Doc: Constant texting could lead to thumbitis

PHOTO: Doc: Constant texting could lead to thumbitis

KUALA LUMPUR - Be wary about all that fast-paced texting you do on your mobile phones or you could be in for a painful condition.

The medical term is thumbitis, with pain at the base of the thumb or around the wrist due to excessive thumb typing on tiny handphone keyboards.

Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Dr Yong Chee Khuen said he had been attending to such complaints at his clinic in a medical centre.

"The patients complained that it affected their work because of pain and stiffness, and that they could not pinch or grip well," he said, cautioning that weaker thumb function meant a 30% reduction of the ability of the hand.

Although there were no national statistics, Dr Yong pointed out that a survey by Virgin Mobile in Britain showed that mobile phones caused 3.8 million cases of repetitive strain injuries per year and reports of sore wrists and thumbs went up by more than 38% over the last five years.

"If the problem becomes severe, patients need to go for surgery but it'll take a long time to heal. So, prevention is best," he said.

Dr Yong advised mobile phone users to "type less and keep text messages short" and use all fingers to type to reduce stress on the thumb.

"Otherwise, make a telephone call or use the computer," he said, adding that resting the hand on the lap or briefcase would also help.

Maria Rowena Navoe, a regional payroll staff in her 40s, said that her right thumb began to hurt after two months since she started using a smartphone in November.

"I can't bend my thumb and it is still a bit swollen after seeing the doctor," she said.

Navoe said she first started experiencing the pain - a tingling sensation and numbness at the tip of her fingers on the right hand - in January, then the numbness rose to her elbow.