Do you use your smartphone a lot? Have you noticed pain in your hands, specifically your thumb, after a long browsing or texting session? If you have, it’s probably not your imagination. A Turkish study published in June of last year, followed 102 university students–comparing 66 single hand-held smartphone users to 36 students who don’t use them–and concluded that frequent smartphone use may lead to an enlarged median nerve, and impaired hand function (particularly pinch strength).

According to an article published in Medscape about the study:

A hand-held smartphone compels the user to engage in repetitive flexion/extension of the wrist and to use their thumb to text, movements that are involved in the etio-pathophysiology of CTS, the researchers note.

The issue is of increasing importance as more young people use smartphones and other hand-held devices. Research suggests that students now typically spend more than 3 hours a day texting, emailing, scheduling, and browsing the Internet on their mobile phone.

According to Dr. Michael Bollinger, there is a connection to be made between overuse of handheld devices and repetitive use injuries in the hand and wrist:

“The devices, themselves, aren’t the problem.  It’s the usage time.  If you’re spending three to four hours per day browsing or texting on your phone, repeating the same hand and wrist movements over and over, chances are pretty high that you are putting considerable strain on the tendons in your fingers, wrist and thumb.” said Bollinger.  “What feels like discomfort now may lead to more serious problems later and the need for medical intervention.”

Dr. Bollinger noted that while the best way to avoid injury from overuse of handheld devices is to lessen usage, regular stretching of the hands and wrists and periodic icing of inflamed areas may also help lessen pain.

Smartphones and other mobile devices are great and incredibly convenient but it’s important to remember that repetitive motion can cause injury. If you’re experiencing pain in your hand, thumb or wrist, give our office a call at 707.823.7602 to be evaluated by one of our medical providers.