Yep, believe it or not, playing video games, texting to your friends and taking selfies all the time causes repetitive stress injuries to your thumb and elbow. Many youngsters are not aware of this, but their smartphones are increasing their risk of injury day by day.(1) These youngsters only understand the link between their injury and gadgets once they start experiencing symptoms and consult their doctor, who asks about their gadget use.
Some of the common musculoskeletal injuries from overuse of gadgets include: text neck, texting thumb, selfie elbow and even ‘Nintenditus;’ all these are problems occurring as a result of excessive use of modern technology, such as video games, tablets and smart phones.(2)
What Happens When You Overuse Your Gadgets?
Some of the common complaints from overuse of computers, tablets, smartphones and video games amongst the youngsters consist of elbow pain, neck pain, thumb, wrist and hand pain.(4) There also occurs tingling and numbness in the fingers, hand, forearms and arms.(5)
The Origin Of Smartphone Injuries & How To Avoid Them?
Texting Thumb: The Pandemic of Smartphone Injuries
Studies have shown that an average adolescent sends about 3,339 texts in a month.(6) A different study has shown that more than 70% of kids between the ages of 12 and 15 years tend to play video games for more than 12 hours in a week. So, the combination of the above 2 activities results in a lot of thumb work resulting in what is known as by several names such as: gamer’s thumb; Nintendo thumb/Nintenditus and texting thumb. These conditions occur when there is inflammation of the tendon sheath. All these conditions can also cause chronic pain and permanent damage to the long flexor muscle tendon of the thumb and even nerve damage.
Treatment & Prevention of Texting Thumb
Treatment for texting thumb consists of pain medications, injections, occupational therapy and in some cases surgery too.
To avoid texting thumb injury, it is important to take breaks when you are texting and gaming.(3)
When using a game remote there are lot of twitch movements of the thumb occurring, such as side-shifting, extending or flexing movements, which strain your thumb. So it is important to take rest between sending those countless texts, scrolling on your phone and video gaming. Stretch your fingers and wrist to keep them flexible. Another thing that can help with your Texting Thumb injury is icing or running your hand under cold water to help reduce and prevent inflammation and swelling.(7)
Selfie Elbow: The Price You Pay For Vanity!
When you take a selfie, you need to extend your arm far out so you can get everything into your click. Now this type of repetitive movement causes locking of the elbow, wrist contortion, stress on the muscles of forearm. All this causes injury to the tendon, which attaches to the elbow joint.
The action of extending your elbow and arm for holding the phone far away strains the tendon that helps with flexion and extension of the wrist, which they are not supposed to be doing.
Does Selfie Stick Help or Worsen the Selfie Elbow?
According to experts, selfie stick can benefit or increase the problem depending on how you are using it. As if you are still extending your arm out holding the selfie stick, then it causes the same problem of the elbow locking in. Also the stick adds more to the weight that you are holding along with gripping tightly to the small handle of the selfie stick.
Selfie stick can help only if you keep your elbow in and the selfie stick close to your body.
And The Best Way to Avoid Smartphone Injuries Is……Stretching & Cutting Screen Time
You may not like it, but experts opine that the best way to avoid and prevent smartphone injuries is to cut down on your screen time or the time that you spend on your smartphone, video games etc. Another method to reduce smartphone injuries is to alternate the use of your hand when taking selfies or texting. Doing this will cut down the risk of overuse and also benefits the non-dominant area of your brain. When you observe and note the hours that you spend on your smartphone, you will be shocked. Jot down the time and try to reduce one hour at a time that you spend on your smartphone.
According to experts, the best defense against any type of injury is stretching and improving flexibility.(8) Stretching before performing any activity is the best thing that you can do to prevent injury. You can just hold out your arms in front of you and gently extend and flex your wrists upwards and downward whilst keeping your hands relaxed. Do this stretching exercise every three to four hours throughout the day to prevent soreness and injury.
There is a drastic increase in patients suffering from gadget stress injuries, like selfie elbow and texting thumb. These injuries, if not treated, can cause permanent damage. However, there is still a need for more studies to be done to better understand the impact of modern day gadgets on musculoskeletal disorders.