Smartphone Tendonitis. Real or Myth?

Woman on smartphone could be experiencing pain from smartphone tendonitis according to Premier Orthopaedic & Trauma Specialists

Smartphone tendonitis is a real condition, plain and simple. However, it is a relatively new condition that coincides with, you guessed it, smartphones. Prior to the advent of smartphones we really didn’t have many devices that would place such concentrated strain on one or two digits. Even in those that use computers, and typewriters back in the day, we haven’t seen quite as much damage to the body.

So What Exactly Is Smartphone Tendonitis?

Smartphone tendonitis describes the inflammation of the thumb’s flexor tendon, caused by repetitive motions ,including typing using only the thumbs and swiping. Even the wrists can get involved after long periods of holding a phone in front of our faces. The result of constant swelling of the tendon can include pain, popping sensations and even locking. The wrist can suffer from an irritated tendon and cause pain as well.

How We Treat Smartphone Tendonitis

Of course, better than any treatment for tendonitis is prevention in the first place. Being mindful of the amount of time you spend on your smartphone is a great first step. Not only will you reduce the likelihood of thumb, wrist and forearm problems caused directly by repetitive use of the phone, but you will typically improve your posture, reduce neck and back pain and be more engaged with the world around you. Slowing smart phone usage will also give the inflamed tendons much-needed rest.

However, some of us are, unfortunately, stuck to our phones either for work or social purposes. As such, try to use the dictation feature on your smartphone to dictate texts and e-mails versus spelling them out with your thumbs. While it may not be quite as accurate, it is faster and reduces your risk of smartphone tendonitis.

If the inflammation of the thumbs, forearms and other tendons around the body has progressed significantly, and you are in a great deal of pain or some disability, there are many options for treatment. Oftentimes, with rest, splinting and anti-inflammatory medication, mild-to-moderate cases of tendonitis can be managed at home and without too much intervention. Failing these conservative treatments, a course of physical therapy may be necessary to take pressure off the tendon and rebalance the musculature in the hand. Lastly, some patients may require cortisone injections to rapidly reduce the inflammation. However, these injections must be limited so as to not cause joint problems and should only be utilized in the most severe of cases.

The Bottom Line

With new technologies come new problems and the tendonitis, poor posture and other problems we see in our office due, in part, to smartphone use have increased dramatically over the past decade. Fortunately, the solution is within us – through better usage habits. For any significant or continuing pain, it is important that you see a qualified orthopedic professional such as those at Premier Ortho to learn more about treatment options and prevent any further damage to the tendon or joint.