Now more than ever before, Americans are “letting their fingers do the walking.” But believe it or not, all that typing, texting and video gaming can take its toll on your body—not just your digits, but your neck, back and shoulders as well. To put it into perspective, here are a few statistics:
- Americans send about 20 billion text messages per month, according to a survey performed by CTIA. (The Wireless Association, June, 2008)
- 79 percent of kids and more than half of adults play video games on a regular basis. (Pew Internet & American Life Project, Dec. 2008)
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that workplace injuries resulting from repeated motion account for nearly two-thirds of all work-related illnesses.
Repetitive Strain Injury
Repetitive Strain Injury, or RSI, is a growing condition that occurs as a result of prolonged use of a tool such as a keyboard, mouse, musical instrument or even a gaming console. It’s found in conjunction with a group of disorders that can develop in individuals who use excessive and repetitive motions, such as production workers, typists or musicians.
RSI is a broad term that encapsulates a variety of musculoskeletal disorders affecting the muscles, tendons and nerves in the hands, arms and upper back. RSI can cause numbness, tingling, weakness, stiffness, swelling and even nerve damage. Symptoms include pain in the limbs—not only the fingers and hands, but often the neck, shoulders and back. In addition to the repetitive movements, bad posture and poor workplace ergonomics can also contribute to the condition. Today, RSI has come to the forefront of orthopedic conditions, and has been classified by a number of new technology-driven names.
BlackBerry Thumb. This techno-term is an RSI that was coined shortly after the BlackBerry—the handheld wireless device—became popular. While text messages can be sent with any finger, BlackBerry users type much faster by pecking out the messages with their thumbs—to the tune of about 40 words per minute. The problem is that the thumb is not a dexterous part of the hand, so the continued overuse can predispose an individual to a variety of injuries, including tendonitis or arthritis.
Nintendinitis. Popularized by the Nintendo gaming system, this condition occurs with a number of kids and adults who play video games on a regular basis. The act of making the thumb motions back and forth on the game controllers over long intervals can cause an aching or pain in the areas of the hands, wrists and elbows. This ailment can lead to a condition known as trigger finger/thumb, a type of tendonitis or tenosynovitis (inflammation of the tendon and the fluid-filled sheath surrounding it, respectively). Usually, taking a break from playing video games can alleviate the problem, but for those without that discipline, an evaluation and further treatment by an orthopedist may be necessary.
Cell phone elbow. To hold a cell phone to your ear, you keep your elbow tightly flexed. This can cause pressure on the ulnar nerve in the elbow, which can result in pain, numbness, tingling in the fingers and hand weakness. The best remedy for this is to switch to a hands-free headset, or try to switch arms periodically. This condition is sometimes referred to as Wii-itis, coined after the popular Wii gaming system. Since the Wii appeared on the market, physicians report a considerable number of complaints of elbow and shoulder pain due to swinging the hand held controllers for hours on end.
Funny Names, Serious Issues
Though many people may laugh at the monikers, the conditions are real and can cause serious problems for individuals who don’t take care of them in due time. So what do you do if you suspect you have RSI? Individually, you can do the following:
- Take frequent breaks from your technology.
- Practice good posture whether you’re sitting at a desk, in front of the TV or in your car.
- Don’t cradle the phone between your face and your shoulder.
- Look into an ergonomically designed workspace—including your chair, your desk and your keyboard.
- Take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or naproxen (Aleve).
If symptoms persist, consult an orthopedist who can evaluate your condition. He or she may take X-rays, prescribe therapy exercises, cortisone injections or fit you with a splint or brace. In some cases, surgery can be necessary if the physician detects a wasting of the muscles or a loss of sensation. In other words, if you suspect you may have RSI, taking it seriously now may save you from serious consequences later.
Advanced Orthopedics offers comprehensive treatment of bones, joints, tendons, nerves and ligaments. For more information call 692-6644 or visit aopeoria.com. iBi