Blackberry Thumb, iPhone Thumb…

I ran across an interesting (and slightly horrifying) article in the Calgary Herald a couple of days ago (text and link are below). People usually think of tendon pain as something that happens in the larger joints, the elbows, knees, ankles and so on. But it can happen anywhere that there is a repetitive stress and pattern overload. Here’s an extreme case:

Banker undergoes ‘BlackBerry thumb’ surgery because she used her iPhone too much

By Katya Wachtel, Business Insider August 29, 2010

A mortgage banker just had to have surgery on her thumb because she was using her iPhone too much, according to WTSP.

The hospital says her condition is best known as “Blackberry thumb.” However, since she was using an iPhone, “iPhone thumb” is obviously more appropriate in her case.

Symptoms of Blackberry thumb include pain, inflammation, numbness and tingling.

The Philly woman might have realized she felt some of the symptoms had she not spent up to 12 hours a day in communication with clients on her iPhone.

The tendons in her thumb became so severely inflamed, they required removal.

Her need for surgery would (almost?) be funny, but apparently surgery on the hand is very serious and it’s going to be a long time before she can use her phone again. Recovery time for tendon surgery can be up to two months or longer.

“Most hand tendon injuries take longer to recover than most other operations elsewhere in the body,” according to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand

Read more:…#ixzz0y2Lt9Vag

I have complete confidence that the techniques I explain in my book will cure most people, but in this case I wouldn’t be completely positive. I’m fairly sure that with the amount of stress this lady placed on her tendons she’s gone beyond tendonitis (simple inflammation) and well into tendonosis (actual damage to the tendon itself). But if you’ve got tingling and numbness you’re probably experiencing some nerve damage along with the tendon problem, and that’s frankly beyond my expertise. Still, I think that if it were me I’d invest twenty bucks and see what happened before I opted for surgery.

For those who are experiencing some pain (but not as severe as the lady in the article), there is a quick and accurate tendon test on this page that will tell you what sort of pain you have, and what you can do about it.

2 thoughts on “Blackberry Thumb, iPhone Thumb…”

  1. Does anyone else have tendonitis from their apple products?

    I bought a MacBook one and a half years ago and an iphone one year ago and my thumbs started being really twitchy with a little bit of pain and numbness, particularly on days when using the MacBook keyboard. I write a lot for work and am using the computer many hours per day. I try to have good posture and now use a mouse, but for many months was using the MacBook trackpad, which I think is the root of my thumb/wrist pain and twitching.

    Then I went to the doctor and he diagnosed me with mild tendonitis and said to take Ibuprofen or Naproxen Sodium and get one of those exercising hand balls. Which I did, and maybe it got a little better, but whenever I use the MacBook all day without a mouse, I get mild pain, and also when operating my iphone with my thumb.

    I never had these problems before, from sports, yoga, or gardening. Or with my laptop PC, which has a more comfortable keyboard design, but when I looked online to see if other people had problems with repetitive stress, there seems like almost nothing out there. So is it just me? Or does my MacBook have bad ergonomic design?

  2. You’re not alone. I’ve also experienced some pain with my Macbook. In my own case it was one of my interosseus muscles (here’s a link), but I basically had to do some rehab on myself and change the way I was using the touchpad. You can either do that, or else get an external keyboard with better ergonomics. Kensington has some pretty good ones.

    You can forget about the hand ball – it’s not going to help much. And while you probably do have tendonitis at this point, if your pain gets worse it’s going to become tendonosis, which is much more serious. See this post for more information on the subject.

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