No Pain, No Follower Gain: “Selfie Elbow” Causing Problems


Have you heard of “tennis elbow” – faced by greats like Serena Williams, who just earned singles and doubles trophies at Wimbledon last weekend? This injury results from the strain on the extensor muscles and tendons running down the forearm, reports the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. It doesn’t just affect tennis players, but also weightlifters, and even plumbers and chefs, who are often bending and straining their arms at odd angles.

Reportedly, it also affects selfie-takers by putting unique stress on the elbow. It isn’t a big deal for most people, but if you’re a serial selfie superstar, you’re definitely at risk.

“Selfie elbow” first came into the public eye last month when Hota Kotb from the Today Show told audiences about it. Kotb had gone to her doctor with elbow pains. “Are you playing tennis or ping-pong?” the doctor asked her. No, she said, she’d been taking selfies.

As a co-anchor of a major morning talk show, Kotb likely feels obligated to keep up with social media. Her Instagram has over 2,000 posts. Not all of them are selfies, of course, but a quick perusal through her page makes it clear why her elbow might be feeling the burn.

Although “selfie elbow” seems like a laughable (or humerus) complaint, it’s actually part of a more serious epidemic.

Technology use can cause all kinds of physical problems for people, whether from sitting in an office chair all day long, or hunching over their phone to reply to texts. The Washington Post wrote an article on how bad posture related to technology use causes nerve and muscle pain, and, long-term, can even cause circulation and gastrointestinal issues, according to Fitness Magazine.

While “selfie elbow” is obviously a more localized issue, it still says a lot about how some of us are inseparable from our devices. Is it a symptom of a larger problem? On the other hand, Kotb is a good example of someone who takes “life” selfies instead of “vanity” selfies: her photos are with friends and family, commemorating specific events (Speaking of, Hota Kotb’s doctor recommends you should take turns on which hand you use to take selfies). And that’s important, too, even if a condition like “selfie elbow” sounds like it only afflicts the self-involved.

It’s easy to scoff at modern first-world culture and the fact that our elbows could hurt from snapping too many photos of ourselves, but “selfie elbow” could also be symbolic of how much we value our memories and the people we share these selfies with.

The Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends the Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation (RICE) method for a pained elbow. Don’t let it cramp your style.

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