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The Real Concern of “Selfie Wrist”

What is Selfie Wrist? 

There has been reports in the media that doctors are increasingly treating people with “Selfie Wrist”- wrist pain supposedly caused by excessive selfie taking. Is there really such a thing?

This is not the first time a catchy name has been given to a pain condition, “Text Neck” did the rounds a little while ago and “Nurses’ Back”, “Netball Knee”, “Swimmer’s Shoulders”… etc have yet to fully disappear from our vernacular.

Personally, I don’t support demonising a movement because there is no such thing as bad movements, there are only movements you do not have movement capacity for.

Movement Capacity vs Demands of Movement

Movement capacity is a term I use to describe the sum of your mobility, strength, coordination, body awareness, spatial awareness, skill, endurance, motor control plus knowledge of the movement. When you do not have the appropriate movement capacity for any given movement, then you will naturally have a higher risk of injury than someone who is well conditioned for the same movement.

Even for someone who has a high capacity for a specific movement, it is still essential to consider the demand for that movement such as the amount and frequency of movement. Anyone doing too much of any activity without adequate recovery can end up in strife. Skill does not exempt one from pain and injuries.

There is no such thing as bad movements, there are only movements you do not have movement capacity for.
Selina @MoveMedics
Can You Really Get Selfie Wrist?

With that being said, it is fair to say that it is indeed possible for even the most elite selfie experts to selfie so much that they develop wrist pain. Right?

Sure, it IS possible. But… 

For an average healthy person (without any pre-existing injury or frailties from illness or medical conditions) to selfie so much that they exceed their capacity to manipulate a small object intermittently, they have got to be taking a bucket-tonne of selfies all day, everyday! If this is indeed the mechanism of injury, then the question that begs to be asked is: “Why are you taking so many selfies?”.

The Mental Health Implications

I am not a psychologist but if my patient presented to me with pain brought about by such a repetitive behaviour, I would want to understand what is driving this behaviour. Is it to boost their self esteem? Is it a form of escapism and if so, what from? Are they chasing likes and comments on social media for validation? Do they have a smart phone addiction? We know that people with poorer mental health are more likely to experience pain; how does this tie in with the need to selfie until your wrist hurts? These I believe, are the real concerns of “Selfie Wrist”.

Taking selfies is fun and having photos to reminisce about good times past is great. However, beyond the joys of photography and a seemingly innocuous case of wrist pain can lurk a shadow masking serious health concerns and these need to be addressed by the appropriate health professionals. We are very lucky here in Australia that we can access an invaluable tool for our wellbeing, the Mental Health Care Plan, through Medicare. If you need support for your mental wellbeing, please check in with your GP who will get the process started for you.

Beyond the joys of photography and a seemingly innocuous case of wrist pain can lurk a shadow masking serious mental health concerns.
Selina @MoveMedics
Tips for Healthy Selfie

So are there anything selfie enthusiasts can do for healthy enjoyment of selfie taking? Of course! There’re always some things you can do for self care so here’re a few tips for you:

Selfie taking, as simple a movement as it appears, does present with a few unique challenges:

  1. Phone size – Mobile phones can get pretty big these days and if you have a case as well it can weigh a bit.
  1. Unaccustomed positions – To capture that perfect selfie does require one to try out different poses and angles, you may end up twisting your wrist in all sorts of unusual positions, holding a small weight at an unaccustomed angle for an extended period of time can be a strain.
  1. Manicure – When you have long nails that extend well past your fingertips you are no longer able to use a strong, functional grip which means you most likely resort to awkward and weak grips for selfie activities.

With these in mind, I have the following suggestions for you:

  1. Use a timer – Set yourself a 10-second timer so you have time to frame your shot and don’t have to worry about wringing your hand to hit the trigger without dropping your phone.
  1. Take a video instead – Set your phone to record then take screenshots of your fav frames.
  1. Invest in a selfie stick – My fav is the Joby GripTight PRO TelePod (not an affiliate link). I mainly use it as a tripod on my desk to film videos for social media but the extended grip feature is strong and solid for selfies. It even comes with a bluetooth remote to trigger your shutter!

Happy snapping!

’Til next time, Be Free In Your Movement™.

B. Phty
This information is not medical advice. Got health concerns? Consult a real-life health professional.
Views are my own.

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Selina Tannenberg

Selina Tannenberg

Selina is a health content creator-musician-physiotherapist based in Brisbane, Australia. She is the director of MoveMedics and its subsidiaries, Voice Physio and Pole Physio. She is passionate about dispelling misinformation, simplifying healthcare, and empowering people with evidence-based knowledge for healthy and pain-free living. She enjoys running, attempting handstands, Formula 1 Racing, and publishes music under her nom de plume, Asirus.

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