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Pediatrics at HSS

Could Texting Lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? - logo image

Could Texting Lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

photo of girl in bed texting

Among many young people, the preferred method of communication is texting, and it’s on the rise. The average teenager in the US sends and receives an astounding 3,339 text messages per month, according to Nielson, a global measurement company.  

Some parents wonder if all that activity could affect a kid’s hands and fingers, especially when you add gaming and using a keyboard to the mix. After all, you hear a lot about carpal tunnel syndrome in adults who frequently use a computer keyboard.

“Texting itself is unlikely to cause true carpal tunnel syndrome in adolescents and teenagers,” says Dr. Samir Trehan, an orthopedic surgeon in the Hand and Upper Extremity Service at Hospital for Special Surgery. “However, the constant repetition of texting could lead to some hand discomfort and pain.”

Excessively texting or constantly playing video games could give rise to a condition called tendonitis, Dr. Trehan says. A painful inflammation or irritation of tendons in the hand and wrist, it is considered an “overuse” syndrome caused by repeating the same movement over and over again. The good news is that it usually gets better when kids scale back the activity and rest the hand, Dr. Trehan says.

Surprisingly, a more common problem landing kids in the doctor’s office has nothing to do with technology. It’s “writer’s cramp,” which refers to hand pain that results from gripping a pencil too hard or writing a lot. Like tendonitis, this condition usually gets better by resting the hand, adjusting the way the child holds the pencil and, sometimes, learning exercises for grip strengthening.

Dr. Trehan says a visit to the doctor is in order if one’s hand doesn’t get better with rest; if there is numbness, tingling or swelling; or if the child or teenager has trouble using his or her hand for routine activities. 

Dangers of Multitasking While Texting

It goes without saying that distracted driving puts lives in danger. Public service campaigns and laws prohibiting handheld cell phone use while driving have dissuaded many young people from engaging in this behavior. But many teenagers are not aware that distracted walking can also have dangerous consequences. It’s not uncommon to see people crossing the street while texting or engrossed in a cell phone conversation, oblivious to their surroundings. 

On YouTube, hidden camera videos show pedestrians taking a tumble on the sidewalk, tripping over a curb, even falling into a fountain or stepping into oncoming traffic, all while looking down at their phone.

Pediatric orthopedic surgeons at HSS urge parents to have a discussion with their children about the dangers of texting, talking on the phone or listening to music while walking. Although many believe they can multitask, everyone needs to be aware of what’s going on around them. To avoid a senseless injury – or worse – they need to focus on getting to their destination safely.