How to avoid ‘digital damage’

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Admit it: that handheld electronic device you may be using to read this article is an addiction. Your thumbs and fingers are working in overdrive as they try to keep up with what your brain needs to know.

Bob Rogers doesn’t do a lot of typing or texting, but the business owner is a teaser.

“I have a number of young teenagers and I tease them all the time that when they get to be my age they won’t be able to tie their shoes,” Rogers said. “They’ll have to wear Velcro because their thumbs aren’t going to work right.”

That’s something to think about when it comes to conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome.

“There’s a thought that texting can also cause similar problems. That hasn’t been proven yet, but with the way people text all the time I think that is inevitable,” said Dr. Matthew Kelly, a surgeon at Orthopedic Institute of Pennsylvania.

So what is carpal tunnel syndrome? It’s when a nerve in the carpal tunnel is compressed.

“It’s in the wrist. There is a ligament on the top. If there is swelling in the carpal tunnel for various reasons, that nerve will get compressed,” Kelly said. The symptoms are hand numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness.”

If you are pushing your extremities to the extreme, Kelly suggests you use a special keyboard and mouse pad to relieve the pressure and sleeping with splints. Injections like cortisone can help.

If those steps do not work, there is surgery.

“There is another way which is newer and it is endoscopic,” Kelly said. “It uses a scope to release it and people get back to work a little bit quicker that way. The results are the same.”

Lori Walter, a legal secretary, keeps her hands busy on her keyboard most days.

“Typing and texting, typing and texting,” she said.

After living with carpal tunnel symptoms for years, she chose the traditional surgery which required a small incision in her hand. She’s now on the road to recovery and is using a different way to get out her text messages.

“I have actually changed to a drag text now, so [I use] one finger instead of my thumbs,” she said.

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