These days talking on a cell phone is pretty common. Take a look around and you will most likely find at least five people with their cell phone practically glued to their ear. But can constantly talking on your cell phone have its disadvantages? Researchers are now saying that some people may be suffering from cell phone elbow.
Cell phone elbow, also called cubital tunnel syndrome, can be diagnosed by numbness, tingling and pain in the forearm and hand. This is most likely caused by compression on the ulnar nerve, which means that talking on a cell phone repeatedly puts pressure on this nerve.
Tension on the ulnar nerve occurs when a person bends their elbows for too long, such as when holding a cell phone up to their ear.
“Repetitive, sustained stretching of the nerve is like stepping on a garden hose,” said Dr. Peter J. Evans, director of the Cleveland Clinic's Hand and Upper Extremity Center. “With the hose, you're blocking the flow of water. With the elbow, you're blocking the blood flow to the nerve, which causes it to misfire and short circuit.”
The first symptoms people notice are a tingling or aching in the forearm or hand, which is a pain often described as similar to hitting the “funny bone”. As symptoms get worse, they can progress to loss of muscle strength and coordination, which can make writing a difficult task. If left untreated, the ring finger and pinky can become clawed.
Small changes can be made to help fix some of the symptoms, such as using a Bluetooth earpiece or a hands-free headset while talking on the phone.
The doctors best advice to avoid this type of injury? Switch hands before the symptoms get worse.
This study was included in the May issue of the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine.