Is Selfie Elbow a new condition? What should you do if you have it?
Is your elbow burning or does it feel like it's going to "get stuck" or fall off from taking so many selfies? (Or just texting on your phone or using your iPad?) You may have an increasingly-common Repetitive Strain Injury, many are starting to call "Selfie Elbow"
But, clearly, although the term Selfie Elbow is being used to describe what sounds like a "new" injury – (with no shortage of buzz around it, thanks to awareness brought by Hoda Kotb, of NBC's 'Today Show' and Elle.com's recent story. See below)...
The only thing that's really new about it, is this relatively recent action of holding a phone up and repeatedly snapping selfie pics, which so many people are now "overdoing" that's causing it.
The litany of tech and other repetitive activity injuries is growing as fast as people can become addicted to their new favorite activity or device or. Just to name a few off the top:
- BlackBerry Thumb
- Gamer's Wrist
- iPad Hand
- Text Neck and Texter's Thumb
- ChuckIt! Elbow or Dog Walker's Elbow (Not tech but still a device of sorts)
What these vexing, painful conditions have in common is they're all 'Repetitive Strain Injuries' or RSI's - Which negatively affect your muscles and tendons in a weird and not-so-obvious way.
They are not sudden injuries, like a big tear, (sprain or strain) instead they are slow, gradual, cumulative injuries that creep up on you like a prankster on your blind side - And Selfie Elbow is no exception!
And if you're suffering from odd symptoms in your elbow area - that you think may come from taking selfies, (or simply using your ipad, laptop or smartphone for texting and surfing) - you may be developing one of these injuries.
(NOTE: It's probably either Golfer's Elbow or Tennis Elbow, but more on that shortly.)
Podcast: Selfie Elbow - A Painful, New Injury? (Yes And No)
Here's the downloadable version of this Selfie Elbow podcast you can keep by clicking the "download" link under the player below - And please subscribe on your favorite platform:
Table Of Contents Of This Article:
(Links jump down the page to various sections of this article.)
- Don't Ignore These Early Warning Signs Of Selfie Elbow!
- 'Selfie Elbow' Is The New, New Thing, Right?
- Selfie Elbow Is Likely Either Golfer's Or Tennis Elbow
- Inflammation Is NOT The Cause Of Your Selfie Elbow
- Here's How NOT To Treat Your Injury
- So, How SHOULD You Treat Your Selfie Elbow Injury?
- Should You Get A 'Selfie Stick' To Take The Strain Off?
- Should You Stop Taking Selfies And Rest?
- Self Help For Selfie Elbow! (Golfer's Or Tennis Elbow)
- How The Selfie Elbow Story Broke
Fortunately, though, since they happen gradually, you should get plenty of warning signs, which if you pay attention to and take the right actions on, can help you avoid a more serious form of this injury. Signs like:
- Persistent muscle tension
- Muscle fatigue and achiness
- Sudden twinges of pain in your elbow, wrist or forearm
- And waking up with a stiff, sore arm in the morning!
Now, before you dash away for some ice, anti-inflammatories or a brace, I promise I will get to the "How do I treat this thing?" part shortly, and you can scroll down and skip to that part by clicking here if you want: How to treat Selfie Elbow
Because I'm going to contradict pretty much everything you've been advised to do and not to do about it! (For very important reasons this whole site is dedicated to teaching you and other Golfer's, Tennis and Selfie Elbow sufferers.)
Just for context, it seems that Elle magazine online seems to have started the buzz, picking up on Hoda Kotb's complaints about her aching elbow, while hosting the Today Show.
"When you take the picture, your arm is up, bent in a weird way and you just click, click, click — think about how many you take: 20, 30, or 40. Selfie Elbow, everyone has it!"
Hoda Kotb, The Today Show, quoted by Elle.com
But the credit for coining the term "Selfie Elbow" may actually go to The University Of Minnesota's 'HEALTH TALK' and their April 1, 2014 (April Fools Day) joke piece about a fake medical study:
"In a study published today in the journal Human Medicine, U of M researchers present data linking a recent rise in elbow injuries to the practice of taking a selfie..."
