Making the Connection
“Blackberry Thumb”

Are we intelligent enough to handle our Smartphones? Keeping up with all the latest technology may have a downside. Besides for missing out on what is actually happening around us in real time, how does the repetitive use of these devices affect our bodies?

There are various ways in which we can injure ourselves due to our Smartphones, almost all due to repetitive use.  These injuries are commonly known as “blackberry thumb”.

Some of the more common injuries that are associated with blackberry thumb are; Neck pain, hand pain, shoulder, pain, forearm pain, and thumb pain, golfers and tennis elbow.

These injuries can occur as a direct result of repetitive stress due to overuse on the muscles of the upper extremities while using hand held devices.

What is repetitive stress? As the name implies, they are repetitive patterns that creates small stresses to specific areas of the body, which over time will accumulate, and causing injury.

Relating Repetitive Stress to “Blackberry Thumb”

Think about how many times you press your thumb against the phone’s keyboard.

A simple text message, for example “I am running a bit late” is 23 presses.  Multiply that by 100 texts a day, 2300, by 7 days a week, 16,100, by 52 weeks would be about 837,200 presses a years. That is a lot of work for your arms, wrists, and fingers.

Your thumbs, fingers and the muscles that allow them to move, can develop adhesions due to the repetitive stress and can cause cramping, fatiguing, throbbing or general pain of the thumb, fingers, wrists, and/or forearm.

Now that we are more aware of the repetitive stress and its effects how can we prevent injury? These are a few tips to help reduce the risk of blackberry thumb:

– Stretch the arms, forearms and hands out sporadically through out the day to keep the muscles loose.

– Keep device at eye level vs. looking down, to help keep the neck from straining.

– Strengthening of the muscles in the hands i.e. squeezing a tennis ball, thera-puddy, or and iso-flex ball.

– Be a bit more mindful of how often you use your Smartphone and try to use it a bit less.

– Make more actual phone calls.

– Using an earphone vs. a Bluetooth will allow you speak hands free without radiation and neck strain that holding the phone up to your ear can cause.

– If you are using your Smartphone as part of your job and cannot decrease the usage you may want to get Soft tissue treatment, such as Active Release Technique, every few weeks to help reduce adhesions that develop though out the week.

In addition to preventive care, someone who has already started to develop symptoms will also want to include the following:

– Icing the muscles of the hands and forearms.

– Rubbing the hands and forearms with a natural over the counter topical creams/gels. Two brands that I commonly recommend are Traumeel by Heel, Arnicare by Boiron

– Stretches you can get from a trained health care provider.

– Always Seek attention from a healthcare provider to insure that what you are suffering from is diagnosed properly.

In my practice, an affective treatment I use is Active Release Technique. ART or Active Release Technique, a patented state of the art soft tissue system/movement based technique that treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves.  ART can be effective in releasing adhesions, tightness, and scar tissue in the body, quickly and permanently.