Effects of Smartphones on Our Fingers and Hands

Effects of Smartphones on Our Fingers and Hands

By Antonio Lombardo, PT, DPT, USA-W, USA-PL, CPT, Pn.1

Smartphones have become a lifestyle must have for most of us, from senior citizens to young children. These devices help us with learning, playing games, sharing things we like, liking stuff other people share, sending emails, watching videos, and staying in touch with loved ones through video calls, voice calls and of course text.

Although smartphones have made our lives easier, an increasing number of people have complained of finger, hand, and elbow pain because of using their device. In non-medical terms, these conditions have been referred to as “text claw” and “cell phone elbow”.

So are smartphones really having a negative impact on the health of our upper extremities?

In the past 10 years, studies have shown that there is an increase in hand or thumb pain with symptoms of pain and numbness. In fact, according to a survey by 02 (a mobile provider), in the last 5 years, forty three percent of smartphone users have experienced thumb pain, cell phone elbow and text claw!

What is Text Claw?

“Text Claw” is a non-medical term that describes finger cramping and aching muscles that come from constant gaming, scrolling, and texting on smartphones. It can also be called, “Cell Phone Elbow”, described numbness or tingling in the ring and pinky fingers that occurs after when the elbow is bent for long periods of time. The actual medical terms for these conditions are cubital tunnel syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome.

These limitations are not fun in the slightest, even though you get them while having fun on your phone! The good news is, with some slight modifications and stretching, you can be back texting your friends in no time and pain free!

Treatments for Text Claw

The following stretches can be used to reduce discomfort and improve flexibility.

  1. Prayer Position Stretch: This particular stretch helps loosen up your wrists and forearms. To do this stretch, start by putting your fingers and palms together with your fingers pointed upwards and your elbows pointing outward like you’re praying. Hold this position for 30 seconds or more. To increase the intensity, slowly lower your hands while keeping them together.
  1. Reverse Prayer Position Stretch: Remain in the same position as you were in for the prayer position stretch, except now you are going to press the backs of your hands together with your fingers facing down. Hold this stretch for 30 or more seconds. To increase the intensity, slowly raise your hands while keeping them together and keeping your elbows pointed outward.

You use your fingers and hands in countless activities throughout the day. From texting to typing to driving to eating, your fingers and wrists are essential to your overall quality of life. Taking care of them – especially when you’re texting or gaming for several hours of days – can help prevent conditions like tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Use these exercises regularly to enjoy pain-free fingers and wrists.

If you, family member or friend is suffering from finger, hand or elbow pain, Professional Physical Therapy can help. As a patient, you can expect an individualized recovery plan, using state-of-the-art technology and practices to get you back to enjoying life.  If you wish to consult with one of our skilled physical therapists, visit Professional Physical Therapy.

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