Physical Therapy Help for “Texting Thumb”

tech injury6A new Nielsen Company audience report reveals that adults in the United States devoted about 10 hours and 39 minutes each day to consuming media during the first quarter of this year.  That is A LOT of texting, clicking and typing.  Over half of the average American’s day is spent staring at a screen.  The way you hold your device, send your text out, or even type on your laptop can have a negative effect on the muscles, tendons and ligaments that support your wrist and hand.  One of the most common overuse tech injuries is “texting thumb”, and it’s caused by overuse of your thumb in typing out smart phone messages.  text-thumb-300x298 Pain can occur at 2 main areas with this problem.  First at the bottom of your thumb, and at the joint where your thumb meets your wrist. Texting-thumb Here are a few things to help you relieve your sore texting thumb.  First, rest the joint.  Try holding and using your device a different way to reduce the stress to the area.  Pop sockets are just one device that can help with using your device in a more ergo friendly way. popsocket  Secondly, stretch the thumb in the opposing direction.  Stretch it away from your hand to allow the tendons and muscles some relief.  thumbtableextensionstretchDo this 5 times, holding each for 10 seconds.  If you’re still experiencing some discomfort, try a self release of the muscle in the base of the thumb.  You can do this by pressing your other thumb into the muscle at the base of your affected thumb.  Hold this area until you feel some tension relax out of the muscle, and attempt the gentle stretch again. thenar

Rest, ice, stretching and massage are some of the best ways to deal with sore and inflamed tendons.  If you have pain lasting for more than 3 days, or if it is accompanied by any numbness, tingling or burning sensations see your physical therapist right away.  Text-thumb-cartoon-300x296Click here for more an appointment.

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Is your phone becoming a pain in the neck?

Tech neck
How heavy is your head as you read this blog?

carrying on head

The average human head weighs anywhere between 10-12 pounds. The neck was designed to hold that weight (and much more) when aligned properly on your spine.

When you look down at your cell phone, laptop, or tablet you exponentially increase the amount of weight placed on your neck. A good rule of thumb is that for every inch forward your head moves the weight of your head increases by 10 pounds.

tech neck5

This excess weight or stress on your neck over a period of time creates a pain in the back of your neck we like to refer to as “tech neck”.

Symptoms of “tech neck” include:

  • upper back, neck and shoulder pain or stiffness
  • head aches
  • numbness down arms and hands

If not addressed and corrected “tech neck” can permanently damage postural alignment.

To put it in perspective imagine you are holding a 10 pound weight for an hour. Now, exchange that weight for a 60 pound dumbbell. How long could you hold it? Most people couldn’t hold it for more than a few minutes, yet we expect our neck muscles and ligaments to do it for hours as we gaze down at our devices.

posture test

Posture Test

Try this quick posture test: Stand with your shoulders, buttocks, and the back of your head touching the wall with your eyes looking straight ahead. Although this is normal posture, not everyone can achieve it. Were you able to maintain this posture comfortably?

Conservative treatment of the symptoms of tech neck can be very effective and reduce risk of long term postural damage.

Here are a few simple tips to keep you from developing tech neck.

  1. Set time limits. For every 20 minutes you are looking at a device you need a 3 minute break. If that seems unrealistic then simply try looking up for 10 seconds after looking down for several minutes.
  2. Use device holders on your phone and tablet to allow you to get your head in a better position.
  3. Check your work station to make sure your angles are ergonomically friendly.
  4. Use pain as your warning. If you’re having neck pain, stiffness or any of the other symptoms listed above more than twice a week, you need to contact a physical therapist to help you address these issues.

work station set up

chalk talk tech neck

Click here to set up your appointment or request more information on your symptoms.

Reduce your pain without medication.

In our last blog we explained that pain, defined as “physical suffering or discomfort caused by an illness or injury”, is simply a built in alarm system to warn us of possible danger.  In chronic pain situations this alarm system (otherwise known as our nervous system) gets stuck in bad loop. We’ve all experienced the blue “circle of death” on our computer, and it’s a very similar situation with much chronic pain. The tissues have healed (because that’s what tissues do), the threat that once caused the pain is long gone, but for some reason the pain remains. You’re nervous system, including the pain receptors, need a restart in order to return to normal functioning levels. So how do you begin your reset? The good news is that you already have! Simply by educating yourself on what pain is, why it exsists, and how it works you can effectively reduce your pain levels up to 10%. (Moseley GL. Widespread brain activity during an abdominal task markedly reduced after pain physiological: fMRI of a single patient with chronic low back pain. Aust.j physiother. 2005.;51(1):49-52.). 

  • The second thing you can do to help reset your overactive or stuck pain alarm system is AEROBIC activity, not to be confused with anaerobic, (see chart above). How much do you need to effectively reset your receptors and reduce your pain? 10-20 minutes, 4-5 times a week with a target heart rate of at least 100 beats per minutes will do it. Exercise hurts at first, but remember…hurt doesn’t always equal harm. A good motto is “sore but safe”. A physical therapist can help you move through this initial challenge, and find the balance safe and effective activities at a level that’s right for you.  Some other effective nervous system reset and pain reducing activities include:
  • Diet
  • Relaxation / Meditation
  • Massage
  • EFT / tapping
  • Deep breathing techniques
  • Sleep

What is Pain?

