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Your Blackberry May Be Killing Your Thumbs

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Blackberry, Sidekick, and Treo-like devices come at a price: an ever-growing number of orthopedic complaints afflicting those who are addicted to them. You very well may be one of the eight million who face a malady no one predicted since the Blackberry was invented: thumb problems.

The problem: "Blackberry Thumb," which translates into thumb pain and function problems. You need your thumb. You also may need your blackberry. But by using the device incorrectly, say by moving their palms together over that bottom third of the blackberry, you can strain the tender tendons that run from the thumb to the wrist. But the solution for the addict is simple, as Dr. Michelle Carlson, a surgeon at New York's Hospital for Special Surgery, advises. HSS has seen several cases of the malady each month, with practical expectation of many more. And the advice from HSS and Carlson is clear, if tricky. Meaning easier said than done. But start doing it very soon or else.

"You want to get the tendons as straight as possible so they have the least strain on them as possible," Dr. Carlson states. "That means that your palms should not touch and your wrists should also be apart." Know, though this advice is hardly foolproof. "Some people can do everything wrong and never have a problem; some can do everything right and have a problem," adds Dr, Carlson.

The addictive qualities of the Blackberry gained even more credibility when the November 2006 "Webster's Dictionary" officially enshrined the word "Crackberry" as the New Word of the Year. Enough said.

But there's hope: Dr. Carlson advises a common sense combination of rest, anti-inflammatory medicine, topical pain products , and a splint. That should be enough to keep the "crackberry addicts" away from pain and trouble. For the eight million, and those to join them shortly, good advice.