Technology: It’s All Fun And Games Until It’s Not
Let’s face it we live in a world that is now ruled by technology. Whether you use it for your job or as a form of entertainment our lives can be controlled by devices that fit in the palms of our hands. Billions of people daily will reach for their handhelds to send email, check social media or play their favorite game.
The Washington Post estimates 3.8 billion people or roughly 40% of the world’s population are currently online. The industry goal is to have 60% online by the year 2020. It is safe to say that technology is everywhere.
However, while technology provides countless conveniences to our lives there are a number of downsides to the “over-use” of technology. In this article we will discuss a few of the most common conditions that can be attributed to technology. We will also cover a number of techniques that can be used to help mitigate the pain associated with these conditions.
Overview: According to the American Academy of Orthopedics, Trigger Finger is a condition that causes pain, stiffness and a locking sensation when trying to bend your finger. Also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, trigger finger occurs when the tendons of the finger or thumb become inflamed. The inflamed tendon then has difficulty moving through the tendon sheath limiting the range of motion of the affected finger. If it becomes severe enough, your finger may become locked in the bent position.
Causes: Gamers and people whose job requires repetitive strain on their thumb and fingers are at a high risk of developing trigger finger.
Symptoms: Symptoms of trigger finger can range from mild to severe. Listed below are a few of the most common symptoms.
- Stiffness in your fingers and hands
- A clicking sensation as you move your fingers
- Tenderness in the palm at the base of the affected finger
- Finger locking in the bent position
Treatment: Icing, splinting, cortisone shots or surgical procedures can be used to relieve the pain associated with trigger finger. Physical therapy is also highly recommended to help with the symptoms. A physical therapist through the use of massage, dry needling and home exercise programs can help control and in some instances eliminate the pain.
Prevention: It is recommended to rest the fingers and thumbs for a few minutes every hour during repetitive use.
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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Overview: Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that causes pain, numbness and tingling in the wrists and hands. The condition occurs when the median nerve in the hand is compressed as it travels through the wrist. If diagnosed early, symptoms can be controlled through simple methods such as wearing a brace. However, if symptoms continue it can lead to nerve damage, which would require surgery to fix the problem.
Causes: Repetitive motions like typing, put continuous stress on the wrist which can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Such underlying conditions as hyperthyroidism, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes can also play a factor in the development of the condition.
Symptoms: Carpal tunnel syndrome has a number of symptoms, below you will find a list of the most common.
- Burning, tingling, or numbness in the palm of your hand, wrist or fingers
- Lack of grip strength
- Slower nerve impulses
- Loss of feeling in the fingers
Treatment: Wearing a brace is the most frequent method for controlling the pain. This takes the pressure off of the compressed nerve, making it much easier to move the hands and fingers pain free. Like trigger finger, physical therapy can also be a helpful if diagnosed early. Such techniques as ice baths, hand strengthening and education on ergonomics can help prevent and in some instances eliminate symptoms. However, if symptoms persist a patient may need to rely on cortisone shots or even surgery to alleviate the pain.
Prevention: It is recommended to rest the hands and wrists for a few minutes every hour during repetitive use. There are also many devices such as ergonomic keyboards and mice out there that can be used in an effort to put your hands in a better position for repetitive use tasks such as typing.
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Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)
Overview: Lateral epicondylitis is more commonly referred to as tennis elbow. This is a painful condition that occurs when the tendons in the elbow are consistently overloaded.
Causes: Tennis elbow is caused by the repeated contractions of the forearm muscles. Most specifically the muscles used to straighten your hands. There are a number of interactive games that require the competitor to simulate the action of the player they are controlling. These repetitive motions cause stress to the tissue resulting in a series of tears in the tendons of the forearm.
Symptoms: Tennis elbow can cause a significant amount of pain when completing the following tasks:
- Lifting or moving objects
- Making a fist or gripping an object
- Opening doors or shaking hands
- Raising or straightening of the hands or wrist
Treatment: Icing the elbow or taking NSAIDs can help reduce the pain and swelling. The use of an elbow strap as well as performing range of motion exercises can help with stiffness and increase flexibility. The patient can also get physical therapy to strengthen and stretch the muscles taking pressure off the tendons of the elbow.
Prevention: The biggest factor in preventing tennis elbow is avoid over use. If you feel pain or strain in the elbow during activity stop and take a break.
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Overview: We have all heard it a thousand times from the class room to your grandma’s dinner table, “Sit up straight or you’ll hurt your back.” Who knew after all of these years that the adults in your life were really trying to help you? According to IFLScience.com what is a seemingly harmless posture could be compressing your neck, leading to fatigue, headaches, poor concentration, increased muscle tension, and even injury to your spine over time. This is a common condition you find in gamers and those whose job requires several hours a day sitting at a desk or in front of a computer.
Causes: Poor posture could be a result of injury or underlying medical condition. However, for most people, poor posture comes from years of bad habits. Slouching, leaning, hanging your head or drooping your shoulders can all lead to your body abandoning good posture. In these cases the body is forced to compensate for the compromised body alignment by using alternate, less efficient muscle contractions to complete basic tasks.
- Rounded Shoulders
- Bent knees when standing or walking
- Head that leans forward or backward
- Back pain
- Body aches and pains
- Muscle fatigue
Treatment: The most effective way to address poor posture is to see your physical therapist. There are a number of treatment options a physical therapist can utilize to help patients with the pain and fatigue associated with poor posture. Through the use of massage, dry needling, postural taping, joint mobilization and corrective exercises a therapist can put together a regiment to help patients develop the proper habits of good posture.
Prevention: Stretching, strength training and education can help a patient break the cycle of poor posture.
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Why Learn The Hard Way?
We are a nation of people who tend to learn the hard way. In many instances it takes some sort of pain for a person to learn how to do things better. It takes a pulled muscle to teach you to stretch before activity or wrist pain for someone to take ergonomics seriously. It takes back pain for someone to care about posture or locked fingers for them to educate themselves on trigger finger. All of these scenarios have one thing in common, people tend to react to the pain instead of preventing it from happening in the first place.
Technology can be a wonderful thing. It definitely makes lives easier! However, just like everything else there are some downsides to using it. Do not wait for an injury to occur to decide to take this seriously. Take the necessary precautions now to avoid learning the painful lessons later.