‘WhatsAppitis’ — First Case Reported in The Lancet Medical Journal

WhatsAppitisA doctor from the General University Hospital in Granada in southern Spain has reported the first case of “WhatsAppitis” in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet.  The report relates to a 34 year old woman in Granada, 27 weeks pregnant, who woke up one morning suffering from bilateral wrist pain.

Reportedly the woman had no history of any sort of trauma to her wrists and had not been partaking in any serious physical activity in the days leading up to the hospital visit.

According to the Spanish online newspaper, The Local, people in Spain are renowned for using the WhatsApp messaging app more than other people throughout Europe, and it seems this lady was no exception.  The woman apparently works as an emergency medicine physician and had been on duty for many long hours.  The day after this, she thoroughly overindulged her messaging habit, catching up with friends’ texts from the day before.

According to Inés M. Fernandez-Guerrero, the doctor who presented the report, the woman had been using her smartphone to send messages for at least six hours.  She had held the phone, weighing in at 130g, for all that time, making continuous thumb movements to send the messages.

X-rays could not be carried out due to the patient’s pregnancy.  Examination of the patient’s hands revealed “bilateral palpation of the radial styloid and mobilization of the thumb.”  After using the Phalen maneuver (a diagnostic test for carpal tunnel syndrome) and Tinel’s sign (to detect irritated nerves), both possible diagnoses were ruled out. However, the Finkelstein test, which is used to diagnose DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis, was found to be positive in the patient’s case.

The final diagnosis of the injury by Fernandez-Guerrero, as reported in The Lancet medical journal, was “bilateral extensor pollicis longus tendinitis” of the thumb.  In layman’s terms, this relates to damage to a skeletal muscle on the dorsal side of the forearm and will now more commonly be known as “WhatsAppitis.”

In the report, published in the March 22 edition of The Lancet, Fernandez-Guerrero advised that the diagnosis for the woman’s severe wrist pain was “WhatsAppitis.” She also reported the more scientific syndrome name of “Tenosynovitis”, which is apparently a kind of tendon injury which can also be caused by persistent texting.

According to the doctor, “Tenosynovitis” was originally reported in children, but nowadays is also being diagnosed in adults.  She said that texting using smartphones and other cellular devices could well have started off a new disease and that physicians should be aware of these newly-emerging disorders.

The report also brought to mind the condition known as “Nintendinitis” or “Nintendo thumb,” first reported by doctors back in the 1990s.  In that case the symptoms were related to playing video games and varied from minor blisters right through to the more serious diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome.

When walking in the streets, it is more and more evident that people are becoming almost addicted to their mobile devices.  While driving and  walking while texting are risky enough, it seems there are even more, and painful, consequences to the overuse of our modern technologies.

After reading about the case in The Lancet Medical Journal along with the resulting diagnosis of “WhatsAppitis,” it seems it could be an idea to just leave that phone at home.  Better yet, wouldn’t it be great if people returned to the old-school methods of meeting their friends, face to face, for a chat.

By Anne Sewell


The Lancet


The Local



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