Sudden onset of severe wrist pain could be a sign of WhatsAppitis
Avoid smartphone injuries by taking regular breaks every 20 minutes, suggests RAK Hospital Neurologist
Weekly smartphone detox, switching to web-based WhatsApp and using voice message function advised as preventive strategies.
Millennials check phone screens more than 100 times a day
6th June 2021; Ras Al Khaimah, UAE:If you have had no history of injury or trauma and experience a sudden acutewrist pain, the odds are that you are a victim of WhatsAppitis, a newdisease named after the popular messaging app, WhatsApp. It falls in the category of repetitive strain injury (RSI) and is a gradual buildup of damage to muscles, tendons and nerves from repetitive motions.
“We cannot deny that smartphones are now an integral part of our life and it’s hard to think of a day without them. Your text messaging is causing you an injury without you realizing it. As per the estimates, smartphone users spend about 3-4 hours every day on their devices and the pandemic induced lockdowns have further increased the average usage.Millennials, forinstance, often look at their phone screens more than 100 times a day.
“Prolonged and repetitive movements can result in tendon inflammation and injury. Severe pain in wrists and thumbs, which can sometimes be radiated to the forearm, can be a sign of WhatsAppitis. It’s a pretty serious injury. The pain is usually quite severe while mobility could also become an issue and may takeseveral months to resolve. Therefore, as we always say, prevention is the best strategy.”, commented Dr Sweta Prakash Adatia, Specialist Neurologist and Medical Director, RAK Hospital.
“Even though there are no official figures published so far, but what I cansay about our facility is that we see at least 8-10 cases a month on an average between the Orthopedic and Neurology clinics. In addition to adults, many teenagers and young children are also presenting the symptoms as they spend a lot of time playing video games, texting or using computers”, further stated Dr Adatia.
RICE (Rest-Elevation-Compression-Elevation) is followed as a standard treatment protocol. Required medications include anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants or some cartilage supplements. One can get relief from wearing a wrist brace, physiotherapy and rehabilitation too.
Suggested preventive strategies to reduce such incidences and to avoid becoming a victim include:
- Keep your wrists straight while using the smartphone, balance it with both the hands.
- Don’t use the phone for more than 15-20 minutes at a time.
- Shift to WhatsApp web by downloading it on your laptop/desktop.
- Take a break after 20 minutes of use and do stretching exercises to relax the hand, arm and neck muscles.
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Use the voice message function of WhatsApp more often rather than typing, to reduce the strain on the thumb.
- Ideally the laptop/computer should be kept 20-24 inches away from your eyes.
- Have a smartphone detox – take a break from your phone at least once a week.
- Use a tracking app to keep a check on your daily screen time, use the instructions to limit the use.
- Avoid Marathon messaging sessions.
- Use a lightweight mobile phone instead of heavier ones.
Excessive use of smartphones can also increase the hazard of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome which is characterized by pain, tingling, burning, and numbness along the area of the thumb, index, middle and half of the ring finger. Arthritis of the joints at the base of the thumb, Tenosynovitis or ‘gamer’s thumb’, Nintendinitis are some other conditions linked to the overuse of devices including smartphones, laptops or playing video games. Using an ergonomic mouse can help people who must use mouse for long periods of time.