and from ballerinas to corporate executives, PhysioDC helps people recover, strengthen and return to healthy living. Visit their website at www.PhysioDC.com or call them at 202-223-8500.
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