Calling all smartphone and keyboard addicts! In other words, what’s up all you young professionals (YPs)? As you scroll through this article, are you currently experiencing any degree of pain or stiffness in your hand, wrist, or forearm? Well, as we write this we can tell you that we sure are. Developing what has come to be called “the claw” is common for so many of us YPs. For some, it’s a dull, ongoing ache that we’ve just learned to live with. For others, it’s an on-again, off-again nuisance that rears its annoying head during times of heavy texting and typing. For another group, it’s a serious condition that likely started off dull or annoying, but has since developed into a real problem… possibly even career-ending. To help prevent those of us in the early stages from reaching that disastrous degree of damage, we’ve enlisted the help of certified physical therapist and exercise physiologist Danielle Rodgers of Kelowna, BC. She helps break it all down so we can help build ourselves back up.
“Nintendonitis” – the next generation.
According to Danielle, the idea of the texting “claw” is not a new one. Once referred to as “Nintendonitis” or “Tetwrist,” (ha!) these injuries are caused by overworking the thumb in a manner that it is not intended for. “The thumb was not designed for repetitive fine motor skills that micro-typing on a small keyboard requires,” she says, hence the throbbing of the thumb and the squishy part below it following a day of intense Tweeting and texting. And when it comes to computer use, or any other work that requires fine movements of the hands, the common ache at the end of the day is caused by what Danielle describes as RSI, or “repetitive stress injury.” In doctor-talk, she explains, “repetitive movements of the small tendons and muscles in the hand can result in small stress injuries. These injuries, if left unresolved or worsened with further insult, can result in tendonitis, an inflammation of the tendons. A thickened tendon may then be unable to function properly resulting in a claw-like hand. Further, she notes, because the hands work on a sort of pulley system, when the healing process beings and collagen fibers are laid down, “scar tissue can form and this can disrupt the pulley system, leaving the patient feeling as though their finger is ‘stuck’ in a claw-like position.” Yes, we know just the feeling.
What to do, what to do?
We know what you are thinking: But I’m not going to stop texting and typing, so what can I do about it? We asked Danielle the same thing. “Like with most tendonitis,” she says “the RICE principle can be applied here; Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. She also recommends gentle pain-free range of motion, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NAIDs) like aspirin or ibuprofen for pain, and to consult a physiotherapist if not resolved.” Ok, we can manage that. And when we are feeling good again, what can we YPs do to help ensure that the nasty claw stays the hell away? “Strengthening of the hand muscles may help keep ‘the claw’ at bay. Young professionals can help themselves by squeezing a small stress ball, doing hand grip exercises, or playing with clay.”
While it may seem that the “claw” is just a natural byproduct of the modern YP lifestyle, it really doesn’t have to be. So take a trip to Michael’s Arts and Crafts to get yourself some clay, consider giving the keyboarding a bit of a rest, and take care of those extremely important upper extremities; you’re going to need them for more important tasks than iMessaging and scrolling photo filters.