Phones used to be used only for making calls. They used to sit on end-tables and be attached to walls. To talk on the phone meant to sit in one place for as long as the conversation took. Ah, nostalgia! The days of stationary telephones are long gone. More than that, our phones have become somewhat of a lifeline because we use them for just about everything!
Teens and adults routinely use their phones for texting, reading and answering emails, connecting on social media, mapping routes to new places, listening to music and books, taking photos, and surfing the web to see what to make for dinner. In a recent poll by Flurry mobile analytics, researchers found that many Americans are using their phone about 5 hours a day. All this scrolling and typing can do a number on the hands.
If you use your phone this much, chances are good that you have some degree of discomfort in your hands. Phone use is often the cause of thumb pain and even wrist and elbow pain. There are even names for common smartphone overuse injuries, like trigger thumb and trigger finger. Formally, the hand symptoms that occur from too much scrolling, snapping, and texting characterize stenosing tenosynovitis. This is a complicated term that essentially describes inflammation in the critical joints of the thumb and hand. Wrist symptoms indicate carpal tunnel syndrome, and elbow symptoms suggest cubital tunnel syndrome. Recently, a new term has been developed: smartphone pinky, which describes the abnormal curvature that develops in the pinkies due to the way a smartphone is held.
Using Your Smartphone Wisely
Until smartphones can be made ergonomically, we must rely on strategies to keep our hands from suffering unnecessary pain. Helpful tips include:
- Send shorter texts by hand and longer texts using voice-to-text. Better yet, just make a phone call.
- Learn to use the swipe feature to minimize hand movements while texting.
- Take breaks from phone use; it’s good for your hands, your eyes, and your mind!
- Perform gentle stretches for your fingers, wrists, and forearms.
- Set your phone down on a table so you can text with both hands instead of oddly-bent fingers.
Usually, hand pain that results from smartphone use can improve with rest. However, extensive use may require treatment such as prescribed medication and splinting. Do you need treatment for hand pain? Call Advanced Orthopedics and Hand Surgery Institute in New Jersey at 973-942-1315.