Texting teen gets carpal tunnel syndrome

March 19, 2010 4:39:26 AM PDT
It's a sign of the times. Many teens are doing a lot more texting than talking on their cell phones. In fact, one suburban 16-year-old texts so much she has been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome.

"It's not even good texts. It's like 'hey, hey, what's up? what's up? Not much.' Just ridiculous texting I'm learning not to do anymore," said Annie Levitz, texter with carpal tunnel.

At her worst, Annie Levitz was sending 100 text messages a day - 4,000 in a single month. Then, the pain started.

"I started losing feeling in my hands and they'd go numb. I'd go to pick up dishes and things and they'd just fall out of my hands," said Annie.

Doctors diagnosed Annie, a junior at Stevenson High School, with carpal tunnel syndrome. It's so severe, braces and cortisone injections aren't enough. She'll have to undergo surgery.

Annie's mom says simply taking her daughter's phone away isn't an option.

"Sure, I've thought about it. But if you have teens you know that doesn't work. It's that their whole social life, plus that's how you get in touch with them," said Carrie Levitz, mother.

Experts say just 3 percent of adults have carpel tunnel. Teens getting it is almost unheard of. But doctors say texting is becoming a textbook way to get it.

"If you get tendonitis in the shoulder or in the wrist and the doctor says,'don't do the activity, put it at rest,' well, it's the same thing. Don't do the activity that's constantly causing the problem," said Dr. Sofia Aksentijevich, rheumatologist.

The kid with carpal tunnel is all the talk at school, but if Annie's friends are any indication, the lesson may have the longevity of a text message.

"They're teenagers so most will be like 'I'm fine,' but it's gonna happen," said Shelby Brand, friend.

"I know it's a problem so I may watch it, but I still text a lot," said Michelle Friman, friend.

As for Annie, she says she's cut the number of texts she sends a month in half.

"Two thousand," said Annie. "I know, it's not good enough but I'm trying!"