Are You at Risk for 'Text Thumb?'

Maureen Robb's picture
By Maureen Robb on September 5, 2018

First there was “text neck”—pain from leaning over your cell phone. Now smartphone users are reporting “text thumb.” 

It’s a popular term (not an actual diagnosis) that refers to a variety of thumb problems. They can include arthritis at the base of the thumb or aggravation of previous thumb injuries. 

Unfortunately, text thumb is becoming more common as we use our smartphones to read, play music, text, view social media, schedule appointments, take photos and listen to podcasts all day long.   

Preventing Injuries 

How can you avoid hurting your thumb? 

“Take breaks, preferably long breaks, from using your phone to give your thumbs a rest,” said Hugh J. Hagan, III, M.D., chief of Carilion Clinic Orthopaedic Hand Surgery

“If you must use your phone’s typing or tapping functions, alter the way you hold the phone or place it on a flat surface for support,” he said. “You can also switch hands to give your thumbs and your other fingers a balanced workout.” 

“If your phone has a voice to text function, that can also be helpful,” he said.  

“Depending on the underlying diagnosis, you may need physical therapy or even surgery to get your hands back in shape,” Dr. Hagan added.  

And if all else fails, try calling instead of emailing or texting.

“Speaking directly to someone, when possible, can actually be a very pleasant experience and convey more subtle communication than a typed conversation,” Dr. Hagan advised.  

The bottom line? Our thumbs weren’t meant to be in motion all day. Stop and think before you automatically reach for your phone—and give your thumbs a break.

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