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Can Holding a Cell Phone Cause Hand Pain?

  • Jan 25 2023

 Man in white shirt holds wrist in pain. Is it true that spending too much time texting on the cell phone could lead to carpal tunnel syndrome? Even if it’s not carpal tunnel, why does holding a cellphone cause hand pain? 

Currently, there are between 7 and 8 billion people in the world, and more than half of them use mobile devices–specifically cell phones, smartphones, and tablets. In the US, 95% of people own cell phones, most of which are smartphones. Estimates put the average daily mobile device usage between 3 and 5 hours per day. 

Per Day

That is a lot of time doing something that requires the same repeated movements of our wrists, hands, and fingers. Could this lead to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome? 

We know that repetitive motion, like extended periods of typing or texting, can result in inflammation of the tendons and tissues surrounding the carpal tunnel. If severe enough to compress the space within the carpal tunnel, this can lead to pressure on the median nerve and the corresponding pain, aching, and decreased function associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. 

This begs the question: can holding a cell phone cause hand pain or carpal tunnel syndrome? 

Can Holding a Cell Phone Cause Hand Pain or Carpal Tunnel?

 Woman uses her phone while out and about in town.

Text Claw,” named for the position the hand can feel as if it has been frozen into after extended device usage, will not be found in any official list of medical terms. At least, not yet. 

Nevertheless, it is becoming an increasingly more common unofficial diagnosis of the resulting cramping and lingering soreness associated with the overuse of tech devices like cell phones, smartphones, and tablets. 

Whether it’s the nearly 100 texts per day sent by millennials, the obsession of gamers, or the growing amount of time spent online by everyone, the stress on wrists, fingers, and even forearms is considerable. 

When texting or other device activity becomes too much, the result can be tendonitis or fibrotic or scarred muscle tissue development. This can be very painful and lead to long-term damage if not corrected. 

Although different from text claw, carpal tunnel from phone usage is one of the more likely conditions that may eventually develop, especially if you have an underlying medical condition that predisposes you to carpal tunnel. Carpal tunnel occurs when the median nerve, which plays an integral part in healthy hand function, gets compressed. When it is compressed, the result may include pain, numbness, tingling in the fingers, and difficulty with fine motor skills. Therefore, holding a cell phone can cause hand pain and even more serious conditions over time. 

How to Prevent Text Claw

 Woman holds her wrist in pain because of carpal tunnel.

Regardless of whether or not the pain caused by text claw signals the start of a chronic condition, adjusting smartphone usage to prevent adverse effects is always a good idea. To head off a severe condition, consider trying the following: 

  • Use voice typing instead of regular typing.
  • Alternate typing with your fingers and thumb with the use of a stylus.
  • Use different fingers or switch from thumbs to fingers, or try switching hands.
  • Put the device on a stand or other surface—anything to keep from gripping it in one hand.
  • If symptoms appear, rest and ice the area.

If you have questions about developing carpal tunnel from phone usage or any other orthopedic concerns, please give us a call. The physicians and staff of South Island Orthopedics are very experienced in a wide range of orthopedic conditions and are committed to providing personalized care in a state-of-the-art facility. To schedule an appointment, or if you have questions, please use our convenient online contact form by clicking here

Posted in: Hand & Wrist