America’s obsession with smartphones has created a new health problem — the “smartphone thumb.”
Symptoms of the ailment — which is a result of using your thumbs to repeatedly type on a smartphone keyboard — include pain or discomfort when you bend your wrist or thumb toward the small finger, according to the American Occupational Therapy Association.
Some people also feel a dull ache in the base of their thumb, or a “snapping” in the thumb when bending or straightening it.
The source of the pain is tendinitis, CBS News reports. The repeated pressing down of typing causes inflammation in the tendon that bends and flexes the thumb.
Dr. Kristin Zhao, a biomedical engineer at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, tells CBS the movements we require our thumbs to make while holding a phone are awkward. Zhao said researchers suspect repeatedly typing with your thumbs causes the joints to loosen, leading to the bones moving differently than they normally would:
“Our hypothesis is that abnormal motion of bones in the thumb could be causing pain onset and eventual osteoarthritis.”
How to prevent smartphone thumb
To prevent smartphone thumb, the AOTA recommends the following tips:
- Stop using your thumbs. Instead, secure your phone with one hand, and use the index figure of the other hand to type.
- Keep messages short. The less you type, the better. Using word prediction, abbreviations and pre-typed messages also can help.
- Limit internet searches and game playing. If possible, plug in a full-size keyboard so you can use multiple fingers.
- Get your digits moving. Stretching your thumbs, fingers and wrists can help reduce pain. Daily use of ice packs can also help reduce inflammation.
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