Everywhere you turn, you see people frantically thumbing out text messages on their smartphones. Many of us have moved from phone calls and e-mails to text messaging as a means of quick check-ins with our spouses, children, colleagues and friends.
Running late for a business lunch — send a text with your ETA. Waiting outside the school to pick up your teen — text a message to get her moving. Need your husband to pick up milk and a loaf of bread on his way home — text your grocery list.
It’s instant communications for small things with definite benefits.
And it’s given rise to new or renewed ailments with catchy names like “iPhoneitis,” “BlackBerry Thumb” and “Droid-digits,” otherwise known as tendonitis. Along with the multitude of other technological devices that rely solely on your hands, it’s no surprise that the overuse of our hands and wrists have triggered a carpal tunnel epidemic during the last several decades.
Dr. Eon Shin, a Jefferson orthopedic surgeon who has been practicing at The Hand Center for almost five years, says that he performs at least five carpal tunnel releases every week. New “techno-injuries” are on the rise and becoming a fairly common ailment for the gen-Xers.
“Without precise repair or reconstruction of all the moving parts, the outcomes can be less than optimal,” Dr. Shin says. “I find great satisfaction in helping patients recover their flexibility, function and strength from these injuries.”
For patients whose texting thumbs can’t be treated with simple rest or physical therapy, Dr. Shin says an outpatient procedure that requires a small, 1/2-inch incision in the bottom of the thumb can be performed. Through the incision, the tendon sheath is partially divided, allowing the inflamed tendon to move more easily.
Similarly, patients with carpal tunnel syndrome can get relief with either a minimally invasive endoscopic approach or a mini-open surgery. Either way, surgery is performed in an outpatient setting using local anesthesia.
Recovery times vary for each person, with tendonitis patients being the quicker of the two procedures to heal. However, carpal tunnel patients should notice a big difference in their range of motion after a couple of months.
While some people with underlying conditions such as hypothyroidism or diabetes may be predisposed to developing either condition, Dr. Shin notes that “heavy manual work, repetitive lifting, typing for long periods – these are all thought to be contributing factors.”
So if you want to avoid iPhoneitis, he says, “Laying off mobile devices may be helpful.”
If you are experiencing tingling or numbness in your hands, especially while sleeping, try not to turn a blind eye or think of it as a normal bodily occurrence.
“There is no need to suffer with this condition,” Dr. Shin stresses.
From fractures, arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome to managing more complex hand, wrist, arm, elbow and shoulder conditions including elbow reconstructions, Jefferson’s nationally ranked Department of Orthopedic Surgery has experienced specialists who can help.
“Our areas of specialization encompass more than just hands,” Dr. Shin adds. “Because of our level of expertise, many of the community emergency departments in the area will transport patients with complex upper extremity injuries to Jefferson University Hospitals.”
Call 1-800-JEFF-NOW (533-3669) to make an appointment today.