The advent of smartphones has changed life, but do they also causing injury? According to the Internet, they suggest that way. The pinky on your smartphone is one of many devices-related injuries that have been all over the internet in recent years.
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Orthopaedic doctor Peter J. Evans, MD PhD, states, “Constant cellphone use can result in a myriad of joint pains. While certain claims of injury may be exaggerated, others are genuine and cause severe, long-term harm.”
What kinds of joint injuries could be caused by smartphones?
The time you spend in front of your mobile puts an unnatural stress on joints. The most frequent injuries caused by smartphones are:
- Pinky on the iPhone.
- Cubital tunnel syndrome (smartphone elbow).
- Texting thumb.
- Text neck.
Pinky on the smartphone of a smartphone
Photos online of smartphones’ pinky fingers show a space between the ring and fingers. Others show a bump on the pinky that supports your phone when texting, talking or scrolling.
“But most of these photos do not highlight the issue. They show the typical anatomy of the pinky that can be quite different,” says Dr. Evans. “It’s possible that those who think they have a smartphone pinky might have an actual problem.”
The reason he suggests could include one or more of the possible causes:
- Clinodactyly is an inherited malformation that affects the fingers. It generally affects your pinky finger, causing the point to bend towards your rings finger. For the majority of people, clinodactyly does not cause any symptoms or interfere with the way the pinky functions.
- Dupuytren’s contracture is an illness that causes deformities, typically in your pinky and the ring fingers. The thick cords grow under your skin , and push your fingers towards your palm. This gradual process takes place over several years. There’s no evidence that smartphones are the cause of or contribute to this issue.
Is smartphone pinky real?
According Dr. Evans, there’s a small chance that holding the phone with your pinky can compress the nerve within your finger. In time, you may feel pain, numbness, or an itch.
“But the sensation of numbness or tingling in your pinky can be a sign of a more serious issue known as cubital Tunnel Syndrome. The condition is also known as smartphone elbow” claims Dr. Evans.
Cubital tunnel syndrome (smartphone elbow)
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome is result of a compression or traction injury to the Ulnar nerve one of the major nerves that runs through your arm, which occurs when you extend your elbow too often over 90 degrees.
When you hold your phone while texting or talking could cause or worsen existing cubital tunnel syndrome, hence the term “smartphone elbow.” However, sitting in a low-back chair and flexing your elbow too much, or placing it on the arms of your chair when writing, or lying down with your arms folded inis just as bad as noted by the doctor Dr. Evans.
How can cubital tunnel syndrome develop?
The Ulnar nerve runs down the inside of your arm, and through your bone prominence (epicondyle) of your elbow until it reaches your pinky finger and ring. It gives you sensation and regulates the movement. In your elbow the ulnar nerve traverses a small opening in the epicondyle, which is known as Cubital Tunnel.
Bending your elbow creates tension and puts pressure on the ulnar nerve located in the cubital canal. Bending your elbow repeatedly can lead to long-term nerve injury.
What are signs that are associated with the cubital Tunnel Syndrome?
Some of the symptoms of a smartphone elbow are:
- Tinniness or tingling on the pinky part of the hand your ring your finger or pinky.
- A weak grasp or in your finger coordination.
When should you call your health care provider
Speak to your doctor for any the sensation of numbness or tingling in your pinky whenever the elbow is bent, or while you are sleeping. The Dr. Evans cautions that if your symptoms do not go away when you bend your arms straight or bend them, the problem could become more severe and you could suffer a the loss of your function for a long time.
“Early phases of nerve damage can be reversed,” he says. “With the minimally-invasive surgical procedure it is possible to unblock the cubital canal. The nerve is completely healed. But if scar tissue grows up over time, the nerve continues to weaken and it can be irreparably damaged. But, it is crucial to stop further development which could lead to more motor and sensory loss, and deformity.”
Thumbprint for text
The thumb’s texting is an injury from repetitive motion. “Your thumb joints aren’t designed to swipe and text throughout the day,” states Dr. Evans. “Overuse could aggravate existing conditions like arthritis or trigger new issues with the thumb tendon.”
Tendons are a strong band made of tissues that couple bones to muscles. A number of tendons run through your forearm and wrist until your thumb. Then, at the point where your thumb is located the tendons travel through a tunnel which helps to keep them in the correct position.
The rapid, repetitive movements of the thumb may cause inflammation of the synovium, which is the tissue surrounding the muscles. The condition is known as Tenosynovitis. It can be extremely painful.
Types of thumb tenosynovitis caused by texting.
The concept of texting thumbs isn’t new. Different kinds of activities could cause tenosynovitis to the thumb joint. This Swiss physician Fritz de Quervain recognized thumb tendonitis in 1895. The condition later came to be known as de Quervain’s Syndrome. It is also known as:
- The washerwoman’s strain is due to wringing out her clothes.
- Mommy thumb is a result of carrying small children.
- Blackberry thumb was a result of the 90s-era Blackberry device from the 1990s.
Trigger thumb is an additional type of tenosynovitis which can be caused by frequent texting. It happens when your tendon fails to move smoothly within its small tunnel to the palm side that your thumb. There may be a sound or popping. At some point, your thumb might be stuck.
Text neck is another type of repetitive strain injury caused by sitting over your phone. “Your head weighs anywhere from 10-12 kilograms,” notes Dr. Evans. “When you gaze down, you add tension on the neck muscles. This increased pressure can lead to spasms and pain in the muscles.”
Tips for avoiding the pinky on your smartphone and other device-related injuries
“Tingling or clicking in joints are indications that you need to stop using the device you are using,” explains Dr. Evans. “Ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory nonsteroidal medicines may also be helpful.”
The Dr. Evans also recommends switching your posture often. For instance, you can Try to:
- Keep your phone to your eye when you text.
- Extend your arms, hands and shoulders, as well as your shoulders and neck.
- Switch hands while talking on your phone.
- Make use of the phone’s speaker or earbuds for calls.
If your symptoms do not improve or disappear you should consult with a medical professional. Early diagnosis and treatment could aid in reducing the pain and avoid permanent joint damage.
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