SM Ayaz Zakir | Khaleej Times Filed on 2022-02-14 | Last updated on 2022-02-14 13:33:38
Overuse of smartphones and devices can invite a lot of trouble for your hand and fingers. In the last decade, phones have evolved from your standard flip phone, to nearly mini computers in your hands. Doctors say that there has been a rise in overuse injuries and nerve-related symptoms as people spend a lot more time on their smartphones
Doctors talk on studies which suggest that heavy cell phone users, especially businesspersons, are at risk of injuries. If a lot of time is spent on gripping or clutching your phone, your fingers and thumb may start to cramp or become inflamed. This condition is called as “smartphone finger, texting tendinitis, texting thumb, texting nerve” — the non-medical terms.
Dr Marouane Bouloudhnine, consultant orthopedic surgeon, Hand to Shoulder Clinic, Burjeel Hospital Dubai said that the fingers most impacted by holding a smartphone or tablet, are your pinky (fifth finger) and thumb. He added that the nerves in your wrists and elbows can also be impacted by the way you hold your phone. Knowing how to reduce some of those serious injuries may start simply with just setting a time limit with your phone.
Smartphone finger condition
Our hand is made of 27 bones, 35 muscles, and over 50 tendons connecting bones and muscles. “When the muscles in your fingers need to make a movement (like selecting something on a smartphone), these tendons contract and extend. So, inflammation of the tendon, called Tendinitis, may appears,” said Dr Bouloudhnine
“Smartphone finger can also be the result of constant pressure on the pinky joint as you hold your device,” he added.
Medicos say that smartphone finger is a relatively new condition, so researchers are still learning about it. It does have some similarities to another known condition called Trigger Finger. “Symptoms of smartphone finger may include: pain or stiffness at the base of the affected finger, a clicking sound when you move your pinky finger, difficulty moving your fingers when you wake up in the morning and numbness in your fingertip,” said Dr Bouloudhnine.
He further on added that if your symptoms are indeed caused by smartphone use, your dominant hand will likely experience the majority of pain, cramps, and stiffness.
Healthcare specialists highlighted that smartphone pinky or smartphone finger tends to be connected to the use of larger devices, such as tablets or e-readers.
“Pinkies were similarly not designed to support weighty smartphones, despite the number of people who say they instinctively brace their phones against the smallest finger. But, the finger is smaller and won’t tolerate the pressure and the positioning as well as a larger digit,” said Dr Bouloudhnine.
Another condition known as smartphone thumb or texting tendinitis has many than the same causes and symptoms of smartphone finger. “It may be more common when you use a smaller phone or a phone that requires manual texting instead of a touchscreen. If your symptoms are caused by your smartphone use, you’ll notice your pain and stiffness flare up when you interact with your device,” said Dr Bouloudhnine.
He pointed out the symptoms of smartphone thumb, “cramping in the thenar eminence (the fleshy area between your thumb and index finger), numbing and stiffness in your thumb, a clicking noise when you try to move your thumb and throbbing pain in your thumb.
There are lots of options that can decrease how often you actually have to employ your pinky and thumb when you’re using your devices.
Dr Bouloudhnine suggested use some home remedies if one is experiencing pain and stiffness due to smartphone use.
“Put down your phone, take a break from devices and screen time altogether, give your fingers, thumbs, and wrists a rest, he said.
Dr Bouloudhnine elaborated:
>> Apply ice to the site of inflammation. If you’re feeling stiffness and pain in your joints, ice can help relieve symptoms.
>> If you’re accustomed to using your phone with one hand, don’t rely on your pinkie as the support. Instead, buying assistive accessories, such as PopSockets or attachable rings and straps. Try to Go for Hands-Free that enables you to use your device without holding onto it. This can decrease the pressure on your thumb and your pinky. These accessories may hold your phone up for you or may simply allow you to hold your device without the use of your thumb or pinky.
>> Get Text-Savvy: You can also look into a stylus tool to use on your tablet, or employ talk-to-text features on your phone.
>> Stretch your fingers out: Before you pick up your device, lace your fingers together and push out your arms so that your fingers get a full stretch in the opposite direction.
>> Plan for rest: If you’re using your device for a sustained period of time, set an alarm to sound after you’ve been using it for an hour or so.
If you have chronic pain related to smartphone use, share this with a doctor. You’ll most likely see an Orthopedist-Hand surgeon who focuses on bones, tendons, and muscles.
Dr Bouloudhnine said that the treatment will vary on a case-by-case basis:
>> Rest and anti-inflammatory medications as first line treatment or for mild cases as Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen
>> Wear a splint or a brace to keep your finger stable throughout the day and help reduce pain and inflammation.
>> Corticosteroids injection for more severe cases of pain from smartphone finger
>> Surgery may be necessary in some specific cases
>> Carpal Tunnel syndrome
A one-handed claw grip, for instance, is just not a natural position that we normally like to use our hands in. In this position, people tend to flex their wrists at an angle, potentially straining tendons and increasing pressure on the nerves that run through the wrist. “The median nerve at the wrist is compressed, it can cause numbness or tingling in some fingers. This is called Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Additionally, the claw grip might exacerbate elbow conditions such as golfer’s or tennis elbow,” said Dr Bouloudhnine.
>> Cubital tunnel syndrome or Text Claw
Dr Bouloudhnine explained the syndrome. “If you keep your elbow flexed past 90 degrees for extended amounts of time, such as when you’re holding your phone up to your ear or bringing it closer to your face, there is a very significant increase in the amount of pressure on the part of ulnar nerve that travels through the cubital tunnel across the elbow. The medical term for it is ‘cubital tunnel syndrome’. 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”
>> Neck smartphone
“Nerves can also be compressed if you frequently contort your neck to pinch your phone between your ear and shoulder. You can experience strain and stiffness at the back of your neck from looking down at your phone screen,” said Dr Bouloudhnine.
Prevention of nerve problem-smartphone related:
“The nerve problems linked to phone use are often the result of how much time you’re spending in constrained positions,” said Dr Bouloudhnine.
He advised people to take breaks and change positions often.
“The key to preventing mild overuse problems from developing into more serious conditions is decreasing and modifying phone use. If you’re anticipating using your phone for several hours a day, you don’t want them to be continuous,” Dr Bouloudhnine said.
“Take a break. Stretch out your fingers. Stretch out the wrist. Be aware of how much time you usually spend on your phone and establish time limits. Apple and Android devices, for example, allow users to monitor their screen time and set limits for app use,” he added.
He also added that hanging positions frequently can also make a huge difference. Consider moving or repositioning at least every five minutes.
When to see a hand surgeon
“Some symptoms indicate that home remedies won’t be enough to treat your smartphone finger. Seek treatment if you experience any of the following:”
>> Pain that lasts for 7 to 10 days, even after home remedies
>> Pain that is severe and keeps you from doing other activities
>> Recurrent numbness that doesn’t subside after a day off from smartphone use
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