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Category Archives: Spine Injury

Mobile Hand-Held Devices Can Increase Musculoskeletal Symptoms

Categories: Personal Injury Resources, Practical Tips You Can Use, Spine Injury

By Steven J. Angles. Posted on .

Did you know that the average human head weighs 10 pounds in a “neutral position” – where the ears are aligned over the shoulders?  Did you know that for every inch you tilt your head forward, the pressure on your spine doubles? In other words, if you are reading this blog with your head leaning down, or slouched over in a chair, you are asking your neck to support 20-30 pounds of weight.[1]   Now ask yourself – how many hours per day do you spend hunched over your smart phone, tablet, or some sort of mobile electronic device?  Your musculoskeletal system, particularly your neck and arms, may be paying the price for the convenience of having instant and portable access to all that information.

Mobile DeviceIn 2011, Canadian researchers Berolo, Wells and Amick conducted the first epidemiological study to investigate the frequency of upper body musculoskeletal pain of in mobile device users. [2] This was the first study of this fast-growing health concern to provide empirical evidence of relationships between mobile device use and symptoms of the upper extremity and neck. Participants in the study reported their daily use of mobile devices and self-reported pain symptoms through an internet based questionnaire. 104 students and 32 staff or faculty members participated in the study (80 females, 60 males). 94% were right hand dominant, and 26% use both thumbs to type (vs. one thumb typing)).  The study revealed:

  • 98% of the study participants used a hand-held mobile device for emailing, scheduling, browsing the internet, making phone calls, watching videos, taking pictures, or gaming.
  • Participants used such devices for a mean time of 4.65 hrs/day
  • 84% reported at least some pain in at least one body part
  • Pain of any severity was reported as follows:
    • 68% in the neck
    • 62% in the upper back
    • 32% in the right elbow and lower arm
    • 52% in the right shoulder
    • 46% in the left shoulder
    • 27% in the left elbow and lower arm
  • Statistically significant associations were observed between total time spent using a mobile device and pain in the left shoulder, the right shoulder, and the neck

The study also indicated that musculoskeletal symptoms can also develop in the extremities with activities such as typing, as pain in the hands was a common complaint, particularly at the base of the thumbs.[3]  This would be consistent with case reports suggesting a link between device use and both tenosynovitis and osteoarthritis [4] at the base of the thumb (carpometacarpal joint), as well laboratory studies showing that smaller keyboards (as compared to desktop or laptop computers) may increase “static strain” on the hand and arm muscles.

While mobile electronic devices have become an indispensable part of life for many people, the Berolo Study underscores the importance of taking simple steps to limit the amount of time we place our bodies in an abnormal position that can increase stress on the muscles, cause fatigue, muscle spasms and even stress headaches.  These include improving posture, raising electronic devices towards the head (not vice-versa), taking breaks to break up static body positions, and using speech-to-text functions rather than typing.

Individuals already suffering from musculoskeletal injury due to trauma may be at a higher risk for complications arising from the over-use of personal electronics.  Postural strain, overuse, or prolonged immobilization in these patients can result in additional changes in posture or body mechanics that may bring about spinal alignment problems and muscle shortening.  As such, patients recovering from traumatic injury to neck, back, arms, or hands should be particularly aware of their habits while texting or surfing the web on their electronic tablets to prevent additional injury or a prolonged recovery.





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Does An Upright MRI Make Sense For You?

Categories: Spine Injury

By Steven J. Angles. Posted on .

If you suffer an injury, your treating doctors may refer you for an MRI (“Magnetic Resonance Imaging”) to see whether there is any damage to your organs, spinal discs, or soft tissues that may not be visible on X-ray films.  So what can you expect? Before the scan can begin, you will be asked to remove all metal, jewelry, watches, hair clips, or similar items prior to the scan. Your technician will ask about any prior surgeries or metal implants you have had undergone previously.  When the testing begins, you will be asked to lay flat on a patient table which will slide some or all of your body into the tube-like cylinder of the MRI scanner.  Once the scan begins, super cooled electric coils will generate a powerful magnetic field which, combined with radio waves, will show the location and appearance of your soft tissue and fluids.

For its many benefits, having an MRI scan can be uncomfortable to one degree or another.  You might feel claustrophobia while lying inside the machine.  Your body type may not allow you to lie comfortably and still inside the scanner for the duration of the scan.  You might find the knocking sound inside the scanner tube unpleasant (even if you have headphones with music playing).  More importantly, in the case of spinal injuries, the “traditional” MRI may not accurately show imaging in the position in which you actually feel pain.   For these reasons, you may benefit from an open upright MRI. Upright MRI

First developed in 1996[1], the open upright MRI (a.k.a. “Stand-Up” MRI) can effectively solve many of the concerns that patients experience in these procedures.  In an open upright MRI, a patient walks between two large magnetic imaging devices and either stands, or they can sit in a chair that raises or lowers their body into the proper position.  The front and top of the machine are open.   The scan typically takes less time than a traditional MRI, and patients might even be able to watch T.V. during the procedure.   In many instances, the scans are less expensive than traditional MRIs.   But the greatest benefit it offers is the opportunity to recreate the body positions that patients might feel pain, revealing causes of injury that might be undetected on recumbent MRI scanners.   For example, if you typically experience neck or back pain while sitting or standing, your scan will take place while your spine has the same weight and gravity it would normally have when you most feel your symptoms.  As a result, the scans may show where your spinal discs are compressed or injured in a way that a horizontal MRI might not show as well.

Of course, you will need to consult with your medical provider before deciding on an upright MRI, as there can be drawbacks specific to your situation.  Typically, traditional recumbent MRIs have a higher “field strength” or power to their magnets, resulting in clearer MRI results that show greater detail.  You definitely want your doctor to have the best quality scans possible in order to provide the best evidence of your injuries.  Some insurance plans do not cover upright MRIs.  Upright MRI machines are not yet as common as traditional scanners, so it may harder for you to locate one that fits your needs.   Lastly, your particular symptoms might be best represented while lying down for a scan, particularly if your pain is greatest in that position (i.e. while sleeping).



What Comes Next after your Spinal Injury?

Categories: Spine Injury

By PI-Advisor. Posted on .

Rehabilitation  is done and you have largely recovered from your spinal trauma. What next?   It is especially important to get moving again but in a smart, and measured way. Low impact activities such as swimming, stationary bike riding and walking are great places to start. Here are a few more tips to help you keep  your residual pain at bay:

  • Always stretch before exercise or other strenuous physical activity.
  • Don’t slouch when standing or sitting. When standing, keep your weight balanced on your feet. Your back supports weight most easily when curvature is reduced.
  • At home or work, make sure your work surface is at a comfortable height for you.
  • Sit in a chair with good lumbar support and proper position and height for the task. Keep your shoulders back. Switch sitting positions often and periodically walk around the office or gently stretch muscles to relieve tension. A pillow or rolled-up towel placed behind the small of your back can provide some lumbar support. If you must sit for a long period of time, rest your feet on a low stool or a stack of books.
  • Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes.
  • Sleep on your side to reduce any curve in your spine. Always sleep on a firm surface.
  • Don’t try to lift objects too heavy for you. Lift with your knees, pull in your stomach muscles, and keep your head down and in line with your straight back. Keep the object close to your body. Do not twist when lifting.
  • Maintain proper nutrition and diet to reduce and prevent excessive weight, especially weight around the waistline that taxes lower back muscles. A diet with sufficient daily intake of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D helps to promote new bone growth.
  • If you smoke, quit. Smoking reduces blood flow to the lower spine and causes the spinal discs to degenerate.

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