Cell Phone Elbow: a disease of mobile era
Nintendo thumb, Guitar Hero wrist and now cell phone elbow are all diseases of the new gadget era. Cubital tunnel syndrome or cell phone elbow is numbness, tingling and pain in the forearm and hand caused by compression of the ulnar nerve, which passes along the bony bump on the inside of the elbow.
Cubital tunnel syndrome results from prolonged flexing of the elbow. In susceptible people, holding the bent-elbow position for extended periods can lead to decreased blood flow, inflammation and compression of the nerve. One of the causes of pressure on the ulnar nerve is excessive use of mobile phones, said Padma Shri & Dr. B.C. Roy National Awardee, Dr. KK Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India. Prolonged flexing of the elbow occurs when you hold a cell phone to your ear. The first symptom patients often notice include numbness, tingling or aching in the forearm and hand.
As symptoms progress, they can include a loss of muscle strength, coordination and mobility that can make writing and typing difficult. In chronic, untreated cases, the ring finger and pinky can become clawed. Evans and colleagues note in a report in theCleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine that most people who get cubital tunnel syndrome are middle-aged or older. Women get cubital tunnel syndrome more often than men. Other causes may include sleeping with the elbows bent and tucked up into the chest, sitting at a desk with the elbows flexed at an angle greater than 90 degrees and driving with your elbow propped on the window for extended periods. In most cases, minor lifestyle changes can help alleviate symptoms, including using a hands-free headset for your cell phone. If sleep position is the problem, an elbow pad to keep the arm straighter at night can help.
As treatment, the occupational therapist may use ultrasound to loosen the scar tissue that can form around the nerve as a result of the inflammation, as well as stretching, deep massage and "nerve-gliding" exercises to reduce pressure on the nerve. Doctors may also use anti-inflammatory injections or surgery.