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Too Much Texting Can Spell Neck, Arm Pain
Date:7/6/2009

Hunching over, using one thumb increases the risk, study shows

MONDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- Beyond the already well-known "BlackBerry thumb," avid texting may also cause pain to the hand, arm and neck, new research shows.

But there may be ways to avoid this discomfort, the study found. Young adults who texted while hunched over and typed using only one thumb had more problems with their arms, neck and hands than those who sat straighter and used more than one digit.

"Considering how much we use the small mobile phone keypads, it is important that we learn how they affect our bodies," said study author Ewa Gustafsson, an ergonomist at the Sahlgrenska Academy in Sweden. "We need to identify factors related to mobile-phone usage that may affect our health and ability to work."

Modern communications devices are associated with several painful repetitive stress and nerve compression injuries.

Cell phone elbow, otherwise known as cubital tunnel syndrome, is a tingling or numbness in the hands caused by a compression of the ulnar nerve when the elbow is flexed during lengthy gab sessions, and Guitar Hero wrist is a tendinitis of the wrist brought on by overly vigorous strumming.

Then there's so-called BlackBerry thumb, which strikes those who spend a lot of time sending rapid-fire missives from their mobile devices.

"The difference between the computer age and the typewriter age is that people don't stop," said Dr. David Edelstein, orthopedic and hand surgeon at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. "They are typing all day. During their lunch break they are using a mouse or texting, and they may go home and do more."

In the most serious cases, excessive wear and tear and inflammation of the basal joint at the base of the thumb can lead to arthritis, Edelstein said. Thumb arthritis can cause hand pain, swelling, decreased strength and range of motion.

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