Smartphone Use and Carpal Tunnel…Calling SIRI!
Does your thumb hurt from texting and typing on your Smartphone? There’s been discussion about a possible connection between Smartphone use and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but is this connection real? Now, new research has looked into this question and answered it with some compelling findings.
Even just a few years ago, less than 1/3 of the American Population used Smartphones and those were predominantly teenagers, young adults and business people. Today, over 2/3 of the American population are Smartphone users and 25% of those people use their smartphones as their primary source of internet. This figure is important because it demonstrates that there is a considerable amount of not only texting, but typing on Smartphones going on in America today. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome has been suggested as a consequence of this greater usage as it is an overuse injury causing numbness and pain in the thumb, wrist, and first three fingers, due to compression of the median nerve in the wrist.
The new study set out to explore the effects of Smartphone overuse on the Median nerve, hand function and pinch strength. To do this the investigators selected 102 students and organized them into groups of high, low and non-Smartphone users. Various metrics were used to assess the hand grip, pinch strength, and thumb pain of the participants’ dominant hands, and, the same tests were then repeated on their non-dominant hands. Their median nerves and FPL tendons (the tendon responsible for thumb flexion) were examined and evaluated with ultrasound. The data collected from these tests was compiled and correlated to their respective usage categories. The conclusion of the study was that Smartphone overuse causes pain in the thumb, median nerve enlargement and loss of pinch strength and hand function. These results were significant as the subjects of the study were student age, and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is most often associated with an older population than that.
The upshot? Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and “Texting Thumb” are generally considered overuse injuries, so cutting down on the problematic hand and finger movements could be helpful. One easy way to accomplish that might be to take advantage of your Smartphone’s Voice Command option when you can, and let Siri, Cortana, or Google Now do the typing and texting for you!