Think about it: If you work at a laptop, these muscles, joints, and nerves are what allow you to do all of the typing and scrolling that brings in your paycheck.
Unfortunately, all that crucial use of these body parts makes them a potential site for musculoskeletal problems, say Rochelle Mendonca, PhD, OTR/L, an assistant professor of programs in occupational therapy at Columbia University, and Colleen Maher, OTD, OTR/L, an associate professor of occupational therapy at Saint Joseph University.
It turns out, having proper wrist posture is important. Mendonca and Maher say problems can arise from improper use, which includes staying in awkward positions (like resting your wrists on the surface of a desk or your laptop) for long periods of time, and repeating the same motions over and over without rest.
“These types of postures and movements can cause stress or strain of muscles, tendons, and nerves,” Mendonca and Maher wrote in an email.
That can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, which is when a nerve gets compressed and causes tingling, numbness, and pain, and tendonitis, which is the inflammation of the tendons that also causes pain. No thank you!
Luckily, there are some easy ways to avoid that fate. Since placing your wrists on a surface when you’re typing can cause strain on your tendons, consider investing in a more ergonomic setup. A chair that supports your back, with your feet on the floor (or on a footrest), letting your hips, knees, and elbows bend at a 90-degree angle, and allowing your wrists to be straight is "optimal for proper positioning of your arms and hands," say Mendonca and Maher.
Breaks are also crucial.
“Not only breaks to rest your muscles, tendons, and nerves, but also to move them in the opposite position they have been held in for a prolonged period," Mendonca and Maher say. “Changing positions and taking breaks even for 30 seconds each hour can be extremely beneficial.”
But what should you be doing during those breaks for some equal and opposite reactions to counteract all that typing? Here are four laptop wrist stretches Mendonca and Maher suggest adding to your routine for wrist mobility.
- Reach behind your head with both hands. Place your palms on the back of your head so your elbows are bent and out to the side, and then stretch your elbows back.
- Straighten your elbows by dangling them over the side of the chair, then bend and touch your shoulder with your fingertips.
- Rest your forearms on the arms of your chair, bend your wrist down and then raise it up keeping your fingers relaxed. You can also make circles with your wrists.
- For your hands: Make a fist and then open. Next touch your thumb to each finger.
Do these movements about 10 times each, twice a day. Your body will thank you for it!
Also try this 10-minute workout for your wrists:
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