Fix Hand Pain with OT
By Beth Peterson, OTD, OTR/L, CHT
Hand Therapy Week is celebrated the first week in June each year. This is a time that hand therapists like to bring awareness to their specialty as a way to educate the public on injury prevention. Given the current pandemic, I would like to share some tips on posture awareness when working from home. This shift to working from home has already brought a number of patients into the clinic with complaints of shoulder and elbow pain in addition to numbness and tingling of the hands.
The recent change in work environments to kitchen tables, counters or couches, have many people at risk for postural related issues, resulting in tendonitis and pain. The more time spent on our computers, the harder our muscles work to support us and become fatigued. This causes us to round our shoulders and head forward, which places strain and stress on our tendons, nerves and muscles. Learning the appropriate positioning, stretching and posture awareness can help to prevent injury. Left unaddressed, these muscle changes become more difficult to correct.
However, staying mindful of your wrist and hand movement during the day can be a great first step towards minimizing and treating pain in these areas. Ensuring simple day-to-day measure are being taken, like proper typing technique and wrist support, can make a massive and immediate difference in any wrist pain you may be experiencing. Just like when you’re in the office, breaks are also important for your hand health. Stepping away from the keyboard for a few minutes every hour gives your wrists a much-needed rest from replying to emails and editing spreadsheets.
Additionally, there are simple exercises to help decrease the stress on your upper body when completed at regular intervals during the day, otherwise known as microbreaks.
- Taking short breaks from your work station every hour to stand up and walk around the room will aid in circulation and decrease muscle stiffness.
- Rolling shoulders back and squeezing shoulder blades together will take the strain off the chest muscles and assist in maintaining good posture.
- Raising arms over head and out to the side of the body, bending and straightening elbows and moving wrists up and down will promote circulation.
- Setting a timer every hour to check your posture and do the above stretches, will help improve your awareness of your muscle tension and allow you to actively modify your body position.
Working with a certified hand therapist can help you identify alternatives for your at-home workstation, further instruct on strengthening exercises and stretches tailored to your specific needs while managing your muscle pain. Contact us today if you’re in need of a helping hand!