A condition doctors used to only see in factory workers is becoming more widespread. The repetitive movements of texting led doctors to dub it "smartphone thumb."
It's actually tendonitis, the tendon that bends and flexes our thumb becomes inflamed. Doctors say each year more and more patients complain about pain in their thumb.
The smartphone has become our constant companions, things we lovingly embrace as we take a walk or even take a break by a lake.
"My phone is a huge part of my life. I do everything from texting to emails, social media. Everything," said Scott Seehusen, texter.
Texting has become an all-day, all-night activity for many of us giving our thumbs quite a workout.
The repetitive motion appears to be leading to cases of tendonitis as people use their thumbs to tap out their thoughts on their smartphones.
"One of the hypotheses is that the joints get loose and lax and because of that the bones move differently than they would in a normal situation," said Dr. Kristin Zhao, Mayo Clinic.
Zhao is a biomedical engineer at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
For the last seven years, she and a team of doctors have been looking into what's called "Smartphone Thumb."
She says the movements we require our thumbs to make as we hold our phones are awkward.
"It is also a movement that requires some force through the thumbs. So when you press on your phone, you are interacting with your phone. It's not just free movement in space," said Zhao.
In 2010 Mayo Clinic researchers began using a dynamic imaging technique to watch the bones of a healthy patient move so they could document what's normal and compare it with what's not.
"Our hypothesis is that abnormal motion of bones in the thumb could be causing pain onset and eventual osteoarthritis," said Zhao.
So could too much texting lead to more cases of arthritis in the thumb? Maybe.
"There is a high incidence of osteoarthritis in the thumb. We just want to make sure we are not encouraging that onset by our daily activities," said Zhao.
Another concern they want to address is the impact of all this thumb movement on children what will this mean for them later in life?
"A long exposure over your lifetime. We really don't understand why adults get pain and so children? If you start earlier, you may get pain younger," said Zhao.
Here's some advice to prevent problems.
Doctors say you can start by giving your thumbs a break.
Mix up your method and use your forefinger to peck the screen or use your voice to dictate your message.
You can also perform daily stretching exercises with your wrists and fingers to keep your tendons limber.
"How often are we using our joints and how often are we resting? Are we taking periods rests? Or are we exposing continually across the course of the day," said Zhao.
It all makes sense, but still this could be a tough habit to break.
"I don't know if it will change people's habits or addiction to their phones, but it's nice to know we are already thinking about it," said Samantha Alsadi, Richfield.
PO Box 4508