Falling asleep at night with sore muscles used to be the sign of a great workout. But if you’re waking up stiff and achy without any crossflow yoga to blame, you could have a case of selfie elbow, the latest tech-induced ailment to sweep smartphone addicts everywhere.
Before you laugh (or take a Snapchat of you laughing so you can put the butterfly crown filter on it), the condition—and the pain associated with it—are legit. People are holding their elbows in a bent position for extended periods of time in order to get the best angle for their selfies and it’s resulting in strain on the tendons, muscle soreness, and overuse injuries.
“Selfie elbow 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,” Mary Ann Wilmarth, a doctor of physical therapy and spokeswoman for the American Physical Therapy Association told The Washington Post. She added that inflammation from taking selfies happens because you’re extending your arm but also trying to keep a firm grip on your phone as you do—a modern movement that our bodies just aren’t designed to do on a regular basis. This is basically the definition of a #firstworldproblem.
The major difference between selfie elbow and tennis elbow is that one is the result of a killer workout while the other comes from a decidedly less sweaty pursuit. This comes on the heels of other tech-related physical conditions such as “gaming thumb,” “swiping finger,” “texting neck,” and other issues caused by obsessions with staying digitally connected. Not only are e-readers, smartphones, and tablets causing injuries, but people also losing muscle mass and strength in certain underutilized areas of the body. Need proof? One recent study explained how tech use contributes to Why Millennial Women Have the Worst Grip Strength In History.
Thankfully the solution is as simple as the problem itself, said Wilmarth. Build technology time-outs into your day to give your limbs a rest. Get regular exercise to improve your circulation, and make sure you’re stretching and strengthening all parts of your body daily. And the next time your elbow (or neck or fingers) cramp up during an iPhone photo shoot, maybe take that as a not-so-subtle reminder to focus on enjoying your experience rather than documenting every second of it. Or, at the very least, just cave and finally get a selfie stick!