Close up of women's hands holding cell phone

What Your Smartphone’s Doing to Your Fingers & Hands 

There’s no denying it: smartphones have taken over our lives. Everyone from seniors to teenagers enjoys the benefits that they afford us everyday. In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to say that they’ve revolutionized our lives completely. Of course, you don’t have to look very far to find evidence to support this argument. Basically any public venue you may enter will inevitably be full of people peering down into their iPhone or Android. If you want to order a pizza, pay your credit card bill, book a physical therapy appointment or control your TV, your smartphone can do it all and much more. 

However, there are some setbacks. Obviously, smartphones remain as convenient and cutting edge as ever. But many people complain of strange symptoms in their fingers, hands and elbows if they use them enough. The common, non-medical terms are “text claw” and “cell phone elbow.” In this post, we’ll explore these conditions, symptoms, treatments and more. 


Text Claw & Cell Phone Elbow 

Naturally, constant scrolling, swiping, texting and gaming on a smartphone affects us physically, both with acute and chronic injuries. And the non-medical term for the finger cramps and muscle aches our smartphones induce is “text claw.” Sometimes, text claw can lead to tendonitis. Symptoms of tendonitis include wrist pain, aches, numbness and loss of strength. While it may seem trivial, severe cases can significantly reduce quality of life and make the simplest tasks extremely difficult.

And “cell phone elbow,” known medically as cubital tunnel syndrome, is the result of excessive phone use, which pinches your ulnar nerve. When this happens, initial symptoms are tingling/numbness in your ring and pinky fingers, then hand and elbow pain. If you’re bending your elbow for long periods of time (like when you’re on your phone), that leaves you vulnerable to cell phone elbow. Like text claw, this can become incredibly unpleasant and painful. Fortunately, with a few simple adjustments and easy stretches, you can eliminate the pain and get right back to texting, gaming, swiping and scrolling. 


3 Common Treatments 

Prayer Position Stretch 

For any bodily affliction, physical therapy is always your best treatment option. However, in less severe cases, you can mitigate the pain yourself. This stretch is particularly beneficial for text claw. It loosens up the muscle and ligaments in your wrists and forearms, warming up the muscles and alleviating cramps. First, put your fingers and palms together with your fingers pointing up and elbows out. Obviously, the name says it all – this position should look like you’re praying. 

Hold this position for at least thirty seconds. If you want to increase the intensity (as you should over time), lower your hands very slowly while keeping them firmly together. 

Reverse Prayer Position Stretch 

Stay in that same position you were in for the prayer position stretch. Then, press the backs of your hands together and point your fingers down. For at least thirty seconds, maintain this stretch. And, to bring the intensity level up, bring your hands up very slowly (again: keeping them firmly together) with your elbows pointing outward. 

Anti-Inflammatory Medication 

Unfortunately, while this can be effective, it doesn’t work 100% of the time. Basically, the results depend on the individual. In many cases, it alleviates cell phone elbow almost immediately so that it goes away without any stretching or physical therapy. Also, you can supplement the medication with a hot/cold application or topical treatment for more resolute healing. 


Conclusion – Lake Shore Physical Therapy

Obviously, no one wants to deal with pain of any sort. And that’s why, at Lake Shore Physical Therapy, we develop specific treatment plans in order to restore mobility and eliminate our patients’ pain as quickly and effectively as possible. While smartphones are as convenient, fun and addictive as ever, excessively using them can result in some pretty unpleasant symptoms. Our therapists are always happy to consult with you on any concern you may have, whether it relates to these two issues or not.