WATERLOO (KWWL) -- These days, kids and adults let their thumbs do the talking, with more than one and a half trillion text messages sent over mobile phones last year alone, averaging nearly five billion messages a day.
But could all this typing actually lead to injury? There is a new condition that some doctors have dubbed "texting thumb."
Try as she might, Malisa Meresman can't seem to get away from her BlackBerry.
"I'm on my BlackBerry almost all day, cause for work I use my BlackBerry. At night I'm texting my friends. My boss will even text me in the evenings," she said.
But one day, her thumb started to hurt. And she couldn't figure out why
"It's very achy. It gets stiff. And it actually does hurt to text."
Turns out Meresman was suffering from repetitive stress injury caused by frequent texting.
"And our hands sit there with the cell phone kind of cradled and that we have to flex or bend the thumb or index finger to such a extreme that repetitive motion over time gives problems to some of those joints," Dr. Kevin Blancher said.
A recent study by virgin mobile found 3.8 million Britons complain of injuries resulting from text messages.
And in one South African school over half of students interviewed reported at least one symptom of repetitive stress injury.
This doesn't surprise orthopedic surgeon Doctor Kevin Blancher. He says these seemingly small symptoms now could lead to bigger problems in the future.
"Repetitive injuries, one, are painful for many patients, and the other is they can develop over time arthritic conditions."
The injuries are similar those caused by excessive typing, adds Doctor Leon Benson of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. But texting affects different joints
"Instead of necessarily getting tendonitis in your wrist of inflammation in your wrist from typing a lot, you could get some symptoms in your fingers because you're working on a tiny keyboard," Benson said.
So what's a frequent texter to do? experts suggest slowing down, taking frequent breaks, and switching up the way you hold your phone or the fingers you use to type with.
"You can also exercise. You can stretch out your thumbs, you can stretch out your index fingers. You can take that break because they're usually in cramped position. And being in a cramped position can give you spasms to those areas," Blanchard said.
And consider talking instead of typing every once in a while.
"If my daughter approached me and said her hands were sore, her fingers were hurting because she was texting so much I would say text less frequently. Talk to your friends," Bensons said.
Meresman was able to use ice and anti-inflammatory medication to relieve her achy joints. And she's vowed to text more responsibly in the future.
"Try to just be a little more aware of when I'm texting and when I don't need to be," she said.
In addition to texting, experts suggest you limit your child's handheld videogame use, which requires the same kind of repetitive movements.
Online Anchor: Sunny Layne