Use common sense to avoid ‘blackberry thumb’
Remember the old saying "better life through technology?" As we've come to learn, this is a dual-edged sword.
Pesticides were used to allow the food supply to grow faster and more efficiently, but of course, these chemicals are bad for humans.
More recently, and perhaps more benign, depending on whom you ask, cell phones allow us to talk to anyone at anytime, but also lead to dangerous drivers and annoying cell-yellers.
Along those lines, we've become proponents of Treo and Blackberry-type devices that allow you access to e-mail, the Internet, and other personal productivity tools.
But guess what, there is a downside to those, too. Commonly known as "blackberry thumb," this form of repetitive stress injury (RSI) is becoming more and more prevalent.
As you may recall, RSI generated a lot of press years ago when PC's first came into vogue.
Repetitive strain injuries include well-known conditions such as tendinitis, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and less-familiar ones such as myofascial pain and thoracic outlet syndromes.
Earlier this year, the American Society of Hand Therapists (yes, there is such a society, their Web site is www.asht.org) issued an alert warning handheld electronics users that heavy usage could lead to RSI.
The society also issued guidelines to help avoid RSI, including:
» Keep your wrists straight when using the device;
» Rest your arms on pillows placed in your lap;
» Sit in a chair that allows you comfortably keep your feet on the floor;
» Switch hands frequently;
» Change your line of sight to focus on distant objects to help reduce eye fatigue.
Clearly some of these are more practical than others.
Another good option for email devices is an external keyboard. Virtually every vendor and many third parties sell excellent keyboards specifically for this purpose, so check your device manufacturer's Web site for more options.
Of course, this does make use of the device less convenient, but the trade-off is clear.
I am certainly not a doctor, so if you feel that you are afflicted with a repetitive strain injury, you should consult a medical professional for a diagnosis and recommendation of treatment.
Some sufferers have claimed that alternative treatments, such as yoga and acupuncture have proven successful. Traditional treatments generally consist of some combination of immobilizing splints, anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, or even injections of cortisone to reduce swelling. For a small percentage of extreme cases, surgical options are available.
Possibly the cheapest, most readily accessible and often effective solution for many of us is common sense, and this is echoed by the American Society of Hand Therapists.
Take a break! Overuse of anything cannot be good for you.
is president of ISDI Technologies Inc., a Honolulu-based IT consultancy. Call him at 944-8742 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org