A new patient for Gaetan Poirier at Physio Outaouais Sports Medicine Clinic where I go for shoulder therapy is a teenage boy who spent all day playing his new video game. A near-epidemic number of sufferers of all ages worldwide, not just elderly ones like me, are seeking help. Poirier and his colleagues recommend limiting time spent without taking a break to five minutes on an ipad, 20 minutes on an ipod and two hours on a computer. Here are 16 tips to help you prevent or cope with pain:
- Stop doing whatever you are doing when your shoulder starts to hurt. Prepare to change your habits, even your life style.
- Have good posture if you work at a computer: screen at eye level, chair placed so you sit upright and elbow at a 90 degree angle as you work at the keyboard; keep your feet flat and your thighs parallel to the floor or slightly inclined forward.
- Don’t slouch or tilt your head forward when using an ipod, ipad or playing a video game, The weight your shoulders has to bear doubles with every inch of forward bend. It’s called text neck.
- Find someone to help you if housework, for example, is the problem. Be creative and efficient, use alternatives and lower your standards.
- Sleep on your back at night with a small rolled-up towel about 4x5x1″ underneath your sore shoulder. Forget about trying to roll over on your side.
- Try ice or a heating pad to see if it helps.
- Avoid overhead arm movements by wearing button-front clothing and slip-on shoes. After a shower or bath, dry your back by holding a towel with both hands, one on each end, and moving it back and forth so you don’t have to stretch.
- Rest your shoulder as much as possible by going on vacation and taking naps. If you swim, continue doing it, but do breast stroke with a dog paddle arm movement and don’t swim crawl (free-style).
- Go to see your doctor for an examination and diagnosis. Use this opportunity to clear up any doubts you have from friends, etc., to use alternative treatments. I tried acupuncture but it didn’t help and left a purple bruise from the massage. Also, the doctor told me I didn’t need vitamin B, because I already had enough. He referred me to a physiotherapist.
- Get an x-ray taken. In my case it’s taking six weeks to get the results and I still don’t have them.
- Make the exercises the physiotherapist gives you a priority. If you wake up in the morning with a sore arm, wait until it loosens up and then do them.
- Wear a sling at busy times so other people will not expect you to do things you usually do.
- Put your hand into your side pocket while keeping your elbow bent at 90 degrees to avoid arm pain while walking. If you don’t have a pocket, hook you thumb into your belt.
- Use your other hand when working on the computer, etc.; you could even get a one handed keyboard.
- Keep your sore arm resting on a bed pillow on your lap with your elbow at 90 degrees. Adjust it until comfortable. If necessary, put another cushion underneath.
- Be surprised by discussing day-to-day problems with your physiotherapist. Even a small thing like clicking hard on a button on your ipad can cause trouble.
Margaret Kell Virany lover of language and literature, note-taker of Northrop Frye, journalist, editor, author
Books: Kathleen’s Cariole Ride, a war bride’s answer to a call of love in the wilderness; A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void, a 20th century Canadian confession; and Eating at Church, 175 communal recipes