By megfiddler

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Repetitive Strain Injury

The average teenager sends 80 text messages a day, some say it is close to 100. That is an average of 2400-3000 messages a month or approximately an hour a day spent texting.  Recent surveys indicate that teenagers would rather communicate via text than phone calls. I have many clients in their 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s who have taken up texting because they claim it is the only way their grandchildren will respond to their messages. Kids won’t return their phone messages.

Technology makes it easier to stay in touch at lightening speed with our friends, family and co-workers. We seem to perceive a more urgent need to respond quickly to a text, more so than a phone message.  Kids are in constant communication with friends; wanting to know where they are and what they are doing.  They are constantly seeking out opinions and advice for the smallest of decisions that may need to be made, leading some psychologists to believe that adolescents are not developing the ability to make independent decisions. Adults are not immune to this pressure either. I have clients who are checking their text messages when they come through my door and again after their massages end. They are returning test messages as they walk out the door. We don’t want to be left out of the loop.

We have become addicted to this instant form of communication. So what is the problem? On the surface the issues seem minor. So what if teens are texting in the middle of class, when they are suppose to be learning?  so what if everyone seems to be texting at restaurants or while standing in line at a check out counter?   So what if teens are texting in the middle of the night when they should be sleeping? Well lack of sleep leads to lack of concentration for one thing, not to mention increased stress levels.  This leads to a  lack of down time for the mind and body. Ah that pesky body. Why would the body need down time from texting?  What could possibly happen by constantly tapping  the thumb on a keyboard?  Repetitive strain injury(RSI).   An injury can occur when a part of the body does a repetitive movement.   RSI affects the nerves, tendons and muscles.  The thumbs were not designed to text at the rate that is happening.

Repetitive strain injury is characterized by discomfort, impairment and loss of muscle strength and function.  De Quervain’s Tendinitis is a repetitive strain injury that causes pain at the wrist and forearm.  A tendon is a rope like chord that attaches muscle to bone.  Tendinitis is the swelling of the tendons.   Two tendons to the thumb  pass through a tunnel located on the thumb side of the wrist, any swelling of the  synovium, which is a thin outer layer of the tendons can put pressure on the nerves resulting in wrist pain and or numbness in the fingers.

Some of the symptoms  are pain felt over the thumb side of the wrist.  The pain may appear gradually or suddenly.  The pain can be felt in the wrist and may travel up the forearm.  The pain is worse when the hand and thumb are in use.   There may be swelling over the thumb side of the wrist.  There may be a fluid filled cyst in this region.  A catching or snapping sensation may be felt when moving the thumb.  There may be numbness on the back of the thumb and index finger.

De Quervain’s Tendinitis is also associated with rheumatoid arthritis.  If you have arthritis in the thumbs or fingers then texting can aggravate the condition.

If texting starts to hurt it is recommended that you stop or decrease the amount of texting, use your other hand or vary the digits you use.  It is also recommended that you don’t text more than a few minutes without a break.  The following exercises may also be helpful.  If they cause additional pain, stop.

Tap each finger with the thumb of the same hand.  Repeat 5 times(5x).  Pull your thumb firmly with the other hand 5x

Wrap an elastic band around the tip o each  finger and thumb and open your hand against the resistance.  Repeat 20x

Palms down, wrap an elastic band around each thumb and force apart.  Repeat 20x

Tap the palm and back of your hand on your thigh as quickly as you can.  Repeat 20x

Massage thumb web, back of forearm and front of forearm.  2 minutes

Reach up high with both arms and shake your hands.  Reach down low with both arms and shake your hands.  Repeat 3x

Arms at 45 degrees squeeze them behind you.

wrap an ice pack on sore hand and arm parts.  Do not put ice directly on the skin.  Place ice in a zip lock bag, wrap bag in a dish towel.  10 minutes on and 10 minutes off.  Repeat 3x

Splints maybe used to rest the thumb and wrist.

We text as a way to interact socially, but what do we do with generations of young people to come who have repetitive strain injuries at younger and younger ages?

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