Technology and Orthopedic Health: 4 Tips to Avoid Tech-Related Orthopedic Injury

Smartphones and computers have become commonplace for most people, from toddlers to senior citizens. For many, using these devices is an integral part of daily life for our work, education, and leisure activities. While using smart devices and computers may seem benign, ​increased technology use can increase our risk for orthopedic injury. 

At Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin, keeping you injury-free is our top priority. Below, we discuss how technology use can cause orthopedic health conditions such as carpal tunnel and other Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI) and how to prevent injury with a few simple tips.

Technology Use and Orthopedic Injury

As you read this article, notice what position you are in. Are you hunched over a laptop? Is your neck bent to your smartphone? Are you walking? Or sitting in a ball on the couch? The first step to understanding how technology affects orthopedic health is to take note of the position, location, and frequency we use our devices. 

Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI) may arise with frequent technology use and improper body positioning. RSI typically affects the upper limbs and is associated with pain caused by repetitive movement and overuse. Typing away all day on a keyboard, texting for hours on a smartphone, and endless scrolling puts stress on your fingers, wrists, elbows, and hands. Orthopedists have even coined terms to describe the conditions associated with technology overuse like “text claw” and “cell phone elbow.” If you suffer from cramping and muscle aching from typing or scrolling, you’re at risk for these injuries. 

Additionally, if you are consistently looking at a screen, your neck, shoulders, and back are all at risk for an RSI or spine condition. Orthopedists have also coined the term “tech neck” to describe the pain, stiffness, and soreness associated with consistently gazing down at the screens of smartphones, tablets, and computers. 

5 Tips to Avoid Technology Related Orthopedic Injury

1.Use Hands-Free Technology Whenever Possible

If keyboard typing is a necessary part of your daily life, or you find yourself texting for hours throughout the day, implement hands-free typing tools whenever possible. Getting your message across doesn’t have to mean putting your hands, wrists, and fingers at risk. Try hand-free technology such as talk-to-text technology, voice memos, and “old-school” phone calls. And if you make frequent phone calls, getting a pair of headphones for calls can help prevent elbow fatigue associated with keeping your phone to your ear for extended periods of time. 

2. Explore the Benefits of a Standing Desk

If you work sitting at a desk, you may have considered trying a standing desk. Whether you’re working from your home office or working in a busy shared space, a standing desk is a great option to improve your technology health during the workday. A standing desk may help to improve your working posture, one of the key elements to remaining pain-free. 

3. Ensure Proper Workspace Ergonomics

It’s not entirely practical to stand during every work task, and sometimes sitting at a desk for several hours is necessary. But keep in mind sitting all day in uncomfortable positions can lead to various dysfunctions of the cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine, shoulders, wrists, hands, and more. Setting up proper workspace ergonomics is vital to prevent potential hazards and discomfort.

4. Move and Take Breaks from Technology

One of the most impactful practices to avoid an overuse injury is taking frequent breaks and getting in daily movement. Take time to get up and stretch your muscles and move your body without your phone or device in hand. It’s especially important to take a break whenever you begin to feel muscle fatigue or pain. Not only will a break give your body time to recover, but it can also be beneficial for your mental health. 

If you feel you may be experiencing discomfort from an RSI or other tech-related injury, don’t ignore your symptoms or hope the issue will resolve on its own. Contact our team at Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin today! We can treat your pain and help you find ways to implement healthy habits to make you strong and comfortable.