Texting Ergonomics: Reduce Wrist, Hand, and Thumb Pain

Is your main mode of communication with others done through texting? Then you may be risk for “texting thumb” or thumb arthritis. Thumb Arthritis is caused by constriction of the flexor tendon in the thumb. It often reveals itself as painful popping or snapping when the thumb bends or straightens; it may even become locked in the curled position. The most common cause of texting thumb is due to repetitive griping motions such as texting or holding a smart phone. Thumb arthritis is specific to the carpometacarpal joint where the thumb and wrist connect. Gripping, or forceful pinching motions are often the source of these symptoms and can become more severe with excessive use.

            The elbow can also suffer from increased tension in the tunnel through which the ulnar nerve passes. When in the elbow, this is referred to as Cubital tunnel syndrome. Spending too much time holding your phone to your ear, resting your elbow on a desk, or keeping your arm bent at an acute angle to use your mouse all contribute to cubital tunnel syndrome. Symptoms include numbness or tingling in the ring and small finger and soreness on the inside of the elbow or forearm.

Texting Ergonomics:
  • Keep messages brief. The more keystrokes you do the more strain you’re causing on your hands and thumbs.
  • Use word prediction or auto complete.
  • Choose a device that has a full keyboard (you want reduce the number of times you tap a key to select a letter).
  • Use shortcuts opposed to scrolling.
  • Use a neutral grip when holding a device. This is best represented by a straight wrist that is not bent in either direction.
  • Maintain an upright position while texting. Do not bend your head down or round your shoulders.
  • Rest your thumb by alternating it with your index finger.

Specifics for touch screens:
  • Use device in a vertical position while typing. This will reduce the amount of reaching space your thumb does to press a key.
  • Use the pads of your fingers instead of the tips of your nails. Using your nails can create an awkward bent position for your thumb.

Severe cases treatments:
  • Cortisone injections- eliminate pain and restore mobility.
  • Thumb carpometacarpal arthroplasty- A surgical procedure to release the pulley at the base of the thumb will free the tendon to move more easily.
  • Splints

Cubital tunnel syndrome prevention:
  • Use a pad to rest your elbow on.
  • Avoid pressure on the back of the elbow.
  • Sleep in a splint the keeps your elbow from bending too much.
  • Avoid position that keep your elbow flexed for extended periods of time.
  • In severe cases a surgery can be performed to relieve the pressure off the nerve, improving symptoms, and preventing risk of permanent nerve damage to the hand.