By: Ila Suplizio, PT, DPT, MFDc. Family Physical Therapy
Technology is great. It has opened our world to endless communication, research and knowledge, and connected us in ways that were not possible in previous generations. Our communication with each other is now so efficient, that we can often get ahold of one another instantly through text message, phone call, video chat, email, or social media.
In fact, according to a Nielsen Total Audience report, the average American adult spends 10 hours and 39 minutes every day consuming some form of media! According to this report, about 81% of American adults now have smartphones, which allow them to have instant communication, information and entertainment!
We have long known that increased screen time can lead to inactivity in children, which can increase their risk of obesity and diabetes, but this increase in screen time across all ages sparked my curiosity about potential orthopedic injuries that can be caused by increased phone, tablet, and computer use.
As I started to look into the connection between increased screen time and orthopedic injuries, I was surprised to learn that there are new classifications of injuries due to the use of phones and tablets. These increased injuries appear to be due to the high repetitions of daily device use. Below are 3 of the more common injuries I came across
3. "Texting Thumb”: The average American spends around 23 hours per week texting, and the average American who identifies as a “gamer”, adds an extra 6.5 hours per week playing video games. Overuse of the thumb can cause a condition called “Trigger thumb” in which the flexor tendon in the thumb becomes restricted due to overuse with gripping, such as holding a cellphone or game controller. This causes pain, and popping in the thumb. Since smartphones are so new, long-term research on whether their use can cause thumb arthritis has not been studied.
Physical Therapy Prevention: Changing your ergonomic posture when using your phone can give your thumb the break it needs to rest and prevent these injuries. Instead of using your thumb, try switching to your index finger to text. Specific hand stretches and strengthening can also help.
Robert Wysocki, MD, a hand, wrist and elbow surgeon at Rush states “These conditions rarely occur in children. But its never too early to use techniques to avoid repetitive stress injuries”
Technology continues to be such an asset to our society. We are living in such an exciting time of growth! I am continuously excited at the technological advancements we are making, especially in the medical field! It is important that as our technology use increases, we continue to be aware of the means we need to take to protect ourselves from injury.
If you are experiencing pain during technology use, give us a call to learn more about treatment and future prevention.