What Happens To Your Hands When You Type For Hours Every Day

Every day we tap away — on our phones, laptops, tablets, and more. All that tapping, whether work-related or not, can overwork our hands and fingers in the same way we can overwork any other area of the body with physical activity. A typing injury may not sound as severe as a broken bone, open wound, or other physical injuries, but it doesn't mean that those aches and pains in your wrist should be ignored.

According to Chron, the average person's typing speed ranges between 37-44 words per minute. According to that math, an 8-hour day at the office will result in 17,000-20,000 typed words per day — that's a lot of heavy lifting! Mind you, this doesn't factor in breaks, which are of vital importance when it comes to long stretches of typing. Survey research conducted by Alan Hedge, the director of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory at Cornell University, found that 80% of employees in typing-heavy professions reported experiencing discomfort in their muscles and tendons as it related to their work (via The Washington Post).

Not only that, but we tend to increase the force behind our fingertips when tapping the computer keys. Hedge says that when we're stressed, we tend to hit our keyboards with 8 times more force than necessary. So what does all that pounding away mean for our health?

How to prevent hand and finger injuries

"Although the pressure is gentle in nature, the mechanical motion's consistency leads to inflammation in the joints and tendons," wrist specialists at the North Texas Hand Center explain. "Over time, this joint pain converts into swelling and reduces mobility." Continuous typing over long periods of time can lead to repetitive strain injury (RSI) or the development of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Those who type for hours each day are also susceptible to trigger finger, a condition characterized by pain, swelling, and popping in the thumb or ring finger.

While similar to trigger finger, CTS affects more than just the fingers. The condition occurs as a result of compression of the median nerve (via the Mayo Clinic). Those who experience CTS often feel numbness or tingling in the hands and fingers. Surgery may sometimes be required, as over time, the muscles in the hands can deteriorate and the pain can continue to spread through the arm (via WebMD).

To help reduce your chances of typing-related injuries, the North Texas Hand Center suggests adjusting your posture to ensure your head and spine are in alignment when seated. Additionally, be sure that your keyboard is positioned in a way that keeps your wrists relaxed and flat. You'll also want to avoid placing your wrists on the harsh edges of your desk when typing. Lastly, taking breaks for some light hand stretching before, after, and during keyboard use can help keep injuries at bay.