“I-Pad Hand”: The New Technology Syndrome
Technology is wonderful, but it comes at a price to our bodies. Tablet use has led to a new form of repetitive strain injury dubbed “i-pad hand” or “text claw.” This results when people hold their device in their (typically) left hand for long periods of time with the corner of the tablet pushing into the tensed thumb muscle (similar to the way they would hold a plate). Users are experiencing aches and pain in the left hand. This can also progress to pain up the arm and into the shoulders and neck. A few users have reported symptoms as devastating as paralysis.
As a person uses his tablet for a period of time, the fingers will tighten to hold on to the screen, creating tension throughout the hand. A typical tablet weighs 1.44 lbs. That doesn’t sound like much, but the thumb wasn’t intended to carry that amount of weight for long periods of time. The muscle in the fleshy part of the thumb, where the thumb seems to connect to the hand is where the tablet usually rests. Holding the device tenses those muscles. In addition to the weight of the device, often the tablet will rub back and forth, putting additional stress on that area. Users are experiencing hand pain, as well as carpal tunnel syndrome and pains radiating up into the arm. There is also an increase in complaints among users experiencing left shoulder and neck pain and headaches.
Cyndi Davis, author of an ergonomics internet blog, “The Ergolab,” said, “It is very challenging finding a comfortable body posture while using the iPad.” How we contort our bodies while using tablets is another big concern for those in the medical profession. Dr. John Pappas, medical director at the Beaumont Centre for Pain Medicine in Michigan said that “prolonged use of tablet computers can cause different forms of repetitive strain injuries to the fingers and hands. Good posture and frequent, short breaks can help minimize these symptoms.”
Here are some tips to help you with your tablet use:
- Experts recommend spending no more than 20 minutes at a time with a tablet. If you must spend more time, put it on a table, preferably on a stand where it can be seen without needing to hunch over it to see it.
- If a keyboard is needed, attach an external keyboard which can be placed so that your arms are parallel with the ground, while keeping the tablet at eye level.
- Avoid using your knees as a resting place for the tablet. That position forces your head to jut forward and put additional strain on your neck, upper back, and arms.
- Just as we discussed with typing, avoid using more pressure than necessary when swiping or typing on the device in order to protect your fingers.
- If you must hold the tablet, stop and let the muscles of your hand rest frequently. Consciously release the tension in your hands so that they can get the maximum rest they need.
- Use voice typing as much as possible to save the mini traumas to the fingers when typing.
Have you experienced any aches or pains that may be coming from tablet use? Have you changed the way you use your device, and have you seen a difference in how your feel? We would love to hear from you. Please leave your comments in the box below.
Next time we will discuss some issues common to both i-pad and cell phone use and will share some more ideas that will be applicable to both.