Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Is on the Rise: Signs and Symptoms of “Selfie Wrist”

Social media usage has become so prevalent in our world today that it has reached levels even its creators couldn’t fathom. According to the leading statistics group Statista, in 2016, more than 81% of Americans reported having a social media profile; around the globe, there are just under three billion users.

Many of us have our phones glued to our hands, afraid that we’ll miss out on a friend’s post or a current event. This has given way to a whole new set of cell phone-related injuries, such as smartphone pinky (a perceived bend in the little finger on one’s dominant hand caused by the weight of holding a smartphone), text neck (a repeated stress injury and pain in the neck caused by excessive watching or texting on hand-held devices), and even selfie wrist.

What is selfie wrist?
Selfie wrist is a form of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) that results from hyperflexing your wrist or clutching your phone for long periods of time. When trying to get the perfect angle, people tend to bend their wrist inwards, which is not a natural position. Doing this action repetitively may cause this new form of CTS, or can exacerbate the condition should it already exist.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the nerve that goes from the forearm to the hand is compressed by swollen tendons or other swelling. While the condition can also be caused by a wrist injury, rheumatoid arthritis, an overactive pituitary gland, or an underactive thyroid gland, repetitive motions are one of the biggest risk factors for developing the affliction.

Signs and symptoms of selfie wrist
Carpal tunnel syndrome affects more than three million Americans per year. Even media personality Kim Kardashian admitted that her doctor ordered her to stop taking selfies following her diagnosis with CTS. While it’s unclear just how many cases of carpal tunnel are caused by taking selfies, most forms of CTS usually result in the same symptoms.

Symptoms for the condition usually appear slowly, gradually getting worse over time. You may initially start to feel burning, numbness, tingling, or pain in your thumb or other fingers (except your pinky). The strange sensations may also travel up your forearm.

CTS symptoms are most common at night or after a night’s rest; this is because most people sleep with their wrists bent, which puts pressure on the median nerve. As the condition worsens, you could also start to notice your pain during the day while you partake in normal activities, such as reading a newspaper, driving, or holding your phone. Your grip and ability to pinch could be affected as well, causing you to drop things more often or struggle to make a fist. In the most severe cases, it’s possible to lose muscle at the base of your thumb, or lose the ability to distinguish between hot and cold by touch.

How to avoid selfie wrist
Doctors recommend moving around more, taking breaks, and switching up tasks to avoid triggering carpal tunnel syndrome. You should also avoid holding your phone for an extended period of time, or pause and stretch your hand for a few minutes each hour if you must.

Receiving a carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosis isn’t the end of the world. Though extreme cases may require surgery, most can be solved by simple lifestyle changes or exercises. If you believe you may have CTS, you should find a doctor to figure out what solution is best for you.

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