by Al Sacco

Orthopedic Surgeon’s Ad Gives Tips to Cure “BlackBerry Thumb”…Give Me a Break

Apr 30, 20083 mins

Today I came across a press release from an orthopedic surgeon in which he discusses “BlackBerry Thumb,” or thumb/hand/wrist strain due to constant typing on mobile devices or other tiny keyboards. It gave me a good chuckle so I thought I’d share.

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The release, from Dr. Glenn D. Cohen, M.D., describes the ailment and offers up five tips to help do away with, or at least reduce, the associated symptoms. And it’s packed with gems like this:

“[H]ands are similar to tires on a car. When you drive frequently, quickly and with lots of cargo on board your tires will wear much faster than the Sunday driver cruising on Pacific Coast Highway in her convertible.”

The good doctor warns that failure to address BlackBerry Thumb can result in “a multitude of problems” like swollen, painful joints, tendons or nerves, tingling, numbness and even locking fingers. Oh my.

And he suggests that treatment could necessitate hand therapy, splinting, ultrasounds, electrical stimulation, heat, ice, anti-inflammatory drugs, injections and surgery—all of which can be provided, of course, by Dr. Cohen at his Thousand Oaks, Calif., private practice.

headshot of Dr. Glenn D. Cohen, M.D.
Dr. Glenn D. Cohen, M.D.

If you thought Cohen’s hands/tires analogy was particularly insightful, wait to you read his prevention tips. They are as follows:

1) “Start by minimizing all unnecessary usage of computerized devices; especially miniature gadgets.”

Does that mean driving less reduces the wear-and-tear on my new Dunlops, too? Whodathunkit?

2) “When possible, speak on the phone and avoid e-mailing and texting.”

So talking on the phone can actually be therapeutic?

3) “Pay attention to how you carry out your activities. Correct posture and ergonomic positioning may help.”

Wait, if it hurts to type with my thumb bent to the right, I should straighten it out?

4) “If you are required to type for your job, find the largest keyboard with the biggest spacing between keys so your hands are not working in a cramped space.”

BlackBerry Bluetooth keyboard, here I come…

5) “It is also beneficial to take occasional breaks to stretch your extremities.”

I think I’m starting to see a trend here: The less typing I do, the lesser risk I face of contracting or worsening the dreaded BlackBerry Thumb.

Is it me, or are these “tips” all really just common sense? I think I’ll steer clear of Dr. Cohen. As someone who receives countless press releases each day, the thought of my medical professional pitching his services this way makes me feel, well, ill.

If you’re interested, more information on Cohen and his services can be found on his website, aptly located at