Doc warns teen phone addicts

Doc warns teen phone addicts

A student checks her smartphone. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)
A student checks her smartphone. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

A growing number of youngsters, especially university students, are suffering "trigger finger" and other muscle-related problems as the time they spend on smartphones increases.

At risk are those who use phones for prolonged periods, bending their necks and elbows and tapping fingers on screens to text long messages. This can result in fingers, wrists, shoulders and even necks becoming "locked" in one position, with associated pain.

"We've found that the ages of our patients are getting lower, since [students] are spending more hours on smartphones and computers," Chutiphon Thammachari, a physiotherapist at Mahidol University's Faculty of Physical Therapy, said on Monday.

In a growing trend over the past two years, more young patients -- mostly students aged between 20 and 22 -- are seeking treatments for muscle and tendon inflammation at the university's Physical Therapy Centre.

In the past, the majority of patients were office workers in their 40s, Ms Chutiphon said.

Trigger finger (stenosing tenosynovitis) is a disorder of the tendons characterised by stiffness and a sensation of locking when a finger is straightened, she said.

Meanwhile, the associated "texting thumb", or De Quervain's syndrome, is caused by inflammation of tendons controlling the thumb.

Frequent and prolonged use also puts phone users at risk of painful "tennis elbow", when tendons are overloaded by the need to hold the joint in a bent position.

The same problem can afflict tendons in the shoulder and neck.

To avoid these painful conditions, users should change the way they operate their devices, Ms Chutiphon said.

"If you want to have a long conversation, it's better to make a phone call rather than type," she advised.

Users should also make use of voice-activated search and messaging features, which ease the burden on fingers.

Ms Chutiphon also warned of the stress caused by bending the neck for prolonged periods while using a phone.

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