Put down the smartphone: constant use could cause carpal tunnel syndrome

Handheld electronic devices like smartphones and tablets have become an integral part of people’s lives but the cons of constantly holding onto these devices is unknown. In a study, published in Muscle & Nerve, evaluates the difference in carpal tunnel syndrome in different severity of handheld device users.

The constant stress on hand muscles and nerves from holding onto small electronic devices was the focus on this study. Researchers enrolled 48 university students who were evaluated with a questionnaire and ultrasonographic measurements of carpal tunnel morphological parameters. Participants were then equally divided into groups of intensive and non-intensive users of electronic devices.

Intensive users, defined as those using handheld electronic devices for over five hours a day, reported more pain in the wrist and hand then non-intensive users. They also showed more significant effects on the median nerve within the carpal tunnel and transverse carpal ligament, which causes numbness and pain in the hand.

"Our prior work identified that out of 500 students, 54% (245/451) of intensive users and 12% (6/49) of non-intensive users reported musculoskeletal symptoms in relation to use of electronic devices. We randomly selected 48 students using stratified sampling from the intensive and non-intensive users for further investigation and our results showed that excessive use of electronic devices may be linked to a greater risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome," said Dr. Peter White, co-author of study. "Therefore, vigilance in educating and monitoring young people using electronic devices is important, especially children and adolescents as they are less capable of self-regulating."