Along with other repetitive stress injuries that are appearing in this fast-paced, technology-focused era is a malady known as BlackBerry thumb.
Actually, we can overuse any personal digital assistant (PDA), resulting in tenderness or pain in the thumb, the base of the thumb, and wrist.
Red flags that signal a need to change how we use PDAs and possibly a need to consult a qualified health care professional are occasional aches in any of these areas.
Left untreated, BlackBerry thumb can develop into severe pain, weakness, and even disability.
What Causes It?
BlackBerry thumb is the result of asking the thumb joints to repeatedly perform the same action too often. Excessive tapping, flicking, and clicking do thumbs no favors.
Some sports enthusiasts make themselves work through the pain. They believe that by pushing the body beyond its current limits it will gradually become accustomed to new demands. That approach does not work with joints. And since BlackBerry thumb is a joint problem, forcing thumbs to go above and beyond will only lead to further trouble.
Diagnosis and Typical Treatments
Physical examination and X-rays can determine if a patient has BlackBerry thumb.
Treatment typically consists of resting or splinting the thumb. Medical doctors may suggest anti-inflammatory medicines, cortisone injections, and as a last resort surgery.
Doctors of chiropractic are educated to use a variety of non-drug, non-surgical approaches. Giving the thumbs a chance to start the healing process may include a program of rest, thumb strapping, gentle stretches, or targeted massage.
A chiropractor may decide to use instrument-assisted soft-tissue mobilization (IASTM) to help alleviate the problem. One of the better-known techniques is Graston Technique, which utilizes stainless steel instruments in the hands of practitioners skilled at treating damaged soft tissues. Certain nutritional supplements can help reduce inflammation and swelling.
What Can I Do?
Doctors cannot simply make BlackBerry thumb go away without the patient’s cooperation. Moderation and flexibility in how we use PDAs are key. The following tips can make our PDAs do what they were designed to do-serve us, not hurt us:
• Avoid typing for more than three minutes without a break.
• Hold the PDA comfortably and close to the body.
• Insert it into a holder and set it on a desk or a briefcase.
• Turn the device off on weekends or at least on Sundays.
• Decide that you will check emails and text messages just four times a day.
• Reduce the number of keystrokes and keep messages short and simple.
• Consider using the autotext feature.
• If a message must be longer, use your computer keyboard, not your PDA.
• Practice using other fingers for typing, especially when thumbs hurt.
• If thumbs are in pain, use a thumb or wrist support.
• Pay attention to your grip. Keep wrists upright and straight.
• Don’t slouch while texting. Slouchers often develop neck pain in addition to thumb pain.
Adapted with permission from the American Chiropractic Association, www.acatoday.org