The Dangers of Technology
Technology is continuously changing and becoming a bigger part of a person’s life. Individuals are now spending extensive lengths of time on their smart phones, or electronic devices to text, check emails, and spend time scrolling through social media.
While there are many positives to the use of a smart phone and other electronic devices, there is also a growing problem with it. The repetitive movements of the thumb required for texting, scrolling, and playing video games as well as the force put on the thumb and digits to hold the phone are creating a risk for thumb and hand pain. This is becoming more common as the demand for the use of smartphones and electronic devices increases (AOTA, n.d.).
Common Locations for Symptoms
- Thumb: discomfort or pain in the thumb due to repetitive movements of the thumb for scrolling and texting. This could also be due to the positioning of the thumb and digits required to hold the phone for long periods of time.
- Elbow: continuous bending of the elbow to hold the phone or electronic device can lead to numbness and tingling throughout the forearm to the little finger and can lead to overall hand weakness.
- Neck: pain in the neck through the upper extremities as a result of extended periods of the position of your head looking down at the electronic device screen.
- Vision: extending periods of looking at your electronic device screen can lead to dry eyes.
Tips to Avoid (AOTA, n.d. & ASHT, n.d.)
- Vary the grip on the phone or electronic device.
- Hold with one hand and use another finger to type or scroll.
- Use a pop socket or other adaptive equipment to hold the phone with less pressure on the digits and thumb.
- Take stretch breaks.
- Take rest breaks to participate in another activity.
- Know your limits: if you start to feel pain or discomfort stop the activity.
- Utilize word prediction software of cell phone.
- Take advantage of speaker phone and/or hands-free devices.
- Change body posture periodically.
- Switch hands throughout use and alternate the fingers you use.
What can Occupational Therapy do?
- Recommend adaptive equipment to help with pain.
- Provide stretches to incorporate into routine.
- Help with pain reduction strategies.
- Recommend environmental modifications.
Contact Genesis Physical Therapy and Wellness for more information: (563) 421-3460.
-By Meghan Waack.
Meghan Waack is an occupational therapy doctorate student at St. Ambrose. She is currently completing a hand therapy internship at Genesis Physical Therapy and Wellness on Devil's Glen in Bettendorf, IA.
American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). (n.d.) Using smart phones wisely: Prevent pain. Retrieved from: https://www.aota.org/About-Occupational-Therapy/Patients-Clients/Adults/Smart-Phones-Prevent-Pain.aspx
American Society of Hand Therapists (ASHT). (n.d.) Hand safety and injury prevention. Retrieved from: https://www.asht.org/patients/education-resources/safety-prevention