Texting Trouble

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Wednesday, November 16, 2010

These days, we let our thumbs do the talking, with more than one and a half trillion text messages sent last year alone, averaging almost five billion messages a day. But could all this typing actually lead to injury? Some doctors believe that it could, dubbing the condition "texting thumb."

Try as she might, Malisa Meresman can't seem to get away from her Blackberry. "I'm on my Blackberry almost all day, cause for work I use my Blackberry. At night I'm texting my friends. My boss will even text me in the evenings." But one day, her thumb started to hurt and she couldn't figure out why. "It's very achy. It gets stiff. And it actually does hurt to text." Turns out Malisa was suffering from repetitive stress injury caused by frequent texting.

A recent study by Virgin Mobile found 3.8 million Britons complained of injuries resulting from text messages. In one South African school, over half of the students interviewed reported at least one symptom of repetitive stress injury. This doesn't surprise orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kevin Plancher. He says these seemingly small symptoms now could lead to bigger problems in the future.

"Repetitive injuries, one, are painful for many patients; and, the other is they can develop over time arthritic conditions." The injuries are similar to those caused by excessive typing, adds Dr. Leon Benson of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, but texting affects different joints.

"instead of necessarily getting tendonitis in your wrist or inflammation in your wrist from typing a lot, you could get some symptoms in your fingers because you're working on a tiny keyboard."

So what's a frequent texter to do? Experts suggest slowing down, taking frequent breaks, and switching up the way you hold your phone or the fingers you use to type. "You can also exercise. You can stretch out your thumbs, you can stretch out your index fingers. You can take that break because texters are usually in a cramped position. And being in a camped position can give you spasms to those areas," Dr. Benson said.

Another possibility? Consider talking instead of typing every once in awhile. "If my daughter approached me and said her hands were sore, her fingers were hurting because she was texting so much," Dr. Benson continued, "I would say text less frequently. Talk to your friends."

Malisa was able to use ice and anti-inflammatory medication to relieve her achy joints. She has also vowed to text more responsibly in the future. "Try to just be a little more aware of when I'm texting and when I don't need to be," she said.

In addition to texting, experts suggest limiting your child's hand held video game use which requires the same kind of repetitive movements that may cause harm.

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