Part 1-Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation highlights the dangers of improper smartphone use: text thumb
It’s more or less an unavoidable fact that in today’s times, the better technology gets, the more we tend to use and rely on it. This likely rings most true with smartphones, and the unfortunate effect from this process is that with the continual increase in smartphone use, we’re also seeing an increase in resulting medical conditions. In the first of a two-part series, we’ll look into text thumb.
Whether you’ve heard of the term or not, if you happen to spend a large portion of your free time texting and typing away on a mobile device, you should be no stranger to text thumb. Most people who develop text thumb experience feelings of pain, soreness and sometimes cramping primarily in their thumbs, but it can also radiate outwards to the elbow, wrist and forearm since they’re all connected.
The problem is our thumbs are designed for gripping and grasping objects, not for repeatedly pounding on a screen to send texts or play games for countless hours every day. For this reason, text thumb is classified as a repetitive stress injury, which can arise from performing any activity—like making espresso, flipping burgers or turning a screwdriver—over and over for an extended period of time.
In the case of text thumb, the repetitive, demanding motion of texting places too much stress on the ligaments and muscles in the thumb and surrounding area, which can lead to irritation. This can go on to negatively affect grip strength and range of motion, and in cases that aren’t treated properly, can eventually cause long-term damage and even tendinitis (inflammation of a tendon).
Eliminating all texting at all times is an unrealistic request, but there are some basic steps you can take to prevent and treat text thumb before it gets out of control:
- Keep texting to a minimal: send short texts, use autocorrect and make phone calls or send e-mails for conversations with multiple exchanges
- Significantly reduce or eliminate playing games from your daily usage
- Increase your phone’s sensitivity setting so you don’t have to type so hard
- If you do experience pain for a week or less, apply ice to the affected area for 15-20 minutes; for lasting pain, apply heat with a hot towel or pad
- Don’t grip your phone too hard while texting or during any other use
- Stretch out your fingers, arms and wrist on a regular basis, especially if they’re feeling sore; you can easily use one hand to stretch the other back and forth or a stress ball to stretch and strengthen hand and wrist muscles
- Maintain good posture, especially in the neck, which can impact the wrists
- See a physical therapist for additional stretching and massage, which will improve flexibility and reduce discomfort in the affected area
You may not realize it, but too much smartphone use can actually be hazardous to your health. For any text-related pain or soreness, Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation, with four locations in Woodbridge, Union, Somerville and Edison, NJ can help. Call 732-494-0895 to learn more or to schedule an appointment.