Nearly half of all U.S. adults say they can't live without their smartphones, according to the Pew Research Center. But what happens when our fondness for the latest electronic gadgets creates more pain than gain?
So-called tech-related injuries are on the rise. From "swiper's thumb,""text neck" or even "selfie elbow," these health conditions share one commonality: they occur when people use electronic devices too often or use them the wrong way.
When people position their hand, arm or neck in uncomfortable positions for a prolonged period of time, it can lead to strains and overuse injuries." Dr. Michael Darowish, an orthopedic surgeon at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
Darowish, who co-authored a 2009 article on "cell phone elbow," says many of these conditions have actually been around for years- long before the iPhone 11 arrived. The good news: "Most can be solved by listening to your body and improving your posture," said neurosurgeon Dr. Gregory Thompson at Penn State Health St. Joseph.
Let's explore three common types of conditions:
Overuse injuries. This can include "swiper's thumb" and "iPad hand." They're almost all a type of tendonitis. "Often, we find it's De Quervain's tenosynovitis, an inflammation of the tendons that abduct the thumb," Darowish said. "Pregnant women and parents who often lift their young kids are prone to it, too," Darowish added.
Tendonitis also may appear in the fingers or wrists. Pain while texting, aching and soreness are mild symptoms.
Rest, anti-inflammatory medications (such as Naprosyn or ibuprofen) and activity modifications can ease the pain. Severe cases may require cortisone injections, bracing or even surgery to calm the inflamed tendons.
Nerve issues. "Cell phone elbow" is likely cubital tunnel syndrome, irritation of the ulnar nerve that runs from the elbow to the small finger. Common symptoms include numbness in the ring and small fingers and needing to shake out the hand. More severe symptoms include clumsiness and dropping things. Similarly, carpal tunnel syndrome can be aggravated with improper ergonomics or overuse, causing numbness in the thumb, index, and middle fingers. Related Stories
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