In the online, internet-obsessed lives we lead today, having two pain-free hands at the ready is paramount. Our hands connect us to the world, provide the means for our sustenance and allow us to perform daily activities. 

And, as those activities revolve more and more around computers, tablets and smartphones, many of us find that our hands get a vigorous workout every day—perhaps too vigorous. Overuse and constant repetition can lead to discomfort and a variety of conditions that impede function, cause pain, and may even require medical or therapeutic intervention.

This week at the Orthology Blog, Certified Hand Therapist and Occupational Therapist Ellen Kolber at Orthology Union Square New York shares seven ways to keep your hands pain-free and fully functional. See how to show your hands some love below.

Pay attention to how you feel. 

Your hands have limits. If you overuse them, they’ll let you know in various ways and degrees. Even if you’re working at a computer for only part of your day, it’s important to allow them time to rest and recuperate. If you’re experiencing discomfort or fatigue, it’s time to give your paws a break—and maybe even seek out some help.

Think about and observe the way you use your hands

What posture do your hands fall into most commonly? Try to keep your wrists straight, minimizing bending your wrists up or down or to the side. To help you visualize, try this: While typing, hold your hands so that there is a straight line extending from the middle of your forearm to the end of your middle finger, and another straight line running along the side of your forearm and hand. Keeping your wrists straight helps minimize friction and traction between the bones and tendons in your hands, wrists and forearms.

Be gentle!

Regulate the activities that require repetitive actions or forceful gripping. For example, if you’ve just used scissors or shears to prune back your garden and your hands are feeling tired or achy, it’s probably better to let them rest than to dive into mixing up a batch of fudge.

Take tools and kitchen tasks seriously. 

Learn to use safe knife skills, and focus on what you’re doing in the kitchen—from chopping vegetables to removing the blades of your food processor to removing the lid of a can. Slicing through things like avocados and bagels require special focus and care, and being present in your task can help keep your hands from harm.

Use the right tools for the right job. 

Keep knives, scissors and other tools sharp or otherwise well-maintained. You’re more likely to cut yourself with a knife that is too small for the job or that has a dull blade then with one that is the right size and cuts well.

Consider your thumbs. 

Think about it—nearly every time you pick something up or manipulate an object, you’re using your thumbs. Because the thumb gets so much use in our daily lives, it’s more prone to arthritis and tendinitis.

See a professional.

If your elbow, wrist, hand or fingers are causing discomfort over an extended period of time, it’s time to see a therapist. Hand injuries, whether due to traumatic or cumulative conditions, are often under-treated. And like most things, early intervention is more likely to promote faster and more complete healing, getting you back to the activities that make up your daily life. 

As an Occupational Therapist and Hand Therapy Specialist at Orthology Union Square in New York, Dr. Kolber frequently hears regrets from her patients about how they took the ability of their hands for granted. Our hands are amazing, and more important in terms of daily function than we often think about. 

Taking the time and effort to care for them, including allowing them to rest and recuperate, is the best ways to keep them pain-free and working well. Show your hands love throughout your life, and they’ll pay you back with years of the activities you love doing.

Show your hands some love. 

If you’re in New York and you’d like to work with a Certified Hand Therapist for injury or pain in your hands or wrists, you can book an appointment with Dr. Kolber via email at contactus@orthology.com or over the phone at (212)750-1110.