Our electronics keep us connected to colleagues, clients, friends and family. They are required for work, play, managing our smart homes, and our mobile apps support an increasing amount of our everyday lives. But are your electronics causing you pain? Here are some of the most common technology-related types of pain and how to address them.
Tech neck is most often caused by our mobile devices. It references the heads down poor posture we often adopt when reading, working, or gaming on our smartphone, e-reader, or when using our laptop while seated on a couch or chair. Without counteractive measures this regular heads down electronic use can lead to neck pain, upper back pain, stiff shoulders, decreased range of motion in the neck and shoulders—and even an unsightly Dowager’s hump.
The Fix: Keep your head up. If you are holding a small screen elevate it when reading or gaming. Avoid the temptation to work for long on your laptop when not at an ergonomic seated or standing desk. Finally, do exercises and stretches to counteract your heads down posture.
Hand, Wrist, Arm, and Thumb Pain
Carpal tunnel is no longer the only concern associated with prolonged typing or using your desktop mouse, but also thumb pain caused by texting and gaming—as well as full arm pain, that can run all the way up to the nerve in your neck. This pain can become so severe that it can slow you down as you work.
The Fix: Invest in an ergonomic split keyboard and a sideways mouse. Then, learn a few stretches and exercises that you can do throughout the day to counteract your electronics use. Also, consider using voice recognition to type some or all of the day. You can even wear a carpal tunnel brace while sleeping to rest your overused muscles. Even if you don’t have carpal tunnel the brace can minimize most tech-related hand and arm pain.
Before our smartphones back pain caused by poor seated posture was the primary concern of desk jobs. Our bodies are designed to move so even with workstation ergonomics sitting for as few as 4 hours a day can lead to chronic back and neck pain.
The Fix: Invest in a screen riser, laptop riser, convertible desk, or standing desk. Make sure you have a keyboard drawer and an ergonomic chair. You can even sit on a balance ball. You don’t have to use your ergonomic options all day every day, as even an hour or two a day can take the edge off.
The tips above are both proactive and reactive, but if your pain is severe or improvement is minimal you may need to head to any combination of a chiropractor, massage therapist, physical therapist, or other healthcare professional to correct the damage. Avoid the temptation to turn to over-the-counter pain relievers as they reduce inflammation, but when used long-term can upset your stomach. Instead, try steam, heat, ice, Epsom salt baths, and hemp-derived CBD to soothe your sore muscles.