Overuse and misuse of cellular phones and other electronic devices are putting a strain on our bodies and causing repetitive stress injuries (RSI).
Cell Phone Elbow: Cell phone elbow is derived from constant stress on the elbow and its surrounding structures. Posture plays a role in the impairment of the elbow from cell phone operation. Holding a phone up to the ear or mouth for long periods of time can create a long-term injury.
Elbow flexion with pronation decreases motor conduction velocity of the ulnar nerve, the largest unprotected nerve in the human body. Ulnar nerve neuropathy can cause numbness, burning, and tingling in the fingers. Irritation of the nerve leads to inflammation, in turn, crowding its path at the elbow. The flexed elbow posture also puts pressure on the nerve path, eliciting injury.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is also a very common nerve disorder relating to cell phone handling. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve becomes compressed and the wrist begins to swell. This condition is often associated with burning, tingling, or numbness in the fingers.
Self-Care for Cell Phone Elbow: Rest and the use of ice is helpful in reducing inflammation. Avoid resting the elbow on hard surfaces such as tables and chairs. Sleeping with an extended elbow can help to take stress off of an injury site. A splint can be made at home by wrapping a large towel around the arm and elbow. This holds the elbow in place during a slumber, thus avoiding elbow flexion.
Massage Therapy can improve range of motion in affected joints, alleviate pain, break up scar tissue, promote circulation, and make the recovery process more efficient. Massage can create muscular balance and strengthen muscle weakness, thus decreasing the risk of chronic or retrogressing injury. Massage therapy can be coupled with other modalities to further affect change.
Wrist extensors and flexors are heavily involved in cell phone engagement, so be sure to stretch them in order to address the range of motion that may have become limited with injury. Self-massage can be performed if inflammation is not present. Taking deep breaths is helpful, as it encourages muscles to relax.
Texting Thumb: Touching, Typing, and Tingling. Text messaging requires repetitive motion of the thumbs. This is a perfect recipe for the development of Cumulative Trauma Disorder. Overuse injuries often occur when joints undergo improper care. Although damage materializes over an extended period of time, this scenario stresses tendons, muscles, nerves and other tissues.
Poor posture always puts unnecessary stress on the body. Most people use their thumbs, the least dextrous of all the fingers, for text messaging. Holding a phone with one hand, versus two, increases the risk of disability. Using a singular thumb to text increases the likelihood of injury on that side of the body, including thumb, hand, wrist, elbow, arm, shoulder and neck.
Once injury becomes an issue, it can be challenging to relieve. Be aware of symptoms that include cramping, burning, hypersensitivity, poor coordination, inflammation, joint stiffness, thumb weakness, tingling, fatigue of the thumb muscles, numbness, difficulty extending the thumb, and radiating pain to the wrist, shoulder or forearm.
Prevention is Key. Once an injury develops, it can be challenging to eradicate. Therefore, it’s best to focus on prevention by changing habit. Try to avoid excessive hand use, especially if you already have a joint condition, or if you feel strain and discomfort.
Texting safely include employing voice commands to cut down on typing, and increasing font size to avoid hunching and stressing the body. Also, hold your phone with two hands, use a light touch and try not to type too fast. Support the forearms and back; relax the shoulders and neck; maintain parallel forearms; keep wrists straight, not bent upward; and be sure to keep your hands and arms warm.
Massage Therapy is a natural remedy that assists in trauma recovery. It is a recommended regimen prior to more invasive treatments, such as surgery. Massage is known to improve joint mobility and reduce muscle soreness and pain. It can help loosen up tense muscles, which in turn improves posture.
While medication and injections are sometimes needed to ease pain, they do not address the root of the problem. Massage directly tackles the issue, rather than just masking discomfort. Although massage can sometimes be challenging, it is a pain-free treatment opportunity with minimal side effects.
Text Neck: Looking Down Too Much. The term text neck was coined by a Chiropractor in reference to inefficient neck posture while engaging in messaging and phone activity. Text neck is considered to be a repetitive stress injury. Overuse injuries developed by maintaining recurring motions over an extended period of time create impairments to muscles, tendons, nerves, ligaments, and joints.
Turtle neck, as it is called by Massage Therapists, results from poor posture transmuting into forward head position, ultimately resulting in neck pain. In forward head posture, the head pulls the shoulders in the same direction, which creates a rounded upper back called kyphosis.
Neck flexion reinforces text neck. As phone usage increases, neck flexion becomes more prominent as well. When texting in the standing position, neck flexion is decreased; when sitting, neck flexion is increased.
Neck flexion directly affects the vertebral column. When necks are out of alignment, back muscles are forced to exert undue energy to fight gravity. Muscular weakness can in turn be associated with neck pain that radiates through the upper back and shoulder blades, awaking trigger points in the soft tissues. Furthermore, tight sub-occipitals can lead to tension headaches.
Home Care can enhance the body’s performance and decrease joint and muscular stress. Pain relief is the goal. It can be achieved by keeping up with regular neck exercises and shoulder stretches.
• Tuck your chin toward the neck, then slowly raise your nose to point at the sky.
• Next, rotate your neck to look over each shoulder, one at a time.
• Lastly, roll the shoulders in a clockwise direction then counterclockwise while keeping the arms at your sides. Progressive shifting keeps the body warm and breaks the monotony of fixed positioning.
Massage Therapy supports pain-free joint movement and loosens tight muscles, effective in repairing stress injury. It is non-invasive and can be blended with other therapeutic interventions for improving range of motion and muscle strength.
Stretching actively and passively restores muscle strength and recovers range of motion. It also increases the pain threshold and creates an analgesic effect. Stretches should be performed for 30 seconds using lateral flexion and rotation of the neck.
When faced with a choice, prevention is the best option. It is certainly more favorable to avoid pain than to alleviate it. Early management of conditions can avoid injury and decrease the risk of developing stress injuries.
A few health conscious suggestions to aid in the better practice of cell phone use:
• Avoid excessive phone use and holding large or heavy devices for a long duration. Turn notifications to silent and check messages only every few hours. When texting, take frequent breaks, increase text font size to avoid hunching over, and use a light touch on the keyboard.
• Stretch and avoid being sedentary
• Don’t tuck the phone between your shoulder and ear. Use voice command to bypass thumb use and neck flexion. Constantly look up, bringing the neck into a neutral position, hold the phone to align with the eyes, and decrease forward head position. Try texting while laying on your back, to support your neck, or stand as an alternative.
• Use headphones or earbuds to avoid faulty body mechanics
• Hold the phone with both hands and support the wrist and forearm
• Learn to sleep on your back with a supportive pillow and mattress. Create a posture-friendly workstation that allows for proper body alignment. Observe an upright position aligning the ears with the center of the shoulders. Warm up your neck muscles with exercise, be sure to stretch, and make massage a priority.
• Ultimately, listen to your body and take action.
Your body will let you know if there is a problem, so pay attention to the signals. If injury does happen, be prepared to seek professional help and take action. The goal of preserving joint health while using a cell phone is in your hands.
Body & Soul Massage in Salem Ma offers Therapeutic Massage for Pain Relief. Our 30 minute Pain Relief package allows for 10 sessions of targeted time on repetitive injuries. For more information call 978-825-0040 or visit www.bodysoulsalem.com
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