What is "BlackBerry thumb," and how do I avoid it?
BY: Nancy Gottesman
With more and more people using tiny hand-held devices to send emails and surf the Internet, health care providers are seeing an increase in what they’ve dubbed “BlackBerry Thumb,” which is “a repetitive stress injury to the tendons that flex and extend the thumb,” explains Kerry Perloff, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Kaiser Permanente in Denver, Colo.
The root of the problem lies in the minuscule keyboards on these hand-held devices. With a full-sized computer keyboard, you use all 10 fingers. But with tiny PDAs, your thumbs do most of the work. Too much “thumbing” and the tendons can become inflamed, resulting in pain and numbness.
To keep your thumbs healthy and pain-free, remember that thumbs weren’t designed for typing on a PDA. Therefore:
- Keep text responses short No need for a lengthy tome when a simple “yes,” “no” or “okay” will suffice
- Avoid marathon work sessions Take frequent breaks
- Use a full-size keyboard whenever possible If a computer is available, use it!
If you do feel pain, Dr. Perloff recommends icing down the area or taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory, like ibuprofen. In more serious cases, your doctor may prescribe a custom-made splint or steroid injection. Most important: Do not try to work through the pain believing it will just go away. That will only make the problem worse!
Nancy Gottesman was a senior
editor at Shape
magazine for 11 years. Since going freelance, she's been
writing on health and nutrition for publications such as Ladies’ Home
Journal; O, The Oprah Magazine; Parents; Fit Pregnancy; and Viv. Nancy is a frequent contributor to Live Right Live Well.