New Data Shows Dramatic Rise In A New Form Of Tendinitis Known As 'Selfie Elbow' - healthtalk.umn.edu 2014/04/01 - by: Justin Paquette
(Yes, this study and the journal "Human Medicine" is fake. But now, two years later it's a "REAL" medical condition. Were they only HALF joking or are they eerily prescient?)
This video by Wochit Entertainment, paraphrases the Elle article (to follow) delivering a snappy, 1-minute overview of the buzz around this "NEW, New" condition, that's all the rage right now:
"It's like Tennis Elbow or Golfer's Elbow, minus any actual exercise - other than taking selfies,"
Sure, you may never play tennis or golf! – but Tennis Elbow is a condition that millions of people end up getting – even if they've never picked up a racket or a club, and there are dozens, if not hundreds of ways to wind up with it.
So chances are, that Selfie Elbow pain you're experiencing is just a new twist on an old problem that has been plaguing racket-sport enthusiasts, dog lovers, gardeners, hard-working contractors and tired office workers for decades... And that "old" problem rearing it's ugly head is likely:
- It's likely Tennis Elbow – if it affects the tendons that attach to the outside (the 'Lateral' part) of your elbow at a bony knob called an Epicondyle – Thus: 'Lateral Epicondylitis' (Or better yet, 'Epicondylosis') – How to treat your own Tennis Elbow
- It's likely Golfer's Elbow – if it affects the tendons that attach to the inside (the 'Medial' part) of your elbow at THAT bony Epicondyle knob – Hence: 'Medial Epicondylitis' (Or better yet, 'Epicondylosis') – How to treat your own Golfer's Elbow
- Regardless of what activity caused them – (Whether it's from selfie taking, tennis, golf, cooking, gardening or whatever)
Does that mean you need to stop taking selfies? Not necessarily – But whatever you do, don't follow the “common wisdom” when it comes to treating it either!
You will hear and read almost everywhere that inflammation is to blamed for your injury and the pain. Almost everyone says it: Doctors, Physical Therapists, Athletic Trainers (and Journalists)
There's only one problem: It's simply not true!
It get's a little complicated, but the short version is that what's most often going on with these kinds of gradual 'Chronic' tendon injuries, whether Golfer's, Tennis or Selfie Elbow, is degeneration - not inflammation TendinOSIS not TendonITIS
Here's the crazy part, inflammation is actually part of your healing process and not something you want to chase away.
I know that doesn't make sense at first, because we're told over and over again that it's the problem, when, in fact, it's only a symptom - And not one to be feared and loathed.
You can read the full story here if you want the details, including medical studies and other references: Tossing The Tendonitis Myth – Why Tennis Elbow Is NOT Inflammatory
So, basically, the entire "common wisdom" / "standard treatment approach" for these injuries is misdirected because it vilifies and persecutes a necessary symptom of the injury, (inflammation) and tries to suppress it - instead of dealing with the underlying injury process.
- Why Icing your elbow is wrong: Don't Use Ice To Treat Your Elbow
- Why wearing a brace is a bad idea: How Braces Can Slow Your Healing
- Why Cortisone shots are the biggest mistake: Cortisone Shots: Damaging AND Ineffective
I call this the "Resting, Hoping and Waiting" and the "Immobilize, Cool and Suppress" approach, and although it may help ease your symptoms temporarily (I don't deny that) it doesn't address the real problem, so the injury tends to get worse and the pain tends to come back with a vengeance. (What I call The Vicious Cycle.)
The standard medical approach (incorrectly blaming inflammation for the problem, in spite of their own research to the contrary - and simple common sense) seeks to immobilize the area with a brace, cool the area with ice and suppress inflammation with pills and sometimes Cortisone shots.
I recommend that most Golfer's and Tennis Elbow (and now Selfie Elbow) sufferers follow the OPPOSITE approach as in "Mobilize, Warm and Allow!"
To mobilize the muscles and tendons involved (gently) instead of immobilizing them with a brace...
