Today, phones can be used for almost everything. From keeping track of your schedule to staying connected with friends and family, from workout to gaming apps, people are spending more and more time on their phones. As you scroll along your social media feeds or text someone back, do you notice an achy feeling in your thumb? Do you notice this achiness throughout the day even when not using your phone? If so, you may be experiencing what the media is referring to as “smartphone thumb”.
So, what is this really? Good question. While there is some speculation that it may lead to osteoarthritis in your thumb joint in the long term, the acute feeling is generally tendonitis, an inflammation of the tendons to muscles that control your thumb.
Our bodies are amazing and generally handle the stresses that we place on it throughout the day without causing a problem. However, our bodies don’t like repetitive movements, particularly when the repetitive motion occurs upwards of 2 hours a day (or even far more!) for some individuals.
If these symptoms sound familiar and you recognize that it may be linked to your phone use, here are some strategies to try.
· Ice and rest. First things first. With an acute overuse injury, it’s important to ice to help with inflammation and rest that sore area to prevent it from getting even more aggravated. You can even use a splint that encompasses your thumb if you are having difficulty remembering not to use that thumb. This will give yourself a little extra reminder that your thumb needs rest.
· Alternate hands. We are used to grabbing our phone and using a certain hand to scroll or tap. Next time you reach for your phone, think about using your opposite hand. It might be challenging to navigate at first, but it will get easier and your dominant hand will thank you!
· Use different fingers. You can also use your pointer fingers to navigate your phone. A stylus works well too!
· Use voice texting. This will help all together with not overusing your fingers to text. It might even be faster to send your message.
Give these a try and see if it helps! Sometimes making a change in our behaviors and habits is challenging, but the more we practice and try and easier it gets. If you are still not getting the relief you would like to see, give us a call to set up an appointment with one of our Physical Therapists.
There may be something else involved, and we can help give additional tips, strategies, and exercises to help you get back to living the life you love with happy hands!
Katee Wensinger, SPT