Many adults are familiar with carpel tunnel syndrome and other overuse problems stemming from repetitive motions of the hands and wrists. But, few people know that those overuse syndromes can affect kids, too.
The word “Nintendo Thumb” was coined a few years ago when physical therapists started seeing a rise in thumb injuries. Hours of sitting and playing video games was actually creating a syndrome of its own, in which the ligaments and tendons of the thumb become strained and injured.
Nowadays many overuses come from playing hand-held games and text messaging. Both activities, after prolonged use, tend to cause problems with the thumbs.
You can easily find out whether you have lost motion in your thumb by placing your left hand, palm down, on a table. You should be able to form the letter L with your index finger and thumb, while keeping your four fingers together. Try a reverse L with your right hand. If you have difficulty stretching your thumb that far, do this simple exercise: Try to make an L, then try to touch thumb to the base of the little finger. This will help keep flexibility in the joint.
Another consideration with overuse syndromes in kids is that households sharing one computer often have the computer set up for the adult’s use. Proper ergonomic setup of a workstation for an adult would challenge a child unless modifications were made.
The best solution is a portable laptop computer that can be placed in an easy-to-use position. The best setup for a monitor is at eye level, so that you avoid tilting your head up or down. The keyboard and mouse should be located at the same level as your elbow, which allows your hand to be in a stress-free position. Don’t reach forward for the mouse; doing so brings your shoulder forward and can strain your neck.
It’s best to just observe your child at the computer and see if there is any awkward positioning. Meanwhile, often encourage kids to play sports and/or get exercise. Team sports, swimming, running or just playing outside are all healthy ways to help undo possible stresses of overuse syndromes.