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Is It Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Text Claw?

Is it true that spending too much time texting on my cell phone could lead to carpal tunnel syndrome?

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 U.S., pretty much everyone owns a cell phone (95%) and the vast majority of those are smartphones. Estimates put average daily mobile device usage somewhere between 3 and 4 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. Does this necessarily lead to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome? We know that repetitive motion, like extended periods of time typing or texting, can result in inflammation of the tendons and surrounding tissue in 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.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Text Claw?

“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 the amount of texting or other device activity becomes too much, the result can be tendonitis or the development of fibrotic or scarred muscle tissue. This can be very painful and lead to long term damage if not corrected. Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the more likely conditions that may eventually develop, especially if there is a predisposing underlying medical condition.

Preventing the Development of Text Claw

Whether the pain and discomfort of text claw signal the beginning of something even more serious or you share the concerns of many about the addicting potential of constant smartphone usage, it only makes sense to make whatever adjustments we can to mitigate the harmful effects of excessive holding and using these devices. Most of the suggestions are easy to follow and can make a marked difference. Some of the most common recommendations include:

  • Use the voice option for typing.
  • Alternate typing with your fingers and thumb with the use of a stylus.
  • Use different fingers or switch from thumbs to fingers. Switch 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. 

These are all common sense suggestions, but probably the best thing that you can do is simply take a break. Put the device down. Turn off the sound and walk away for a bit. The world won’t stop, and it will all be waiting for you the next time you pick up your device. The difference will be that you will be in a better place, physically, mentally and emotionally. 

If you have questions about carpal tunnel syndrome or any other orthopedic concerns, 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 just have questions, please use our convenient online contact form by clicking here

Posted in: Hand & Wrist