Doctors see increasing instances of pain caused by cell phones - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Doctors see increasing instances of pain caused by cell phones

These days, we depend on technology to get by. Besides making life easier, however, all those gadgets we use could be causing us harm.

Doctors are seeing an increase in tech-related injuries, and you very likely could be at risk.

University of Toledo senior Drew Owen is like most college students -- he spends a lot of time talking on his cell phone. Recently though, his conversations started getting uncomfortable. "If I talk on phone for an extended period of time -- 5 or 10 minutes -- My hand will go numb, and I'll have to switch hands."

Drew wasn't worried until he heard his professor talking about a new medical phenomenon called cell phone elbow.

"It might sound like an excuse to get out of work or get out of a exam because your hand doesn't work," says Dr. Danny Pincivero, University of Toledo professor of kinecology. He admits cell phone elbow may sound funny, but he warns it's no laughing matter. "This is a very serious and very real problem."

The trouble involves the nerve running through the arm. Doctor Pincivero says by simply bending your arm to hold a cell phone, you could be damaging that nerve.

It's a legitimate medical condition with the technical name of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome. "We have two things going on," Pincivero says, "Over-stretching of the nerve, which damages the nerve. And we have it compressing against the bone."

That causes the numbness that Drew is feeling. It's a condition that could become worse, and be permanent. "Just grabbing on to a steering wheel will be very difficult because the arm is very weak," says Pincivero.

Cell phones aren't the only tech-related health hazard.

We already know about Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, a debilitating condition that develops from typing on the computer. Now the problems involve typing on your Blackberry or even sending a text message. It's called Blackberry Thumb -- another silly sounding name that is also no joke. There can be inflammation, swelling and general weakness to the thumb.

Doctor Pincivero says Blackberry Thumb can be treated with physical therapy. Cell phone elbow is another story. It can be so serious, it may require surgery. "The surgery is necessary to alleviate pressure on the nerve. There's no other way to do it."

That's a shocking revelation for cell phone users like Drew. "Come to find out, I could need surgery... kind of scary."

According to Doctor Pincivero, the best advice is to simply know your body and respond to the warning signs. If you notice any discomfort, stop talking or stop typing. Don't make the problem any worse.

Also, consider getting an ear piece for your phone if you notice any symptoms. It's a small price to pay to avoid a trip to the doctor.

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