Pain: An unpleasant sensation that can range from mild, localized discomfort to agony. Pain has both physical and emotional components. The physical part of pain results from nerve stimulation. Have anyone ever told you, “Your pain is all in your head.”?  That can be a frustrating statement to hear, but is there any truth to it?  Turns out ALL pain is in your head; at least that’s where it originates. painpic5

You don’t necessarily have pain receptors in your body; they could more accurately be described as nerve alarm receptors.  These receptors let your brain know that there has been an insult or injury to your body and you need to pay attention.  Your brain then decides how much attention this injury deserves and issues a corresponding pain response.pain-is-like-an-alarm-clock2

Most of the time this built in mechanism works well, and allows us to stay safe and survive.   threat-and-anxiety1-300x131What happens when our brain or alarm system gets it wrong, and what should be no threat or a very small threat to our body is turned into a life threatening emergency by our trusted brain??

painpic3

It is ironic that the organ in charge of distributing effective pain sensations, can’t actually perceive pain itself.   What happens is that this: papercut

is perceived as feeling like this: handcut.

The fear of pain is worse than the pain itself.  And if your alarm or pain alert system is overly sensitive, this truth can be debilitating.  percieved-threat-300x256  It’s know as pain catastrophizing and it’s real!  If you’re someone whose pain alert system is in need of  a “reset” and you expect to feel pain more intensely (most likely due to past experience with an overly sensitive alarm system), you likely WILL feel that higher level of pain as compared to someone with a healthy alarm system.  This is why perceived pain level is a poor or at best unreliable indicator of an actual injury.  So what’s the take home? painpic4 Your brain doesn’t have to be removed in order to correct this system and restore factory settings!  It is possible to “Control / Alt / Delete” your way to a brain/nervous system reset, and even use your brain to significantly reduce your pain levels!  pain pic1  We’ll get into more depth on how that can be achieved in our next blog post, so be sure to stay tuned.  painpic2.png

Pelvic health and Yoga. What’s the connection? 

Yoga has many benefits including helping to relieve muscle stiffness and soreness with stretching, improving range of motion and aiding in relaxation. Yoga can also aide in the treatment of pelvic floor muscle dysfunctions such as pelvic pain (painful sex, post-surgical pain) voiding dysfunctions (urinary or bowel leakage, retention and constipation) and complications following child birth, to name a few. Muscle tension or tightness is a common symptom of pelvic floor muscle dysfunction. Tightness in the muscle can compromise blood flow and lead to pain. Yoga can greatly aide in stretching tight muscles. Another important component of yoga is breath work. Breath work is an important part of treatment of pelvic floor muscle dysfunction. The breathing diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles work in coordination with each other. As you inhale, the pelvic floor muscles expand which allows for pelvic floor muscle release improving relaxation and blood flow. Regular practice of yoga can aide in pelvic floor muscle dysfunction treatment in helping to stretch and relax muscles.

The unstretchables. 

  • There are some muscles you simply can’t stretch no matter how hard you try, just don’t tell that to elastigirl! Truth is we have 3 different “types” of muscles in our body, and not all of the types can be intentionally stretched. (Unless you have super powers)         Here’s a list of unstretchable muscles.
  • The heart
  • The diaphragm (a breathing muscle)
  • Detrusor muscle (contracts your bladder)
  • Arrector Pili (muscle that attaches to hair follicle to give you goosebumps)
  • Recti muscles (group of 4 muscles that move your eyeballs)
  • Irises (muscle that controls diameter of your pupil)
  • Here’s a big one…levator palpebrae superioris (muscle that raises your eyelid). You get the idea, not all muscles were meant to be stretched. However, for the muscles that were meant for stretching, let us give you a few do’s and don’t to help you achieve better flexibility. 
  • Don’t bounce. Stretch into a comfortable pull sensation and hold it for 30-90 seconds. Do this 2-4 times or until the pull sensation lessens. 
  • Do breath. Oxygen is good for your muscles, do not hold your breath.
  • Don’t stretch past pain. Unless you are being directly guided to do so by a physical therapist don’t stretch your body into pain provoking positions, you can do damage. Stretching can be uncomfortable but shouldn’t be painful. 
  • Do stretches daily. Flexibility can only be maintained through consistent completion of stretching.  So there you have it, muscles are a lot like people…some are simply more flexible than others. Which type would you rather be around? Flexibility is a good thing, on a lot of levels. Be happy, be healthy, be you. 

Stretching, the good, the bad and the ugly part 2.

In part one of our stretching blog adventure we uncovered some researched based (& somewhat shocking) truths about stretching. Now it’s time to get down to business…let’s talk about a couple of weird stretches! 

PANDICULATION is a non-traditional stretch. If you’ve ever awoken in the morning, yawned, and stretched your arms, you’ve experienced pandiculation. Use the noun pandiculation to describe the particular sleepy combination of yawning and stretching. … The Latin root is pandiculari, “to stretch oneself,” from pandere, “to stretch.”

PNF STRETCHING is another non traditional stretch. Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) is a more advanced form of flexibility training that involves both the stretching and contraction of the muscle group being targeted. PNF stretching was originally developed as a form of rehabilitation, and to that effect it is very effective.

Remember…no matter the stretch, it shouldn’t hurt! Flexibility is important and gaining flexibility can be uncomfortable, but it should never bring tears. 

Stretching is good for you, so no matter what type of stretch you choose….traditional or non-traditional, just s-t-r-e-t-c-h!