Recently, I overheard my teenage son bragging about how fast he could text a message. “Faster than I can write,” he proudly announced. These days it’s not unusual to find people who can text faster than they type on a computer keyboard. Many students even text class notes on their phones instead of using a paper and pen. In fact, teenagers send on average over 3,300 text messages per month. That’s more than 6 text messages per waking hour! As phones and PDAs become more powerful, smaller and “smarter,” more of our daily activities are migrating from computers to phones. All this is great for technology but horrible for our thumbs.
The keyboards of smartphones are so small that most people text exclusively with their thumbs. Unfortunately, when we text, our thumbs are forced into an unnatural and strained position involving repetitive movements. Even worse, the pressure applied at the tip of the thumb is magnified at the base amplifying the stress at the thumb joint. Since our thumbs aren’t designed for this type of motion, repetitive strain injuries like tendonitis and premature arthritis in the thumb joint (carpometacarpal joint) can occur. Increasingly, yoga students are complaining about pain and soreness in their thumbs especially during arm balancing poses like bakasana and even down dog. Any inflammation in the thumb is highlighted by weight bearing poses in which the thumb is extended – a similar action to texting.
Texting involves the long muscles of the thumb specifically the bellies of the abductor pollicis longus and extensor pollicis longus and brevis responsible for extending and abducting the thumb. These muscles originate at the ulna or radius of the forearm and insert into the base of the thumb (first metacarpal) or phalanx of the thumb. The long extension of these muscles is why inflammation from texting can reach down through the wrist into the forearm. There is also the action of the flexor pollicis longus and brevis which flexes the thumb as it presses into the keyboard.
Luckily there are simple YTU poses that can be done at your desk, in the car or even walking around to relieve pressure in the thumbs and counteract the negative effects of texting. Try this sequence from the Yoga Tune Up® Quickfix Rx DVD:
- Hula Wave
- Piano Fingers
- Opening Hands/Closing Fists
- Dangling Flower bud Movement
- Stretch webbing of thumb & forearm
It’s helpful to weave in a combination of these exercises in between multiple texts to give the thumbs a counter stretch or maybe consider actually dialing a phone number and speaking to someone in person – at least it doesn’t involve your thumb.
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