Smartphones have become an essential tool in today’s fast-paced, interconnected society. On average we tap, click, and swipe them a whopping 2,617 times a day.
Our ever-increasing reliance on our phone is not surprising given the instant gratification they offer. Communication, entertainment, information – all it takes is a few taps and anything we want is delivered within seconds.
But there is a price to pay for this handheld convenience. Health problems caused by smartphones are more common than you might think.
Read on to discover some of the sneaky ways your smartphone use may be taking a toll on your body and discover how to ensure your digital consumption doesn’t result in future pain.
Smartphones are designed to be slim and compact for easy pocket storage – not to fit the hand ergonomically. By gripping the phone and flicking your thumb across the screen rapidly and at length each day, you run the risk of aggravating the median nerve in the wrist. This can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome which results in ongoing pain, numbness, and tingling into the hand.
Most of us have felt the ache of a sore elbow after a long phone conversation. Clutching a smartphone for hours can irritate the tendons and muscles that attach to the forearm. In heavy users, this can cause an injury called golfer’s elbow, which can affect your ability to flex your wrist and fingers.
Similar to golfer’s elbow, this injury is also caused by gripping your phone tightly for prolonged periods of time. This overuse condition can cause more serious issues such as dysfunction of the hand, and even degeneration of the extensor tendon which connect to the wrist – possibly resulting in a trip to the surgeon’s office.
Look around in any crowd and you’ll see people looking down at their phones. This forward head posture can be stressful for your body. Considering that the average head weighs between 2.3 and 5 kilograms, you can imagine how holding it forward puts a large amount of extra pressure on your spine and shoulder muscles.
If you suffer from chronic headaches and shoulder tightness, your head’s bent posture could be one of the causes.
From an evolutionary perspective, thumbs have always been one of our most handy features (pun intended). But never in human history have they been so overworked as during heavy smartphone use.
Texting thumb is a modern-day overuse injury to the thumb’s tendons. The inflammation of the condition causes pain where the thumb muscles attach to the hand. Left unchecked, other thumb problems can develop such as popping and snapping when the thumb bends or straightens (triggering), and even arthritis of the thumb can become an issue.
Tips to prevent smartphone injuries
Taking precautions when using your phone can help prevent painful physical issues from developing. Follow these tips from our friendly team at Glenelg Orthopaedics:
- Moderate your mobile phone use, incorporating rest periods of non-use for your hands to recover from intense repetitive movements.
- When texting, don’t make your thumbs do all the work – text with your fingers too, or give your ands a break entirely and use voice recognition!
- Make sure you regularly change your posture and keep moving around when using your phone.
- Hold your phone at eye level instead of bending your head forward.
- When holding your phone, keep your wrist and elbow relatively straight instead of curling them toward you.
- Stretch to ease your tight and stressed muscles.
- Hold your phone gently – even during annoying phone calls!
- Always provide support to your body’s limbs and your head when you’re sitting, lying down, or otherwise using your phone.
What to do next
Are you experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this article? At Glenelg Orthopaedics, orthopaedic surgeon Dr Gavin Nimon treats all common hand, wrist, and shoulder conditions.