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Have Computer Strain? Massage Therapy Can Help

— March 25, 2021

Customers might also benefit from specific guidance on stretches and movements to try during their breaks, and this can support prevention. 

In today’s technology-reliant world, computers, tablets, and other devices are an integral part of work and life. If you’re based in an office environment, it’s likely you’re a computer athlete, someone who relies on digital devices and peripherals to get their tasks done. 

These tools are essential, but overuse can lead to a range of injuries, some of which painful and disruptive. Fortunately, massage therapy can offer a temporary solution by alleviating and reducing symptoms. So what can it do for computer athletes and what are the types of conditions it can be used for?

Common injuries

Those who work in front of computers or in an office setting could be more likely to develop repetitive-use conditions. These can result not only from prolonged sitting but also from maintaining the torso and limbs in fixed positions, along with poor posture. Common injuries include carpal tunnel syndrome, which affects the hands and leads to numbness, pins, and needles, and soreness. 

Cubital tunnel syndrome, on the other hand, affects a nerve on the inner side of the elbow and manifests as numbness or tingling in the fingers, forearm aches, or weakness in the hands. More generally, stiffness and fatigue can also result. Poor or improper posture can trigger shoulder and back pain. Someone who sits with their head leaned forward to better see a poorly positioned screen can experience neck soreness, for example. 

The role of massage therapy

Massage therapy can relieve chronic aches for these digital athletes. The therapist can assist clients who have anything from inflammation and postural imbalance matters to nerve compression and hemipelvis imbalances causing pain. However, whilst it can provide relief, it doesn’t offer a cure. If compression has its roots in posture issues, physical treatment can help. Other symptoms that can be treated include those related to nerve entrapment and trigger points and referrals. 

The professional should begin sessions by carefully reviewing the mechanics of the client’s issues. For example, use any postural-imbalance diagnosis to determine which muscles are involved. Prior to addressing soft-tissue, remember to first warm up the area with a few minutes of heat and some myofascial release strokes. Move to another area before returning so the initial area isn’t too sensitive and you can go deeper into the tissue.

Therapist massaging someone's back; photo by Toa Heftiba, via
Therapist massaging someone’s back; photo by Toa Heftiba, via

An experienced therapist will be able to judge whether working on an area raises the risk of further irritation and whether to avoid it altogether for the time being. In many cases, taking an updated, industry-recognized course in the area could be advantageous for those looking to upskill. Remind the client any work can only relieve the symptom. The underlying causes are overuse and the individual should eventually change what they’re doing to prevent the problem from recurring. A discussion about changing up how tasks are done, adjusting postures, and frequent stretching breaks can be useful.

Note the therapist can also be at risk of the same injuries, especially in the upper extremities and when it comes to a back issue. Stay aware of the methodology and correct technique so you’re using your large muscles rather than the small ones. For example, when carrying out effleurage, shift body weight over the feet and rotate through the waist rather than relying on the shoulder and/or straightening the elbows. Additionally, keep forearms, wrists, fingers, and hands aligned in a straight line to optimize support and minimize muscle strain. 

Preventative strategies

Whilst options are available for alleviating the symptoms, as with any strain, it’s always better to avoid it in the first place where possible. Both therapists and clients can benefit from applying some simple prevention strategies, to reduce the risk of stress and tension. First, use wireless peripherals like external keyboards and mice. Wires can negatively impact accessibility and comfort. Think big for monitors and set up screens to prevent neck craning. 

Second, switch to ergonomic keyboards and mice. Ask vendors for assistance in finding products that fit your hands rather than choosing them off the shelf without considering how well they fit. When setting up workspaces, consider the position of the elbow, shoulder, and neck. Third, incorporate stretching time-outs into the day. For clients, provide sets of different movements they can practice through during their breaks. The more they get up and move, the lower the risk of straining.

Summing up

Computers and digital devices are ubiquitous in today’s workplaces, bringing with them a variety of repetitive strain and overuse conditions. As such, massage therapists need to stay informed about the options available for their affected clients. Professionals working in this area could find they have two or three different roles for assisting people with these issues. 

In addition to physical treatment, they might be providing feedback to customers about their postures and whether they need to upgrade their equipment to ergonomic models. Customers might also benefit from specific guidance on stretches and movements to try during their breaks, and this can support prevention. 

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