By Jane Doucet
IT HAS BECOME the new normal to see teenagers
texting on their mobile devices while walking down
the street, waiting for the bus, riding the subway or
hanging out with friends. In fact, according to
Neilsen, American teens send an average of more
than 3,300 texts each month—more than 100 a day!
And although texting has its merits, including
instant connectivity with Mom and Dad, just as with
the excessive use of computers and video game consoles, doing too much of it can take a physical toll.
Nicole Logan, a physiotherapist at Diversified
Health Clinic in Victoria, British Columbia, has
treated teenagers as young as 15 for texting-related
neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist, thumb and finger pain.
“It results from a combination of poor posture
while texting and doing a repetitive task over and
over,” she says. When the teens who see her complain
about having pain in the above areas, she asks how
much time they spend posting messages on
Facebook, texting, typing on a keyboard and playing
“It’s the repetitive-strain injury potential that’s
key, so whether this is sitting down and writing a
lengthy single message in one go or the sum of time
spent over the course of the day … it can all lead
down the same path when it comes to overusing certain tissues and maintaining a static posture,” Logan
tells The Connection.
Often the teens have been referred by their family doctor, who has diagnosed tendonitis, a pinched
nerve or a strained ligament or muscle. One common diagnosis is de Quervain’s tenosynovitis, which
affects the tendon on the bottom of the thumb and
the side of the wrist. After Logan has pinpointed
what’s causing the condition, she can determine
how best to treat it.
“In an ideal world, you would ask the teen to
stop texting, but the reality is they won’t stop,” says
Logan. Instead, she shows her patients how to manage their condition by giving them stretching and
strengthening exercises and teaching them the
importance of taking breaks.
For example, if you experience pain while texting, typing or gaming, you should stop and do something different for 10 or 15 minutes before resuming.
Logan also advises trying to use your other hand or
a finger instead of a thumb. Correct posture is also
important, which means sitting up straight and
holding your head erect.
It’s a safe bet that texts, tweets, Facebook and
other forms of social media aren’t going to go
away—in fact, there will likely be more new technology in the coming years—so kids must be
mindful when they start experiencing pain.
“In the long term, we’ll be seeing more screen-related injuries starting in younger people,” says
Logan. “If they don’t address the pain right away,
it can linger and become chronic. As soon as parents hear their child complain about pain, they
should make an appointment to see their health-care provider.” C
Jane Doucet is a Halifax, Nova Scotia–based writer.
Examining the health
risks of excessive
texting in teens
NICOLE LOGAN, a physiotherapist in Victoria, British
Columbia, says that doing
one or more of these
stretches can help relieve
; Tap each finger with
the thumb of the same hand.
Repeat three times.
; Pull your thumb firmly
but slowly with the other
hand. Repeat three times.
; Wrap an elastic band
around the tips of your fingers and thumb, then open
your hand against the resistance. Repeat five times.
; With your palms facing
down, wrap an elastic band
around each thumb and force
them gently apart. Repeat
; Tap the palm and the
back of your hand on your
thigh as quickly as you can.
Repeat five times.
; Massage your thumb
“web,” the back of your forearm and the front of your forearm. Do this for two minutes.
; Press and rub in a
circular motion any painful
points, or nodules, in those
muscles. Press 30 seconds
for each nodule.
“If you’re still having
issues with thumb pain
and other text-message
injuries after doing these
exercises,” says Logan,
“stop texting completely and
make an appointment with
your health-care provider or
WHEN TEENS ARE given a cellphone, it’s important to set boundaries around usage—and for parents to follow those guidelines too.
That could mean no texting during meals, in the bedroom before
lights out or during a face-to-face conversation, and definitely
not in class or at a part-time job. It’s imperative to teach teens
that texting and driving—even while idling at a red light—
is a dangerous and finable offense. (For suggestions on
setting up rules for technology usage, see “Tech talk”
on page 27.)—JD
AUGUST 2014 ;e Costco Connection 35
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