Are you a keyboard warrior? Is most of your day spent staring at a computer screen while your fingers tap at breakneck speeds?While there is no doubt technology provides lightening-fast ways to communicate, market, and live life,there are downsides to it as well, particularly for those who work with devices such as computers and tablets every day. Repetitive use injuries and other conditions that lead to chronic pain are common complaints of a number of my clients looking for massage relief.
Carpal tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome are common keyboarding injuries, accompanied by a number of symptoms, including pain, fatigue, weakness, burning and stiffness in the affected areas. Numbness and tingling, as well as trigger point complaints are also common. Couple that with poor posture and now the neck, shoulders and back come into play as computer users crouch in their chairs to get better views of their screens or slouch to get more comfortable.
Massage therapy can help reduce postural imbalances, nerve entrapment, inflammation in the tissues, and trigger points and can also address the symptoms caused by nerve compression. It’s especially beneficial for those who have a pelvic imbalance, often caused by a head-forward posture.
Before I begin a massage therapy session I always try to assess the nature of my clients’ pain. In order for massage therapy to be effective, I need to understand what muscles are involved in any condition. When treating the soft tissue, I begin with some myofascial work, kneading the area with long strokes but I never try to treat one area all at one time. Moving around is less painful and gentler on you. With more tender areas, I go back and repeat with longer strokes, revisiting some areas repeatedly and often ending with trigger point work to add more release to the tissues.
There are some things I know I must avoid, depending on the nature of a repetitive stress injury, since there are also ways a massage can exacerbate instead of relieve an issue. I always explain to my client that massage therapy is not going to cure the problem, even if I temporarily relieve the symptoms, since the cause of it (overuse) is at the heart of it. It’s like saying, “go forth and never use a computer or a keyboard again and then you won’t have this problem” — which is just unrealistic. But I can recommend movements you can do on your own to help release and retrain the affected musculature. And I can advise you on proper posture. (Ask me about Symmetry® treatments as well).
Did you ever think about how massage therapists are also at risk for some of these injuries? We make our living by pushing and pulling you, so, we are just as susceptible to overuse issues in the upper extremities, not to mention the back pain that can go along with them. But we also know what to do in order to continue practicing our craft and treat ourselves.
For my clients who work with computers, smartphones and tablets on a daily basis, overuse injuries are common, disrupting both their personal and professional lives while causing pain. Massage therapy can help, but there are also steps you can take to change things up, such as investing in a wireless mouse, adjusting the position of your monitor or messing with the display so that you can see it without straining your head and neck. Using an ergonomic keyboard can also help decrease the risk of strain on the hands and wrists. Before buying one, however, make sure this type of keyboard is a good “fit,” since some are wider than others.
The other remedy, of course, is to simply get moving. Stretching or any kind of exercise that relieves the strain and tension you are experiencing is something you may actually have to put on your calendar in order to remember to do it, but it’s so, so worth it!