Are you texting your way to injury?
with advice from Matt Caster, PT, DPT, OCS
When texting started becoming commonplace, it was slow and awkward. (How many times do I have to click on “7” to get an “S”? Where’s my punctuation?) But with the advent of PDAs and smartphones, and the ability to not only text but post on social media and craft entire emails on a mobile device, people are communicating more than ever — non-verbally — with their phones. Unfortunately, with that advanced technology can come some digital pain, literally.
Constant typing and texting on your phone can cause pain and injury, says Matt Caster, a physical therapist at Allegheny Chesapeake Physical Therapy (a Physiquality member in Pennsylvania). “Texting thumb is an overuse injury, where the tendons that control the thumb become inflamed due to the repetitive use of the thumb when typing text on your phone,” he explains. You may feel pain simply in your thumb or fingers, or it could manifest throughout the palm of your hand or even up the length of your arm.
If you feel pain in your thumb or hand while typing, the first step is to put down the phone. Take a break. Stretch your fingers. Matt advises trying to limit how frequently you use your phone to text or type for a day or two. If that doesn’t help, he recommends using ice plus an anti-inflammatory, or NSAIDS, to reduce swelling and pain.
Matt says some exercises can help to avoid texting thumb. “Using a small rubber band placed around the thumb and fingers, pull the fingers and thumb apart and repeat for 30 repetitions,” he suggests. “Also, stretch the thumb by pulling it gently across your hand until a stretch is felt, and hold for 30 seconds. Doing this three or four times will help,” he adds. (If you need more hand and finger stretches, check out our blog entry on wellness @ work.)
Keep in mind, too, that constant texting can also affect other things. Many people hunch over their phones, so be aware of your posture and try to stay upright. And while this may not be a surprise to most people, a recent study at Australia’s University of Queensland found that texting while walking causes one to be “slow and wonky,” that is, “off-balance and less likely to walk in a straight line.” (And don’t even get us started on texting and driving. Just don’t.)
||Matthew Caster, PT, DPT, OCS, is a staff therapist at the Eastside office of Allegheny Chesapeake Physical Therapy, a Physiquality network member with 10 locations in Pennsylvania. Dr. Caster completed his Doctorate of Physical Therapy at Chatham University in 2008 and became a board-certified orthopedic specialist in 2013. He is also a member of the American Physical Therapy Association.
For further information, look through our selection of articles on health and wellness, in addition to the below links:
Abrams, Hannah. Walking and texting can cause dangerous effects. TechnologyTell.com, January 23, 2014.
Davidson, Jacob. Texting a pain? Take your thumbs to the gym. Time Magazine, August 1, 2013.
Texting and distracted driving. TextingAndDrivingSafety.com.
Thumb injuries a risk with repetitive texting. CBS Detroit, July 25, 2013.
Turner, Bambi. Can texting cause tendonitis? Curiosity.com.
VanDriesen, Denice. Tendonitis or texting thumb? Coordinated Health.
Adams, Chris. What is texting thumb? About.com.
Could texting and mobile email be bad for your health? University of Cincinnati, June 18, 2009.