Wake up. Checks phone. Runs shower water. Checks phone. Brushes teeth. Checks phone. Makes toast. Checks phone. Walks to car. Checks phone.
Sound like you? It’s actually a lot of us. According to a Pew Research Internet Project, as of January 2014, 90 percent of American adults owned a cell phone, and 58 percent of those adults used a smart phone.
Hands down (pun intended), your hands are one of the most used parts of your body, and it’s easy to take them for granted and even easier to forget how often we are using them in every day life.
The amount of time we use our cell phones has gotten a lot of attention in recent years – and with good reason. But we need to pay more attention not just to our cell phone use, but also to all the activities we use our hands for. Why? Because of the many small joints and muscles in hands, they are more susceptible to injury.
We’ve comprised a list of some of the activities that could cause you problems if you don’t start paying attention now. Luckily, you can prevent problems with minor lifestyle changes and an assessment with a certified hand therapist.
The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, flowers are blooming and you are out in your garden from sun up to sun down. Weeding, planting and digging are repetitive motions that can cause what physical therapists call “repetitive strain injuries.”
Here’s what to do:
- Warm up before you dig—get your body loose.
- Wear task appropriate gloves.
- Take a break each hour to switch into a different activity.
- Use good posture.
- Use gardening tools with padded handles to protect small joints.
- Use long handled gardening tools to shift the pressure from your hands to your shoulders.
Cell Phone Use
Many modern hand injuries stem from technology related issues, namely overuse.
In 2005, the American Society of Hand Therapists warned consumers that hand, wrist and arm injuries were at an increased susceptibility from the repetitive motion on small buttons and awkward wrists movements.
And just think how much more dependent society is on their cellphones than in 2005 (can you even remember what your cell phone looked like 10 years ago), especially when frequent text-ers now send more than 1,200 text messages a month!
In 2013 alone, 968 million smart phones were sold, adding to the possibility of tendinitis due to “texting thumb.”
Even though people generally text with both of their thumbs, most people tend to put greater pressure on their dominant hand. These repetitive joint movements could eventually develop tendonitis, a condition that can be treated with physical therapy or prevented with these tips.
- Keep your arms in front of you to minimize the amount you are looking down.
- Write extensive emails from your computer, not your phone.
- Use a headset or the speakerphone feature whenever possible. Talk to text is a great tool. Use it.
- Minimize texting when you can, or support your arms, hands and phone on a briefcase or lap while you text.
Many professions now require employees work from a computer for eight hours…straight. This can cause inflammation in the hands and wrists, which could lead to the often painful carpal tunnel syndrome. Many corporations are making efforts to prevent repetitive stress injuries including hiring ergonomic experts to assess workstations.
These are ways to modify habits before turning to a physical therapist.
- Be sure to take rest periods and avoiding repetition. Taking multiple microbreaks (three minutes each) will reduce straining and discomfort without decreasing productivity.
- Maintain good posture by keeping your spine against the back of the chair, elbows resting along the sides of the body with wrists straight and typing materials at eye level. Keeping the neck flexible and upright maintains circulation and nerve function to arms and hands.
- Keep hands and wrists in a relaxed position to avoid excessive force on the keyboard.
- Cut your mouse pad in half to reduce the range of movement.
- Purchase a wrists rest that fits under most keyboards.
Arthritis is a condition that wears away the cartilage and lining of a joint, or the cushioning between bones, causing pain and stiffness. Arthritis in the hands can make all of those hand motions each day feel like great chores. Before taking on any activity with your hands, especially a long day at the computer or in the garden, prepare you hands in the same way an athlete might prepare their legs for a long run.
- Practice several stretches including thumb bends, making a fist and stretching your wrists.
- Take mini-breaks throughout the day to repeat the stretches and give your hands a break.
- Seek the advice of a physical therapist who can evaluate your condition and prescribe specific exercises to keep you pain free or eliminate some pain.
- Pay attention to joint problems in your body and talk to your physical therapist about unexplained joint symptoms.
The Hand Therapy Centers of Tidewater Physical Therapy treat patients with a variety of complex upper extremity issues including fractures, injured tendons or nerves, arthritis or connective tissue disorder or reconstructive surgery. Hand therapists can help restore hand function with specialized exercises, advanced therapy techniques and state-of-the-art treatments. Schedule an appointment with a Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) at any one of the following locations:
- Williamsburg Hand Therapy Center
- Gloucester Hand Therapy Center at the Court House
- Richmond Hand Therapy Center in John Rolfe
Many of the physical therapists at Tidewater Physical Therapy Inc. hold Direct Access Certification through the Virginia Board of Physical Therapy allowing them to evaluate and treat patients without a prescription. As part of your healthcare team, a physical therapist will make an assessment of your condition and create a plan to start you on the road to wellness. Our team will communicate with your physician of record and obtain a referral, if necessary, for your continued treatment. We will also work with your insurance carrier to make sure services are covered by your plan. To make your own appointment, find a clinic near you.