The hand plays an essential role in everyday interactions and activities. We use them to write, cook, drive, wash, and—without overlooking typical millennial habits—take selfies. Thus, it should come as no surprise to anyone that pain from overuse is commonplace. In 2019, Android devices alone took 93 million selfies per day—that’s a lot of wrist action! Sure, “selfie wrist” isn’t a medical term, yet smartphones and tablets are the root cause of these persistent hand issues.
Issue 1 – De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis
What it is: Typically known as tendonitis, De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis is the inflammation and irritation of the thumb tendons as they pass through a sheath adjacent to the wrist joint.
What causes it: Texting and smartphone overuse.
Symptoms: Sufferers will experience pain in the thumb-side of the wrist and sometimes in the thumb itself.
How it happens: Excessive use can increase the rubbing or friction of the thumb tendon against the sheath, causing inflammation and pain. Symptoms occur most commonly in those who regularly interact with young children and in younger patients who text frequently.
How to prevent it: We’re not about to tell you to stop texting your friends—but you’ll want to rest your wrist frequently. You can use wrist and thumb splits in neutral positions to immobilize the joints.
How to treat it: Beyond splinting and resting, you can visit a hand specialist to discuss anti-inflammatory drugs or a steroid injection.
Issue 2 – Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
What it is: This is the compression of a nerve when it passes through a sheath.
What causes it: Typing.
Symptoms: Patients typically experience numbness and tingling in the hand or weakness as symptoms become exacerbated.
How it happens: As the protective sheath thickens, there is less space for the nerve to travel through, which eventually leads to compression. Though typing won’t cause carpal tunnel, it can worsen existing symptoms through hyperflexion or hyperextension. If you suffer from thyroid disease or diabetes, you’re at greater risk of contracting carpal tunnel.
How to prevent it: Practice correct office ergonomics. Keep your wrist in a neutral position as you type. In the evening, wear a wrist brace overnight.
How to treat it: In severe cases, a cortisone injection, additional nerve studies, or hand surgery might reverse the effects of carpal tunnel.
Issue 3 – Finger Joint Arthritis
What it is: Index or pointer finger arthritis is the loss of cartilage in the distal interphalangeal or fingertip joints.
What causes it: Mouse or trackpad use and typing.
Symptoms: Most commonly, patients experience pain in the finger.
How it happens: Like carpal tunnel, typing doesn’t cause arthritis—it only aggravates symptoms, which are often genetic or due to overuse.
How to prevent it: Despite their supposed ability to prevent arthritis, vitamin supplements aren’t entirely reliable. Decreasing the overall use of the fingers or alternating hands can relax symptoms.
How to treat it: The first line of defense against finger arthritis is acetaminophen or anti-inflammatory medication. Correcting DIP joint arthritis will require a fusion procedure.
No, “selfie wrist” hasn’t yet made its appearance on any medical dictionary, yet the overuse of technology has negatively impacted hand health. Without treatment, persisting symptoms can hinder your ability to perform daily tasks.
With an experienced hand surgeon at North Florida Hand and Wrist Center, you can receive the appropriate carpal tunnel treatment or reverse the effects of finger arthritis. If you know what is causing your strain, don’t ignore it—give us a call!