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"BlackBerry Thumb": The Next Plague of the Wired Generation?

Is hand injury the price we pay for our obsession with electronics, or is it just another urban legend?

iVillage.com—October 3, 2007

It's being called the latest ailment of the technology age: "BlackBerry Thumb."

People develop it when they overuse their BlackBerry devices and strain the tendons in their thumbs. Or do they?

Some hand surgeons say the condition is little more than an urban myth. But others say they've actually seen people injure their thumbs because they spent too much time composing messages on the tiny BlackBerry keyboards.

Who's right? You be the judge.

Michelle Carlson, M.D., a hand surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, says "BlackBerry Thumb" certainly does exist; in fact, she sees about one or two patients a month who have the condition.

The problem typically occurs when people type on a BlackBerry by moving their palms together. This position can strain the tendons that go from the thumb to the wrist, she says.

"You want to get the tendons as straight as possible so they have the least strain on them as possible," she says. That means your palms shouldn't touch and your wrists should be apart.

But even people who use their BlackBerry correctly can develop problems, she says. "Some people can do everything wrong and never have a problem; some can do everything right and have a problem."

Luckily, treatment usually doesn't involve anything more serious than rest, the use of anti-inflammatory medication, and perhaps, a splint.

"I've never operated on a BlackBerry thumb," Dr. Carlson says.

The full story originally appeared on ivillage.com.


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