Text Neck and Blackberry® Thumbs

Text Neck and Blackberry® Thumbs

A Common Complaint in Our Kids

By Dr. Rebecca Hoeck, PT, DPT
intelligentmotiontherapy.com

Several years ago, “Text Neck and Blackberry® Thumbs” were nonexistent, but these complaints are becoming more common in our kids as they hunch over smartphones and tablets. Neck pain, headaches, lower back pain, hand and thumb pain from prolonged use of these devices creates significant wear and tear on the muscles, ligaments, joints and other tissues.

Placing your chin near your chest to view the mobile device, often more than a 60-degree angle, increases the pressure weight of the head from 10-12 pounds to about 60 pounds. This hunched posture changes the natural curvature of the neck creating more complaints in younger patients, problems that are normally seen in older adults due to age related changes. We often look down to read a book, write a message, prepare food or wash dishes. Texting and smartphone use, adds one more activity to this movement pattern, sometimes repeated compulsively up to four hours a day. Consequently, this repetitive activity may lead to pinched nerves, arthritis, bone spurs, damaged discs, muscle imbalances and restricted shoulder movement, as well as decreased breathing capacity.

To prevent Text Neck and back-related ailments:

  • Keep your head upright and in line with your eyes while viewing your device
  • Take frequent breaks
  • Learn proper posture and neck alignment
  • Learn exercises to stretch and strengthen muscles:
    • NECK RETRACTION: sit up tall with chin level, move your ears back and up without lifting your chin, hold for five seconds, repeat twenty times
    • CHEST STRETCH: stand in the middle of a doorway, place hands on both sides of the door frame, lean your body through the door, keeping arms on the frame, hold five seconds, repeat twenty times
    • SHOULDER BLADE SQUEEZE: pinching shoulder blades together, hold twenty seconds, repeat twenty timePut your smartphone down, go outside, and get moving!
  • See a professional if symptoms do not resolve

Blackberry® thumbs are a repetitive motion injury, induced by repetitive typing on a small keyboard. The thumbs become the main digits to text, click and scroll causing the thumbs to reach beyond their natural ranges of motion, or “thumb acrobats.” Reaching farther than designed, the thumbs are vulnerable to wear and tear injuries such as: osteoarthritis, “trigger thumb,” a form of tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, tingling, wrist pain and hand weakness.

To prevent Blackberry® thumb and hand-related ailments:

  • Take tech holidays
  • Write shorter and fewer messages on your devices
  • Use a dictation feature
  • If you feel pain or strain, stop, rest, and stretch your hands
  • See a professional if symptoms do not resolve

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