Be­ware: Self­ies may be bad for your health

In­flam­ma­tion, el­bow pain caused by snap­ping shots is luck­ily pretty easy to treat


“Text claw.” “iPad hand.”

And now, a new catchy, tech-driven con­di­tion is mak­ing the head­lines: “Selfie el­bow.”

This lat­est con­di­tion is see­ing a boost in recog­ni­tion thanks to the plight of To­day show host Hoda Kotb, who re­cently told Elle mag­a­zine that her doc­tor be­lieves her el­bow pain stems from her love of self­ies — or more specif­i­cally, the un­com­fort­able grip she was putting her hand in each time she snapped a pic­ture.

It sounds ridicu­lous, sure, but these types of in­juries are hardly new, said Mary Ann Wil­marth, a doc­tor of phys­i­cal ther­apy and spokes­woman for the Amer­i­can Phys­i­cal Ther­apy As­so­ci­a­tion.

These con­di­tions could be seen as vari­a­tions on good old-fash­ioned repet­i­tive strain in­juries.

Selfie el­bow, Wil­marth said, is sim­i­lar to “ten­nis el­bow” or “golfer’s el­bow,” which are names for con­di­tions in which you ex­pe­ri­ence in­flam­ma­tion in the ten­dons that run along your arm from your hand to your el­bow.

In­flam­ma­tion from tak­ing self­ies, Wil­marth said, hap­pens be­cause you’re ex­tend­ing your arm but also try­ing to keep a firm grip on your phone as you do — some­thing that the body just isn’t de­signed to do of­ten.

Med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als have warned us for years about how us­ing tech badly can hurt our bod­ies.

Sim­ply put, com­put­ers and smart­phones can put us in un­nat­u­ral po­si­tions and for long pe­ri­ods of time.

That can lead to se­ri­ous prob­lems — par­tic­u­larly if those hunched over screens and key­boards don’t ex­er­cise or stretch their bod­ies to coun­ter­act those ef­fects.

As for tak­ing a selfie, it’s not just your selfie-tak­ing hand that you should worry about — many hand and arm prob­lems, Wil­marth said, can orig­i­nate from tight­ness in the neck and shoul­ders as well.

Tight­ness in the arms can be ex­ac­er­bated by the fact that our arms rarely get much rest, as much as we hold our phones. Peo­ple tend not to think about things like hold­ing their phones or tak­ing self­ies to be any strain at all, so they don’t work to stretch or strengthen their arm and shoul­der mus­cles.

It’s also pretty easy to ig­nore those lit­tle twinges, or to think of all those lit­tle move­ments as be­ing harm­less.

Luck­ily, it’s pretty easy to treat these sorts of in­juries with rest, ice and reg­u­lar shoul­der and wrist rolls.

In fact, there are a num­ber of stretches and ex­er­cises you can do to pre­vent your mus­cles from tir­ing due to typ­ing and other tech ac­tiv­i­ties.

Wil­marth sug­gested that some­thing as sim­ple as ex­tend­ing your

Selfie in­flam­ma­tion hap­pens when arms are ex­tended while also try­ing to keep a firm grip on the phone. The hu­man body sim­ply isn’t de­signed to do this ac­tion of­ten.

arm in front of you and bend­ing your wrist gen­tly and slowly up and down — with an ex­tended palm and with a loose fist — could stretch the mus­cles that need at­ten­tion.

But a selfie stick might not help your selfie el­bow con­di­tion if you’re still ex­tend­ing your arm out to use the stick, Wil­marth said.

Hold­ing it with both hands, she said, might help mat­ters, but it’s re­ally best to just lay off tak­ing quite so many self­ies in the first place.

The crux of this, re­ally, is to rec­og­nize that when a part of your body hurts, you should stop do­ing what­ever it is that’s mak­ing it hurt.

If your thumb starts shak­ing or hurt­ing when you put it in a cer­tain po­si­tion, give it a rest from that po­si­tion for a while.

If your el­bow hurts when you’re tak­ing a selfie, switch arms, ad­just your po­si­tion or maybe just let that selfie slide.


Stretch­ing out to take self­ies, like these women in La­hore, Pak­istan, can put your body in an un­nat­u­ral po­si­tion for long pe­ri­ods of time, caus­ing strain.


Selfie con­di­tions are re­lated to typ­i­cal repet­i­tive strain in­juries, like “ten­nis el­bow” or “golfer’s el­bow.”

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