Teenagers aged 13-17 send an average of 60 text messages every day. Teenagers who play video games on their smart phone or tablet typically spend 6.3 hours per day attached to their device. While this use of technology is great for keeping our teenagers entertained, it is also causing them physical harm.
Repeatedly typing text messages can cause serious, and sometimes permanent, damage to the joints and tendons of the hands. Commonly affected areas include the flexor tendon in the thumb and the carpometacarpal joint, where the wrist and thumb connect. Hours of smart phone use can cause both conditions or aggravate other existing conditions, such as early onset arthritis.
While these conditions can be very painful, they are treatable by a qualified physician or therapist. Treatment options vary and could include cortisone shots in the thumb, physical therapy, and possibly even surgery to correct the condition. If left untreated, the thumb can become immobile and permanently curled toward the palm. This can then create stress and pain in other joints of the hand, resulting in a claw like appearance.
To keep children from developing texting thumb, parents are encouraged to carefully monitor smart phone use. Parents should keep track of how many text messages kids send. With all smart phone use, time limits should be enforced. Teens should be encouraged to email, phone call, or make personal visits to relay information. Video game and app time should also be limited to an hour with a required 15 minute break to do something else. Periodic hand stretching and strengthening can also help limit the condition. Squeezing a stress ball, throwing a baseball, dribbling a basketball, and playing a musical instrument are all activities that encourage stretching and movement of the hands and fingers.
While technology is a good thing it, like anything else, can be harmful if overused. Talk to you teens about the dangers of spending all their time with a smartphone. Encourage human interaction and physical activity. Contact the Hand and Wrist Institute for more information about texting related injuries and ailments.