While you’re probably not experiencing early onset arthritis, you may just be using your phone way too much… and possibly in the wrong way, too. That condition is known by many names, such as “Tech Neck,” Texting Thumb,” and “Smartphone Pinky.”
Pain in the hand, wrist, or neck (also known as tendonitis) can form over time while operating your smartphone. Fine motor functions repeated over-and-over can inflame tendons over time, and the resulting pain can be a huge detriment to your physical health.
Think about it... How many hours a day do you spend clenching onto your phone?
Several hours, we’d bet.
We tend to unnaturally posture and align our bodies while looking at our mobile devices. It is quite common to slouch or slump.
But there are things you can do to avoid developing or to treat smartphone use driven tendonitis. Using a Phone Loop strap is a good start! Check out the following tips down to develop healthy phone use habits.
What is tendonitis?
A tendon is a tissue that connects a muscle to bone. Tendons and muscles work together to move our skeletal system. Tendons engage each time we move our bones or when we move our body from a resting state.
Tendons are thick and fibrous, but they are also soft tissue, which makes them more stretchy. If the tissue repeatedly activates for a long time, the tendon can become swollen. When tendons get inflamed, you’ll experience discomfort. Muscles may ache as they begin overcompensating for the tendons.
Tendonitis is a chronic inflammation in the tendons. If the tendons are continually working, they will remain in a constant state of swelling. A person will experience a throbbing sensation at rest, which can worsen with movement.
Here are some tell-tale signs that you may be suffering from tendonitis:
- Pain which gets worse with movement
- A grating sensation of the tendon against the bone
- Swelling, heat, or redness
- A lump may appear in the inflamed area
Symptoms may last from a few days, weeks, or several months depending on the severity and treatment.
How does tendonitis develop?
Tendonitis happens when a person overuses the tendon. Commonly, it occurs due to strain from physical exercise.
Athletes can get tendonitis in the shoulders, ankles, knees, wrists and other areas. You’ll recognize familiar terms such as tennis elbow, runner’s knee, or pitcher’s shoulder. These phrases all describe the same phenomenon. Exercise isn’t the only cause of chronic inflammation in the tendons. According to an orthopaedic surgeon, any fine motor motion can cause pain in the tendons and muscles.
Repetitive swiping, scrolling for long periods of time, and angled positioning of your spine while using your phone can exhaust the tendons.
Is "thumb texting" or "neck tech" real?
Some people may downplay the effects that using your phone has on your body, but there’s clear evidence that experiencing pain from operating your phone isn’t just psychosomatic.
One scientific study observed students' groups during smartphone usage with specific nerve, tendon and pain assessments. The evaluation found that students experienced enlarged nerves and tendons, pain in the thumb, and reduced pinching strength and hand mobility.
If you’re reading this and have yet to experience “tech neck” or “texting thumb”, you are in a great position to start developing healthy phone habits now, before you develop any pain.
How to avoid tendonitis in the wrist & hand
You can prevent hand or wrist pain from using your smartphone, but your phone's weight needs to be distributed evenly during use, so all tendons and muscles share the burden. Inflammation occurs because one tendon carries the brunt of the workload.
Using a phone grip is a practical, economical way to even-out your phone’s weight distribution. Phone grip accessories put the phone in a well-balanced position between your fingers, thumb, palm and wrist. All parts of your hand work equally.
Our Phone Loop strap is a perfect solution! It secures the entire palm of your hand to your phone, so your fingers and wrist don’t have to strain to operate the device. It will alleviate the stress your phone places on your forearm, wrist, and hand. It’s very subtle, so you won’t even realize it’s on your phone most of the time. Check out our inventory and select your favorite design!
How to avoid tendonitis in the neck
It’s all about the angle of your spine when it comes to preventing tech neck. As your neck curves down, pressure applies to the tendons and muscles to keep the head erect. The greater the angle, the more pressure is applied.
Keeping your head down for long periods while looking at your phone will make your neck sore. In severe cases, the soreness can work its way down into your shoulders.
Keeping your neck straight is the solution. Don't place your smartphone on flat surfaces. Keep your smartphone at eye level so you don't bend your neck. If you notice your neck starting to hunch, bring it back upright.
How to treat smartphone tendonitis
If you are experiencing pain in your neck, wrist, or hand from using your smartphone, there are some easy therapies you can do daily to remedy it.
- Cold/hot compresses: Inflammation can be reduced with ice and heat. For pain that isn’t intense or hasn’t lasted more than a few days, wrap the area with a hot compression for 20 minutes, 3 times per day. If the pain is acute, lasting for a week or longer, cover the area with an ice bag for 20 minutes 3 times per day.
- Stretching: You can alleviate pain by stretching the tendons:
- If the pain is in the neck - Bring each ear side-to-side to touch the shoulders. Tilt backward slightly and lean your neck back until your chin faces the ceiling, then pause.
- If the pain is in the hand or wrist - Hold a prayer position with your hands, press your hands firmly together and flay your elbows out. Face your palms-to-floor and then palms-to-ceiling. With your elbows to your side, rotate your wrists in circles.
- If the pain is in the fingers or thumb - Grasp each finger with your opposite hand and gently rotate each digit in a circle.
- Take an OTC anti-inflammatory: Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories are very safe to reduce pain in small doses when taken in short increments. Consult your healthcare physician if you are unsure about taking any medication.
- Give it a rest: Sometimes, the only way to get rid of the pain is to stop using the tendons for a while. Take a break for a day or so. Use hands-free solutions like voice-to-text apps and Bluetooth devices if you have to use your smartphone.
When to seek professional help
If pain persists even after conservative self-treatment or lasts for several months, you should seek out the advice of a medical professional. A medical examination may be needed to diagnose the problem correctly.
Beat the smartphone burn
It’s necessary in this day and age to use smartphones frequently, and this can lead to physical health issues. While something like “smartphone pinky” seems silly, it’s well documented that operating your smartphone can cause wrist pain, hand injuries and neck problems.
By using our bones and muscles during scrolling, we can irritate the tendons because of strenuous smartphone activity. You can avoid developing any pain by implementing healthy phone habits early on.
Getting a phone grip like our Phone Loops strap will alleviate the stress on the hand. It eases tension by dispersing the weight of the phone evenly. The Phone Loops strap optimizes your fingers’ mobility & flexibility.
Make sure to keep your spine completely straight, with your phone raised at eye level. Do regular stretches in between your smartphone sessions to keep muscles and tendons limber.
If you’re currently suffering from smartphone tendonitis, try hot/cold compresses, a mild OTC anti-inflammatory, or give yourself a break from your smartphone for a few days. Seek medical attention for pain that lasts for several months despite treatment.