With millions of teenagers and young adults texting, pushing buttons on video game controllers, and tapping on computer keyboards for hours at a time, it's no wonder they're complaining of pain in their hands and wrists at a younger age. Even students in elementary and middle school have reported physical discomfort in their hands, wrists, necks, and backs!
In fact, researchers tracked 476 elementary and middle school children who used computers and played video games. Their study showed that as the children became older they started to complain about physical discomfort in their hands and wrists along with neck and back pain, according to a 2005 Work journal article.
So what can teens and young adults do to prevent discomfort from keyboarding activities? Correct posture and taking frequent breaks from the computer, video games and smart phones can help prevent problems in the hands and wrists.
"It likely is not the act of using the keyboard or other gadgets that is the issue, but the position in which people are using them that makes them more prone to problems," says orthopedic surgeon Rachel Rohde, M.D., who specializes in upper extremity surgery, including treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome.
With respect to promoting healthy keyboarding, Dr. Rohde offers these tips:
- Your keyboard position should allow your elbows to be at 90 degrees or straighter and your wrists to be in a neutral position, or just slightly extended. Make sure you are able to maintain appropriate posture and that your feet are flat on the floor, not dangling, which can contribute to poor posture.
- Your mouse should be at the same level as the keyboard. This is easier on the tendons and muscles in your forearm and wrist.
- Your wrist rest should only be used when you are not typing. Leaning the wrist on a pad can contribute to nerve compression or tendonitis.
- Take a break every 30 minutes to stretch your muscles and relax your joints.
So what do you do if you are experiencing discomfort during keyboarding or game-playing activities?
"Most of these aches and pains are temporary and will resolve with a few simple measures," says Dr. Rohde.
- rest (including temporary splinting)
- ice and/or anti-inflammatory use to reduce inflammation
- posture adjustment
"If these do not give you relief, or if you have bruising, swelling, numbness, or tingling, see your doctor for evaluation. Many people benefit from hand therapy or ergonomic education."