Could Your Electronic Device Use Be Harming Your Hand?

Electronic device use is out of control. It has even been labeled as addictive. Smart devices of all shapes and sizes have captivated our nation and we just can’t seem to put them down. Truth is, we are addicted to our electronic devices (1). Cell phones, tablets and WiFi are everywhere and we’re distracted: A woman walking into a fountain on her phone, people crashing their cars while texting and decreasing in-personal social interaction in exchange for chatting online. This can only mean one thing: We’re being tough on our hands.
Our hands are made up of many small bones, muscles, tendons, cartilage, ligaments and joints. In addition, our thumb is one of the main features setting the functionality of our hands apart from other species and makes us special (2). How? Our thumbs allow us to grasp and hold items…including our cell phones and tablets. While our predecessors may have picked berries and greens with their thumbs, modern society scrolls through Facebook. We type with our thumbs, hold our phones tightly and even use them to swipe through Instagram photos. For some individuals, these repetitive small motions lead to pain (3) and the joint at the base of the thumb is a common area to irritate. What’s one to do?

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True story. It was late one night. I was up caring for my baby and scrolling through my cell phone as he rested on my chest. To be honest, I enjoy looking through my phone when I’m rocking him to sleep. It helps keep me awake and in tune with everything happening in the world…that doesn’t have to do with Elmo. The next morning I woke up and noticed a soreness around the joint at the bottom of my thumb. The main thumb I use to scroll on my phone. I noticed the same soreness when I picked up my phone the next morning to send a text to my husband. As an Occupational Therapist I immediately knew what was going on: I gave myself a repetitive use injury from too much cell phone thumb use.

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     Repetitive use injuries are common. What’s a repetitive use injury? It happens when you experience pain, swelling and/or tenderness from completing the same motion over and over (4). For me, it’s using my cell phone too much with my thumbs. How is it treated? (This is a sponsored post and contains affiliate links)
  • Put the Phone Down. Avoiding the activity causing the repetitive use injury is one of the best ways to rest the inflamed area. Set up your auto-reply to let people know you’re on a break.
  • Treatment with Ice: If things have really heated up, acute injury may be treated with ice or warm packs after the initial injury window has closed. (4)
  • Splinting. Using a wrist splint or thumb splint can help provide the tender area support and serve as a reminder to rest it while it heals. Some find something as gently supportive as arthritis gloves to be beneficial.
  • Use Talk to Text. If your fingers are sore from typing, don’t use them! Press the microphone button and learn to talk to text whenever possible.
  • Anti-Inflammatory medication. (4)
  • Occupational Therapist prescribed treatments including exercise, activity adaptation and possibly modalities including ultrasound.
  • Use different fingers. If you’re a thumb scroller…your OT may suggest using different fingers and not focus so much on a single digit for device use.
  • Put the Phone Down. Yes, this is a repeat, but very important.
(Pinterest Graphic Below)
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If supportive bracing can benefit you, how do you know which splint to purchase? How do you know what’s important when searching for a wrist splint? key elements are: Finding a quality splint, selecting the proper size and hand (Right or Left) and ensuring that it’s neither too loose or too tight, causing red marks, is key. You don’t want to tighten it on to the point where it causes other problems, but if it’s too loose it can’t be supportive. In addition, splints should be worn temporarily and not to the extent that they lead to weakness from misuse. If use of these devices continues it may be time to see your local Occupational Therapist for treatment.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by Mama Banana’s Adventures on behalf of Vive Health, a great place for all of your DME needs. You can use the Coupon Code GET20 To receive a great discount in their shop. Opinions here are my own. This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage if you purchase an item through them. This post in no way makes any attempts to diagnose, treat or make individual recommendations for readers. Please see your physician for any concerns.

1. http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/features/when-technology-addiction-takes-over-your-life
2. http://www.livescience.com/15689-evolution-human-special-species.html
3. http://www.today.com/health/smartphone-use-can-lead-hand-pain-t23161
4. http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/repetitive-motion-syndrome-topic-overview

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