TECH

'Smartphone Thumb' Is A Real Thing And It Is Affecting More And More People

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30/05/2017 16:09

Turns out your smartphone habit isn’t just ruining your sleep but could also be linked to a type of repetitive strain injury previously only seen in factory workers.

A team of doctors at the Mayo Clinic have reported an increase in cases of ‘smartphone thumb’ as we increasingly spend more time texting and messaging on our devices.

There are an estimated 37 million people in the UK who now own a smartphone, equating to four in five adults, and these people are now reportedly at risk of developing tendinitis, or tendon strain. 

Tim Robberts via Getty Images

According to the Mayo Clinic, tendinitis can be caused by the repetitive motion of typing on a smartphone-sized keyboard, causing inflammation, irritation and pain around the thumb.

And can eventually lead to arthritis.

The NHS says that tendinitis can be caused by both sudden, sharp injuries and repetitive minor impact, explaining: “Tendon injuries usually happen during sports or activities that involve sudden, sharp movements, such as throwing or jumping, or after repeated overuse of the tendons, such as running.

“They can also be caused by repetitive daily activities, such as regularly using a computer keyboard and mouse.”

Dr Kristin Zhao, a biomedical engineer on the study, told CBS Minnesota: “One of the hypotheses is that the joints get loose and lax, and because of that, the bones kind of move differently than they would in a normal situation.”

“It’s also a movement that requires some force through the thumbs. So when you press on your phone, you know, you’re interacting with your phone. It’s not just free movement in space.” 

The Mayo Clinic study is ongoing, and researchers have not yet reached any conclusions. But what doctors do already know about osteoarthritis in the thumb is that it occurs more in women than men.

Another concern the researchers have is the impact of this on children, as smartphone use becomes more widespread in younger people, with many in the UK as young as nine-years-old checking their phone ten times a night.

If you think you have injured a tendon, stop doing the exercise or activity that caused your symptoms and rest the affected area initially, recommend the NHS.

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