More and more people have traded in the traditional desktop computer for a laptop.  Unfortunately, typing and repetitive motions inevitably affect your hands and wrists. This has led to many people asking questions about laptops and their impact on hand health. What can you do to protect your hands and wrists from pain, injury and other aliments?

Wrist pain

Symptoms of wrist pain 

Pain in the wrist is often caused by sprains or fractures resulting from sudden injuries. However, wrist pain can also be caused by long-term problems such as repetitive strain, arthritis, and carpal tunnel syndrome. 

Wrist pain can vary depending on the cause. For example, arthritis pain is often described as similar to a dull toothache, while carpal tunnel syndrome usually causes a pins and needles sensation or tingling, especially at night. The exact location of your wrist pain will also give clues to the cause of your symptoms.

 

Why typing on a laptop is causing pain? 

Typing on a laptop is not as ideal as typing on a traditional keyboard for a number of reasons. For one, your wrists are not in a neutral position when typing on a laptop, which puts a lot of strain on them. Over time, this can take its toll. 

Also, many people type in positions that do not make ergonomic sense. When you have a laptop on your lap, your hands and wrists are not in an ideal position; your shoulders and neck may also be hunched in an uncomfortable way. The compact size of a laptop can also cause your body to contract in ways that make carpal tunnel and other ailments more likely. 

 

Other causes of wrist pain 

Damage to any of the parts of your wrist can cause pain and affect your ability to use your wrist and hand. 

  1. Injuries
  • Sudden impacts – wrist injuries often occur when you fall forward onto your outstretched hand. This can lead to sprains, strains and even fractures.
  • Repetitive stress – any activity that requires repetitive motion of the wrist, such as typing on a laptop, hitting a tennis ball, or driving a car, can inflame the tissues around the joints or cause stress fractures, especially if you perform the motion for hours without rest.
  1. Arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis – this type of arthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones breaks down over time. Osteoarthritis of the wrist is uncommon and usually only occurs in people who have injured their wrist in the past.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. Rheumatoid arthritis often affects the wrist. If one wrist is affected, the other usually is, too.
  1. Other conditions
    • Carpal tunnel syndrome – Carpal tunnel syndrome results from increased pressure on the median nerve that runs through the carpal tunnel, a passageway in the palm of the wrist.
    • Ganglion cysts – these soft tissue cysts most commonly occur on the part of your wrist that faces your palm. Ganglion cysts can be painful, and the pain can either get worse or better with activity.
    • Kienbock’s disease – this condition usually affects young adults and involves the progressive breakdown of one of the small bones in the wrist. Kienbock disease occurs when the blood supply to this bone is compromised.

 

What could increase your risk of wrist pain? 

Wrist pain can affect anyone – whether you are very sedentary, very active or somewhere in between. But your risk may be increased by these 3 factors: 

  1. Sports activity – wrist injuries are common in many sports, both those that involve impact and those that involve repetitive stress on the wrist. These include football, bowling, golf, gymnastics, snowboarding and tennis.
  2. Repetitive work – almost any activity that puts stress on the hands and wrists – even knitting and haircutting – can cause disabling wrist pain if done vigorously enough and often enough.
  3. Certain diseases or conditions – pregnancy, diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis and gout can increase your risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.

 

4 ways to reduce wrist pain while using a laptop 

To reduce wrist and hand pain when using your laptop, consider the following tips: 

  1. Laptop tray/desk – laptop trays and desks tilt your laptop so your wrists can assume a more relaxed position while typing.
  2. Wrist rests – wrist rests can reduce the strain on your wrists while typing. They are ideal if you use a laptop on a desk or table.
  3. Rest your hands – take breaks when typing for long periods of time. Every 30 minutes, you should rest your hands for about 5 minutes. A short, regular break can do wonders for your wrists.
  4. Have good posture – a straight sitting posture can prevent injury and strain to your body. If you use a laptop at work, talk to an ergonomics expert at your workplace about how to best set up your workstation.

 

4 more ways to prevent wrist pain 

It’s impossible to prevent the unforeseen events that often lead to wrist injuries, but these basic tips can provide some protection: 

  1. Strengthen your bones – adequate calcium intake. The recommended amount for most adults is 1000 milligrams per day and at least 1,200 milligrams per day for women over 50-can help prevent bone fractures.
  2. Prevent falls – falling forward onto an outstretched hand is the leading cause of most wrist injuries. To prevent falls, wear sensible shoes. Eliminate home hazards. Light your living spaces. Install grab bars in your bathroom and handrails on your stairs as needed.
  3. Wear protective clothing during sports activities – wear wrist guards during high-risk activities such as contact sport, trail running and HIIT workouts.
  4. Pay attention to ergonomics – again, if you sit at a keyboard for long periods of time, take regular breaks. When you type, keep your wrist in a relaxed, neutral position. An ergonomic keyboard and a foam or gel wrist rest can help.

     

    Not all wrist pain requires medical attention. Mild sprains and strains usually respond to ice, rest, and over-the-counter pain relievers. However, if pain and swelling persist for more than a few days or worsen, you should see your doctor. Delayed diagnosis and treatment can lead to poor healing, limited range of motion and long-term disability. 

    Because so many factors can lead to wrist pain, it can be difficult to diagnose the exact cause, but an accurate diagnosis is critical for proper treatment and healing.

     

    The therapists at The Back Clinic specialise in determining the cause of joint pain. Then, a team of medical professionals work together to create a customised treatment plan to provide patients with holistic care and treatment. Contact them on 0630975603 or via email at info@thebackclinic.co.za

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