Barcode Scanners, Handheld Computers, Holsters

4 Ways to Reduce Arm Pain from Barcode Scanner Use

person wearing a blue shirt and holding a barcode scanner up to a box in a warehouse

Millions of professionals live their daily lives with a barcode scanner or handheld computer at their side. Anyone who’s ever worked without a scanner or hand computer knows the value of these small, convenient devices. No more clipboards and office database checks. The wireless devices streamline everything from warehouse management to mobile client services. But holding a scanner for the entire course of your shift can wear you down after a while. In fact, developing arm pain from barcode scanner use is more common than you might think.

Do You Have Arm Pain from Barcode Scanner Use?

Are you noticing a weariness in your wrist or an ache that goes all the way into your shoulder and neck? This is common for anyone with a physically active job and routine duties. You may be developing an RSI, repetitive stress injury, from using the same muscles and motions every day to wield the scanner. You might also be experiencing early carpal tunnel symptoms from the effort of holding and finger-operating your handheld work device.

So what can you do? If you’re happy at work, there’s no need to change careers. Instead, try these helpful ways to reduce the pain (and future risk) from wielding the scanner daily.

1) Twist Your Wrist

Stretching out your wrist can help with the pinching tension you may be feeling in the arm, even up to the shoulder and neck. When the tendons in your wrist get too tight, they pull on the other soft tissue that holds your arm together.

  • Hold your aching arm in front of you, palm facing toward you and fingers pointing up.
  • Place your opposite hand behind the first hand, perpendicular, so the fingers gently wrap around the back of your thumb.
  • Curl your fingers to grasp just below your thumb.
  • Place your back thumb between the ring and pinky knuckles.
  • Twist gently.
  • Reverse the grip – hand facing away, fingers gripping below pinky, thumb between pointer and thumb knuckles.
  • Twist gently.

This exercise will loosen up your wrist and reduce the pain from your wrist up to your neck. You can also do exercises that loosen your entire arm. Pull your arm across your chest or backward behind your head. Loosen up from the shoulder down as well as from the wrist up. Roll your neck and roll out your shoulder in addition to the wrist twist.

2) Wear Different Gloves

Many people who experience repetitive stress injury arm pain from barcode scanner and hand-computer use at work also wear work gloves on the job. You may work in a chilly warehouse or a hazardous construction site. You may need the gloves to handle materials, to keep warm, or both. But gloves also hinder your hand movements and often require more force to use your device.

If your hand or arm is aching, try different gloves. Look for thinner and better-fitting gloves that still serve your purpose. Try a few different gloves at work to see which feel best. Just changing how your hand moves over the buttons can change your pain experience using your scanner daily. You might even find that regularly changing gloves (and other gear) can reduce your risk of suffering from arm pain from barcode scanner use.

3) Develop a Holster Habit

You may be holding your device for longer than is necessary. It’s easy to get into the habit of holding onto a scanner or handheld computer because you need it every five minutes. But five minutes where your scanner could be docked means a lot to your wrist, elbow, and shoulder in the long run. It may be time to make a habit of using your scanner holster – or getting a holster if you don’t already have one on your belt.

 Get used to dropping your scanner in the holster when you’re thinking, talking, or walking between tasks. Give your hand and arm a break. Use this time to stretch out. Twist your wrist and roll the shoulder to work out any knots that are already starting to form.

4) Take a Hot Bath with Magnesium Salt

Last but not least, try a hot bath with magnesium on the weekend. Heat is a natural muscle relaxer, meaning any tension built up in your arm will be easier to soak away in a steaming bath. Magnesium salt is also a muscle relaxer and promotes the absorption of water in the body. Soaking in magnesium helps to un-knot muscles and replenishes your body’s supply of the salt mineral. 

Add two cups of magnesium salt crystals to a hot bath and stir. Soak for at least 15 minutes (or as long as you like) to gain the full benefits of the magnesium. If your water heater isn’t up to a steaming bath, heat pots of water on the stove to steam it up.

Scanners and handheld computers are essential to streamlining modern work, but carrying a scanner all day, every day, can really wear on your primary arm. If you’re feeling muscle pains from hoisting the scanner, try these solutions. From regular stretching to the strategic use of the holster, you can absolutely reduce your tension and arm pain from barcode scanner use without slowing your roll at work. Read our blog to find more industry tips and tricks.