'Smartphone thumb' becoming more widespread

'Smartphone thumb' becoming more widespread

Millions use cell phones to text, talk, check emails, and more, but according to a new study by the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, more people are complaining about sore thumbs or tight wrists. Doctors call this new phenomenon "smartphone thumb." Central Georgia Orthopedics say it's becoming more widespread, even here in Central Georgia. Yvonne Thomas has more.

For millions, cell phones are a part of everyday life.

Some call it the mini-computer in your pocket that you can't leave home without. “With the iPhone or all the other smartphones out there, people are texting other and that's becoming the main form of communication,” said Orthopedic Surgeon Bill Barnes with Piedmont Orthopedics and Coliseum Northside Hospital.

In fact, some say they would rather text than talk. “If I want a reliable response, then I'll text, especially if it's something that I want to keep in memory,” said Tom Glennon.

But doctors say too much texting could lead to new problem called "smartphone thumb." “Maybe you're a one-thumber or maybe you're a two-thumber,” said Barnes. Either way, Barnes says if you feel your joints straining to type, you could be at risk. “Especially with your thumbs and fingers in that position, you're overusing the flexor tendons and that could cause tendonitis,” said Barnes.

In some extreme cases, Barnes says the tendons could swell so much that you could even develop what’s called a "trigger thumb." “That's where the tendon can't go through the pulley and it locks up.”

But there are ways to give your thumbs a break. “Rest them,” said Barnes. “You can use ice, anti-inflammatories, and in severe cases, you may need to have an injection of cortizone.” “You just have to be smart about the use of your smartphone.”

Barnes says over the last few months, he's seen a handful of patients who've complained about smartphone thumb. Those patients were between the ages of 40 and 60 where problems like arthritis are more common. He says because so many people use cell phones nowadays, he does expect the number of cases to grow. 

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