Watch Out For Selfie Elbow!

Dressed to impress and armed with cellphones to keep their legions of social media followers happy, selfie-takers are everywhere these days. Their numbers (and followers!) have multiplied rapidly, and include regular folks and celebrities alike. “Selfie” was even the word of the year in 2013. Ellen DeGeneres did it at the Oscars. David Ortiz did it with President Obama. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi is known for documenting his travels through selfies. Meanwhile, an unceasing stream of selfies around the globe has become a matter of serious concern. Now making the headlines: the “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 taking selfies. More specifically, the discomfort comes from the uncomfortable grip she was putting her hand in each time she snapped a picture.

You may be shocked, but be warned, as the condition can catch up fast with Indian youth who are obsessed with clicking self-portraits to impress their friends on social media, experts say. Although India is yet to have many "Selfie Elbow" patients, there’s little doubt that selfie obsession is here to stay.

Like tennis elbow or golfer's elbow, an addiction to selfie-taking can cause a pain in your primary pic-snapping elbow. And the day is not too far off when we’ll hear or read about an Indian teenager spotted with this condition, experts say.

"Selfie-taking is emerging as a sport-like activity in which everyone can participate and share self-portraits with the world. And like any other sport, it too has its share of injuries," Dr. Dhananjay Gupta, Director (Bone and Joints) at Fortis Flt. Lt. Rajan Dhall Hospital, told IANS.

Clicking too many selfies can impact the upper limbs, elbow and shoulder muscles, which in turn can lead to functions getting degraded.

"A working person suffering from this might have to take off for a few weeks as clicking too many selfies is a major health hazard," added Dr. NishchalChugh, Director (Joint Replacement) at Saroj Super Specialty Hospital.

The problem with a lot of technology injuries is overuse. We saw this with the BlackBerry smartphones, when they came in we had problems with BlackBerry thumb, and everyone was having issues with that. 

In Kotb's case, her doctor recommended icing her elbow and certain exercises to help relieve the soreness.

"Although it is too early to comment on the excessive use of the elbow or thumb while clicking a selfie, there is always a possibility that by incorrect stretching of the tendons, an injury can be caused to joints like the elbow," noted Dr. Raman Kant Aggarwal, Director (Shoulder Surgery Department) at Fortis Bone and Joint Institute.

"Selfie elbow is more of an abnormal and repetitive loading of muscles around the elbow, leading to micro ruptures which cause inflammation and pain. This ultimately heals with scarring and causes recurrent pain," Gupta said.

Even minimal stress can trigger severe elbow pain. This leads to painful inhibition of muscles resulting in further weakening.

"This builds up a vicious cycle and severe loss of function," Gupta stated.

From gaming and chatting to selfie-taking, texting and tweeting, there has been a rapid increase in these types of injuries among teenagers. Experts suggest that the selfie-taking habit should be kept at a reasonable level to avoid such a condition.

"Apply ice packs and take some anti-inflammatory medications in case of emergency. You may require a physiotherapist for modalities and muscle stretching and strengthening exercises if the trouble rises," Gupta said. The experts also suggested the use of a selfie stick to avoid stress on the muscles.

"Use both hands, alternatively, to take selfies. This prevents build-up of stress on only one arm muscle group," Gupta recommended.