OC Sports & Rehab


Overuse injuries are commonly linked to sports and the workplace. However, current technologies, such as smartphones and tablets, frequently need repetitive motions that might put the body under stress.

On average, users spend up to five hours per day on their mobile devices. As a result, there has been an increase in the amount of overuse injuries as a result of smartphone use.

Here’s what you should do if you get sore after writing work emails or surfing through social media.

Overuse Injuries Caused by Smartphones

  • Text Neck
    Few individuals use their smartphone or tablet at eye level, preferring to stare down for hours on end. Poor posture, neck pain, and back strain can all be caused by this motion. If you continue to keep this position, you may develop neck spasms and tension headaches in addition to short-term neck stiffness. Take breaks to stretch out your neck and use its entire range of motion to avoid these problems.
  • Swiper Thumbs
    Properly known as Quervain’s tenosynovitis, this condition causes inflammation of the tendons along the rear of your thumb. The injury arises from repeatedly moving your thumb up and down, common when swiping your phone screen.
  • Texting Thumb
    More teens are developing this condition, likely due to texting and playing video games that involve short, “twitching” movements. Texting or gamer’s thumb causes inflammation of the tendon associated with the adjacent long flexor muscle. Initially, you may notice a burning sensation and later have to manage chronic pain or nerve damage with injections or pain medication. Take regular breaks when using your phone or playing a video game. Also get in the habit of stretching your fingers and wrists to avoid another issue called “texting claw”. This stiff sensation causes your hand to resemble a claw and can eventually lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Selfie Elbow
    Overextending your arm while grasping your phone causes this overuse injury. The elbow is locked or rigid, the arm is fully extended, and the wrist is twisted, putting your body in an uncomfortable position. In addition, your phone adds weight to the equation, increasing the strain. Tendonitis develops when the tendons from your hand to your elbow become inflamed. When shooting shots with your elbow bent, keep your phone closer to you to avoid harm.

How to Avoid These Pains and Injuries

Because smartphones and tablets are such a big part of our lives, it’s a good idea to:

  • Reduce how much time you spend on your phone.
  • Switch hands so one side of your body isn’t overworked.
  • Take breaks to extend your wrists, hands, arms, and neck if you’re using your smartphone for work.
  • Change positions every 30 minutes, making careful to stand up.
  • Maintain proper form by relaxing your shoulders and keeping your elbows close to your body.
  • Use an anti-inflammatory medicine or a wrist and hand brace to help with the pain.

If the pain persists, speak with your doctor, who may refer you to a physical therapist or suggest imaging to determine the source of the problem. If treatment fails to provide the desired results, surgery to remove nerve pressure may be required.

Manage issues affecting the elbow, wrist, and hand with the help of the physical therapy professionals at our Foothill Ranch Physical Therapy or Lake Forest Physical Therapy locations. Contact us today to learn more about our services.