To warm the area to stimulate blood flow and allow the inflammatory process to do what it's there to do, which is part of the healing process.
No cooling / inhibiting / suppressing ice, anti-inflammatory pills or Cortisone shots.
The one area of agreement is exercise - which is undeniably essential for rehab and long-term injury recovery and prevention of re-injuries...
BUT, instead of starting rehab exercises early on, I don't see them as the priority or proper first step.
I'm convinced that for most sufferers, the priority should be on mobilizing your muscles and tendons - Releasing muscle tension, sticky 'Adhesions' and Scar Tissue, and stretching frequently.
One recommendation that is being made is to use an extender device called a Selfie Stick.
This might take some of the load off your forearm and wrist muscles by allowing you to keep your elbow in a more natural, functional position; bent and closer to your side...
(However, by enabling you to take more selfies faster and easier it may compound the problem!)
You'll still be performing repetitive motions that may still be too much for those muscles - especially if they're already injured.
The Selfie Stick is probably a really useful tool for the uninjured "Selfaholic!" No doubt about it.
(It may just be a half measure for the Selfie Elbow sufferer, though. Let me know what you think in the comment section if you own one!)
This may be the best news I have for you: Yes, it's just plain common sense that you should try to reduce or avoid the activity or strain that is clearly causing your problem, and rest.
But, the truth is that Rest Is Overrated! "Total rest" and immobilization is not the answer to chronic injuries like these
"Active rest," as in gentle frequent movement, (but reducing the stressful activity, if possible) is better for healing most soft tissue (muscle and tendon) injuries - especially when they are not recent, sudden and traumatic injuries (like a sprained ankle)
If you can reduce or avoid the offending, aggravating activity, taking hella selfies, in this case, great! - But if you treat your muscles and tendons the right way, you may not need to.
You don't need to stop living, typing, cooking and working (and taking seflie snaps!) in order to heal.
If you'd like to learn more about how to treat your own Tennis, Golfer's or Selfie Elbow, check out my self-help program.
Although, you may not need something this comprehensive if you're just starting to have symptoms and if they get better if you cut down on the selfie taking or other repetitive motions.
You may be able to do a little stretching, workout a little more at the gym or take more walks and get more fresh air and cardio exercise...
But if you find that your symptoms are really persisting and starting to affect other areas of your life, then maybe it's time for some really focused "intervention" and some professional guidance.
DO seek professional, medical help if you feel you need it, but don't be surprised if all you get is a brace, a cold pack and a prescription for anti-inflammatory pills (and a bit of a cold shoulder - as these injuries are often not taken very seriously - at least not at first.)
I've been treating these kinds of injuries with advanced "Massage" / Neuromuscular Therapy Techniques for over 10 years very successfully, however - and I will gladly teach you my best methods in my self-help program.
And if you happen to live in the Marin County / San Francisco Bay Area, here's my clinic website, Body In Balance
So, if this approach makes a lot of sense to you and the standard approach seems questionable, (spend some time reading and watching videos on this site and I'm confident it will) then my program may be just what you need.
I'll show you through step-by-step videos how to release stubborn muscle tension and tendon scar tissue, stretch in a much safer and productive way, and what exercises to do (when you're making progress and are in less pain - the best time)...
If you have pain at your outer elbow go to: Tennis Elbow Classroom
If you have pain at your inner elbow go to: Golfer's Elbow Classroom
(You will actually get access to both programs either way, but if you have one injury or the other, primarily, then start with that program's link and description.)
Here's more about how the Selfie Elbow Story originated, took off and is now, as of July, 2016, going viral, if you're curious (with links to sources)
Learn To Treat And Heal Your Own Tennis Or Golfer's Elbow Right Here:
I'll be your personal tutor guiding you through easy-to-follow lessons, where you'll get the therapy techniques, key stretches and essential exercises you need to treat and recover from your injury at home.
Just watch the videos, follow along and start putting an end to your elbow pain today.
Tennis Elbow sufferers, get started here: Tennis Elbow Classroom
Golfer's Elbow sufferers, get started here: Golfer's Elbow Classroom