Gamers Beware: One Prominent Hand Surgeon has a Good Grasp on Early Onset Arthritis
Hand maladies are hitting more people at a younger age
Once upon a time, arthritis was strictly an “old person’s disease” that only affected grandma and grandpa; it was something that children and young adults were positive they’d never get.
However, one prominent hand surgeon has noted that more and more of his patients are coming in with these traditional elderly-related injuries at much younger ages.
“Until recently, arthritis tended to hit only senior citizens. Now, it’s hitting seniors in high school,” said Dr. Mark Ciaglia, the Houston area-based hand surgeon and head of Woodlands Center for Special Surgery.
Dr. Ciaglia credits several reasons for this massive increase in hand-related conditions that have long-term ramifications. “The average person in the U.S. sends more than 40 emails daily and spends 23 hours a week texting,” he said. “Also, the average 13-year-old gamer spends more than 30 hours a week playing Xbox or PS4.”
The repetitive motion, combined with the poor posture that comes with constantly looking down at your phone or handheld device, puts too much stress on joints, tendons and muscles. This can easily result in injuries to not only the wrists, hands and arms, but also the neck and spine.
As more people of all ages are beginning to feel pain in their hands and wrists, the danger of self-diagnosing online increases. Instead of visiting a doctor, concerned individuals trust the Internet to explain the cause of their grief, which Ciaglia laments is an easy path to misdiagnosis and resulting long-term pain and suffering.
“I warn my patients about earning their medical degrees from Google or WebMD,” he said with a laugh. “While it’s good to research possible reasons for any pain you may have, at the end of the day the most important thing you can do for your health is to visit a doctor and get to the heart of what’s really going on.”
Ciaglia warns against self-diagnosis of any pain, but particularly in the hand and wrist. “Pain of course is our body’s way of letting us know something is wrong. The human hand has 27 bones in it, many of them small and more fragile than, say, your leg bones or ribs. When someone has pain in those other areas, they seek immediate relief; however, for some reason they let hand pain continue for a while before seeking out professional medical assistance.”
Wrist pain can be caused by other maladies such as pinched nerves, ligament injuries or degradation, or tendinitis.
“Increasingly, pinched nerves and arthritis aren’t age specific, but more lifestyle specific,” he said. Beyond the stereotypical sufferer such as a data entry clerk, he points out that other occupations and activities involving hairstylists, gamers, professional drivers and amateur athletes account for a high number of patients.
“Without proper treatment, your hand issue, even if it is only a minor problem, can escalate to an extreme. It’s vital you see a professional; over-the-counter treatments get over-the-counter results, which you can’t afford.”
Sean K. Thompson
Dr. Mark Ciaglia is a renowned orthopedic surgeon and founder of Woodlands Center for Special Surgery, a center that specializes in hand procedures. He grew up in Chicago, Illinois, where he studied biology and chemistry at Illinois Wesleyan University. After graduating with honors, he completed medical school at Nova Southeaster University College of Medicine in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Dr. Ciaglia then moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he trained in general and trauma surgery for five years. Dr. Ciaglia was accepted to the Single Hand Surgery & Microsurgical Fellowship at Beth Israel Albert Einstein in Manhattan, New York, where he perfected the science of hand surgery. Dr. Ciaglia lives in The Woodlands, Texas.