Medically Reviewed by David E. Lukowski, MD
Like many Americans, you probably love your technology – computers, tablets, phones, games. The average US resident sends more than 40 emails a day, spend 23 hours a week texting with 50,000 to 200,000 keystrokes a day.
Gamers spend more than six hours a week tweaking their controllers with eyes following screen action. One 29-year-old man reportedly played video games on his phone – often one-handed while doing other tasks – all day for 6-8 weeks. He reported to an emergency room with a ruptured tendon and chronic thumb pain.
“We live and work in a very different world than earlier generations. Logging countless key strokes, mouse clicks, screen swiping, finger flexing and thumb bending. It’s no wonder we see increased problems with repetitive actions and overuse injuries,” says McLeod Orthopedic Specialist David Lukowski, MD. “With any chronic problem from numbness in fingers, sore wrists and aching arms to your neck and back, see a physician. But you can take some steps to reduce your chances of pain and trouble.”
Don’t work at your desk all day. Take breaks. Walk around – outside, if possible. Every 20 minutes, look out the window or in the distance to rest your eyes.
Use some stretching exercises: open and close your fingers; stretch your arms above your head; tilt your neck to one side, hold, relax, then repeat to the other side; raise your shoulders to your ears and hold for a 5-count; and hold your arm straight out in front of you, pull the hand backwards with the other hand, then downward, hold, relax, repeat with the other arm.
YOUR SCREEN OR MONITOR
Your screen should be about 2 feet away from you with the top of the screen level to your eyes.
A Harvard study found that viewing your tablet screen as straight ahead as possible created the least problems.
Try to avoid window or overhead lighting glare in your screen. Place documents as close to the screen as possible to avoid turning your head and neck excessively.
YOUR MOUSE & KEYBOARD
People and their hands come in many sizes. Purchase a mouse that fits your hand. Many conventional mice cause your arm to twist while you are manipulating the mouse.
If you don’t deal with accounting or math, avoid the larger keyboard with the separate number keypad on the right. This will bring your mouse closer to the body, creating less stress.
Most people find it comfortable when your desk surface is about at elbow level with room for your knees and thighs under the desk. When you work, elbows should be near your body, upper arms just touching your side, forearm horizontal to the desk surface and wrists as straight as possible. Ideally, a desk will have rounded edges.
Again, remember people come in different sizes. Make sure your chair accommodates your size and weight. Your feet should touch the floor, not swing freely.
Seats and back should be padded with the ability to adjust the height, lower back support and the recline. Seats should slope down slightly toward the front with a 2-3 inch space between the seat cushion and the back of your knees when you’re working.
Armrests should be adjustable and allow you to bring your chair close enough to your desk. If you can, avoid chairs with fixed arm rests. Look for chairs with a base of at least 5 points and rolling casters.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
In addition to the tips above, give your thumbs a break. Use the device’s voice-to-text feature or call, instead of texting. Don’t hesitate to see an Orthopedic Specialist if you have continuing pain or stiffness.
Find an Orthopedic Specialist near you.
Sources include: McLeod Health, Journal of the American Medical Association, The Washington Post, ComputerPosture.co.uk, Muscle & Nerve Journal, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons