The flipside of modern gadgets - but resulting pains can be eased

'Text neck' is one of the conditions that can arise
'Text neck' is one of the conditions that can arise

Computers, tablets, smart phones and other devices have made life easier for most of us, but with the average user being on their device between two and four hours a day, at Physio & Therapies we are seeing many more neck and upper limb problems.

Technology-related injuries, ranging from irritating neck and shoulder pain, thumb aches and headaches are the flip side of gadgets that are generally helpful. Recent studies in the US and the UK have found that sudden computer-related injuries are rising rapidly and that young children are most affected.

Blackberry thumb and iPad hand

When people use their hands or arms in certain repeated motions, such as toggling the BlackBerry ball or sweeping an iPad screen for a long time, they can gradually injure their muscles, tendons and nerves. The resulting painful conditions are collectively known as repetitive strain injuries (RSI).

One of the most severe types of RSI is Carpal Tunnel syndrome, where there is excessive pressure on a nerve within the wrist. If caught early enough physiotherapy can be hugely beneficial and reverse the changes, however, people with severe cases of the syndrome may need surgery to resolve the problem.

From the point of view of your thumbs, using a padded case on your device can help you grip it with less tension and trying to be as ambidextrous as possible shares the load between both hands. Make sure you take regular breaks.

Nintendinitis and Wiiitis

For many years now doctors and physios have been accustomed to seeing a wide range of injuries that people inflict on themselves while playing games on the Nintendo Wii.

While physically engaging games on Nintendo Wii can be healthy options in terms of getting people to exercise, it’s important to remember that they can also cause sport injuries if you don’t wear the right clothing or warm up and stretch properly before starting!

Injuries that we have seen in people playing Wii games include head injuries, shoulder dislocations, back strains and a particularly bad ankle sprain sustained by a lady who played tennis on the Wii in high heels!

Kindleitis and text neck

More recently we have seen lots of people with neck and arm pains due to excessive use of their Kindle, tablet and smartphone. Recently a patient said she had contracted Kindleitis from reading eight books on her Kindle while on a two- week holiday! 

The issue is not the device itself, but the fact that people spend long periods of time with their heads bent forward straining the muscles in the back of the neck.

Recent research by Dr Kenneth Hansraj says that although our head weighs between 10lb and 12lb, as we angle our head down to look at our Kindle, tablet or smartphone, the effective weight on our necks increases - at a 15 degree angle the weight increases to about 27lb rising to 60lb at 60 degrees. This puts pressure on the discs and joints as well as the muscles causing long-term damage.

How to help yourself

A good place to start if you have neck pain is to try some simple exercises to help improve your posture and relieve muscle tension.

Stand up straight with your arms to the side of your body, palms facing forward. Draw your shoulder blades together and feel the muscles work in your upper back, hold for five seconds then relax for five seconds. Repeat five times. You may also feel a stretch in the front of your chest. 

Stand with your back against the wall with your head touching the wall. Keeping your head against the wall slowly drop your chin allowing your head to nod slightly without letting it move off the wall. Hold for 10 seconds to strengthen the muscles at the front of your neck and stretch the muscles at the back.

This should only cause a mild stretch and if it hurts or causes any arm pain or tingle stop immediately and book to see a physiotherapist. 

Fold your hands together and turn your palms away from your body as you extend your arms forward. You should feel a gentle stretch all the way from your shoulders to your fingers.

Fold your hands together and turn your palms away from your body, but this time extend your arms over your head. You should feel the stretch in your upper torso and from your shoulders to your hands.

Other issues

Of course there are many causes of neck, hand and arm pain, so if you’re worried or the discomfort doesn’t clear up get a professional to examine you. 

This way you can be sure it’s not one of the more serious causes of neck pain, and you get the right advice for your condition. 

Physiotherapists are very used to treating all of these conditions and as well as offering advice and exercises will do hands-on treatment to resolve the problems in the long term.

To book an appointment at Physio & Therapies call our reception team on 01706 819464 - we are open evenings and Saturday mornings too so you can get an appointment at a time to suit you!