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'Smartphone Thumb' Linked To Increased Tendon Problems, Doctors Say

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Phone Thumb is a condition linked to repetitive movements used for texting and emailing on smart phones. It's increased the incidence of tendon problems.

It's a condition doctors used to only see in some factory workers, but now this hand and thumb problem is becoming more widespread and now there's new research on the hazard of texting too much.

Smartphones have become our constant companions.

"My phone is a huge part of my life. I do everything from texting to emails, social media. Everything," said avid smartphone user Scott Seehusen.

Texting and emailing are round the clock activities for many. Now, mounting research indicates the repetitive motion appears to be leading to cases of tendinitis.

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Dr. Kristin Zhao of the Mayo Clinic says, "One of the hypotheses is that the joints get loose and lax and because of that the bones move differently than they would in a normal situation."

A team of bio-medical researchers are looking into what's called "Smartphone Thumb." It starts with awkward hand and thumb positioning.

"It is also a movement that requires some force through the thumbs. So when you press on your phone, you are interacting with your phone. It's not just free movement in space," she said.

Researchers are using a dynamic imaging technique to watch the bones of a healthy patient move so they could document what's normal and compare it with what's not.

Dr. Zhao said, "There is a high incidence of osteoarthritis in the thumb. We just want to make sure we are not encouraging that onset by our daily activities."

The team is also evaluating the impact for children.

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"A long exposure over your lifetime," she said. "We really don't understand why adults get pain and so children? If you start earlier, you may get pain younger."

Ways to prevent problems include:

Giving your thumbs a break, and mixing up your method by using your forefinger or your voice to dictate.
You can also perform daily stretching exercises with your wrists and fingers to keep your tendons limber.

Doctors say it's also a good idea to take a break from your phone, and give your thumbs a rest as much as possible.

New research has also shown that osteoarthritis in the thumb happens to more women than men.

Also, it's not just an issue with typing, scrolling can also stress your thumbs.

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