How Smartphone Use Affects You — And How To Avoid Injury

21 Jul 2017 news

Smartphones are everywhere, and few of us can imagine life without that powerful little computer within arm’s reach. But your smartphone may be causing you injury. Here’s a look at how smartphone use affects you — and how to avoid injury.

Musculoskeletal injuries of the hand, wrist, forearm, arm, and neck are on the rise because of the prolonged and repetitive use of handheld devices. For example, neck pain typically increases as patients age. But in the last 5 years, the age at which patients first report neck pain has been dropping sharply — and the condition in young patients is now known as “text neck.”

If you’re an avid smartphone user, here are four ways you can reduce related injuries:

  1. When texting:
    1. Alternate between using your thumbs and your fingers to type on your device.
    2. Whenever possible, use your fingers instead of your thumbs. If you must use your thumb, use the pad of your thumb, not the tip. Using the tip of your thumb can keep your thumb in an awkward, bent position — and that can lead to injury.
    3. Hold the phone in one hand and text with the other instead of texting with only one hand.
    4. Use your phone’s microphone feature and dictate a message.
  2. When holding your device:
    1. Keep your wrists as relaxed and straight as possible.
    2. Minimize the strain on your wrists, fingers, and thumbs by using a neutral grip when holding your device.
    3. Try to hold the phone at chest, chin, or eye level to minimize the bend in your neck and maintain optimal spinal posture. If your phone is below eye level, look down with your eyes, not your neck.
  3. Limit your device use:
    1. Try to use your device for no more than 20 minutes in one sitting.
    2. Practice the 20-20-20 rule: For every 20 minutes of screen time, take 20 seconds to look 20 feet of head.
  4. Remember to stretch:
    1. Curl your fingers and thumb into a tight fist, then straighten your fingers as far as they can go without pain.
    2. With your fingers extended, spread them as far apart as they can go without pain.
    3. Touch the tip of your thumb to the tip of each finger on the same hand.
    4. Hold your arms in front of you with your elbows straight. Flex your wrist so that your hand points toward the floor and hold it for 20 seconds. Then, flex your wrist so that your hand points toward the ceiling and hold it for 20 seconds.
    5. Roll your shoulders forward in a circle 10 times. Repeat the motion, but roll your shoulders backward.

While smartphones and other portable devices offer us an unparalleled degree of connectivity and convenience, it’s important to remember that long-duration use can cause injury. But by proactively reducing usage time, holding your device in a more ergonomic way, and periodically stretching, you can lower your risk of injury.