Doctors say "Blackberry" thumb on the rise

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - It is an unlikely injury that is on the rise and the root of the problem may be resting in your hand right now.

We all use smart phones and gaming devices, perhaps even more than we admit. But while they keep us connected, being too dialed in can lead to bigger problems. It's not a new problem, but the way people are acquiring this injury is new to this generation.

"The Nintendo thumb, Wiitis from playing the Wii too much," said Dr. Larry Benson. "It can be called Nintenditis."

The injury leads to pain, swelling and stiffness at the base of the thumb. It is an inflammation of the tendons leading up to the thumb. The reason the tendons become enflamed is pretty simple.

"The problem is chronically using it over and over and over again over time without really resting it," said Benson.

Doctor Benson is not ready to call "Nintendo" or "Blackberry" thumb an epidemic, but it is on the rise. The problem is growing with young people because of their frequent use of mobile phones and gaming devices.

The challenge in many cases of Nintendo thumb is not diagnosing the injury, it's reigning it in.

"A lot of times the treatment for these issues is rest and sometimes we will have to splint the thumb and prevent them from using it," he said.

And stopping teenagers, with phones attached to their hands, from texting, is no easy task.

"Prevention is trying not to do as much texting," said Benson. "That is a hard thing to say for young people"

Doctor Benson tries to impress upon his patients that not slowing down could lead to bigger problems down the road.

"Sometimes it gets bad enough that we will have to do injections of the thumb to get it to calm down, but also we may have to immobilize them, we have to splint them or even cast some of them," he said.

And in the worst case scenarios, even surgery.

"It is a wakeup call for some of the kids."

So if you notice your thumb is feeling not quite right, you may need to look no further than what you are holding in your hand right now, and think before you text.

"I guess some of your social life may suffer," said Benson. "But sometimes it's better to just get on the phone and make the call instead of texting."

Doctor Benson is a sports medicine doctor and has many patients who come in with thumb problems they think are the result of their athletic endeavors.

In many cases, it is just as much about their texting habits as it is their sport of choice.

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