In this technological day and age, it’s no surprise that smartphones have become a way of life. The smartphone, even though it’s a relatively new invention to humanity, has become an essential and inherent part of life. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that prolonged usage of smartphones can have adverse effects on the fingers, hands, and elbows of a person. There’s research to support that smartphone users also complain of discomfort or pain in at least one upper extremity area – back or neck.
Due to the design of smartphones that do not allow wrist and fingers to rest on the screen or any surface, the continued usage of these handheld devices results in wrist and elbow pain.
To give a little bit of perspective, India has as many mobile users, predominantly smartphone users. The number of smartphone users in India is estimated to rise up to 442 million by 2022.
Dr. Arumugam, a Senior Consultant Orthopedic Surgeon who has 20+ years of experience, notes that “We’re starting to see a lot of cases of people experiencing pai fingers, hands, and elbow pains because of excessive smartphone usage. In times like these, it’s understandable as people work from home and children take their classes online, but health needs to be our priority.”
These pains, in non-medical terms, are named as text claw, cellphone elbow, and smartphone thumb. What do these mean?
Text Claw (Finger Pain)
In the simplest terms, this means cramping of fingers due to excessive scrolling or texting.
Cellphone Elbow (Elbow pain)
This stems from the ring or pinky finger. When the elbow has been bent for long periods of time, pain or discomfort is known to appear.
Smartphone Thumb (Hand Pain)
This type of pain stems from the thumb and down the wrist. It’s a shooting pain that occurs due to inflammation of the tendon that bends and flexes your thumb.
Dr. S. Arumugam goes on to explain, “Constant exercise of your wrist and hands is crucial. Applying pressure to your fingers and massaging them is a proven way to help reduce pain. But the best way to prevent any issues from rising up is to curb the usage of smartphones.”
So, what are the symptoms?
- Tingling and numbness in the index, thumb and middle fingers.
- The shock that you feel when you accidentally hit your elbow? That’s due to excessive pressure on your elbows.
- This further leads to numbness in your pinky fingers.
- Pain or discomfort in any upper extremity area.
- Experiencing cramps in your thumbs.
- Muscle spasms.
He goes onto say, “Exercises don’t have to be hard. Simple exercises like massaging your thumb, pulling your fingers, activities that provide fine motor movement like playing carrom board, painting, writing are good enough. Your workout doesn’t have to be tedious to alleviate your pain, your exercise just needs to be consistent. If you start experiencing mild pain, try the above-mentioned exercises. If the pain persists, visit your orthopedician. If the condition does not improve with physical therapy and medicine, you might also require a surgical release.”
How can it be prevented?
- Use a hands-free device from time to time to give your hands a break.
- Reduce your usage time of smartphones and curb it to as little as possible.
- Never remain in one position for too long to avoid cramps and stiffness.
- Stretch frequently to loosen up your muscles.
- Consistent exercises to alleviate any pain or discomfort you are facing or to prevent any discomfort from arising.
- Heat/cold packs in case you are experiencing any pain.
- Minimize the strain on your hands by using Bluetooth or earphones during phone calls.
The final piece of advice he gives is to give your mobile phones a break and yourself some rest. “To avoid any of these issues from rising, I always suggest four things.
- Move your hands frequently and change positions often.
- Continuous exercise is a must.
- Use your smartphones only while needed.
- Lead an active and healthy life.”