Do You Have a Case of Tech Neck or Smartphone Thumb?

tech neckThe next time you’re using a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, pay close attention to what you do. Chances are, typing, tapping, and swiping are second nature by now. The last thing you’re thinking about is the repeated strain on your fingers and wrists.

Yet repetitive movements can lead to bothersome symptoms over time. Eventually, they may damage joints, muscles, or tendons. As the use of these devices has skyrocketed, so have aches and pains associated with them. But a few simple changes can reduce the ailments caused by a constantly connected lifestyle.

When Your Posture Is in a Slump
People who spend a lot of time on a tablet or computer sometimes develop neck and shoulder pain due to poor posture. To reduce “tech neck,” become more aware of your posture. 

Ideally, you should position the screen so that you can keep your head level, forward facing, and in-line with your torso. Your shoulders should be relaxed, and your elbows should be close to your body, bent at or just a little past 90 degrees. Your forearms, wrists, and hands should be in a straight line roughly parallel to the floor.

When Your Mobile Device Is a Pain

Repeating the same movements with your fingers, hands, and wrists for long periods can lead to problems. For example, “smartphone thumb” is caused by typing with your thumbs while holding a smartphone or tablet. By repeatedly pressing the small keyboard and holding your thumbs in an awkward position, you can strain your hands. Possible symptoms include pain when bending your thumb or wrist and a dull ache at the base of your thumb.

To combat smartphone thumb:
Give your thumb a rest. When using a handheld device, hold it in one hand and type with the other index finger.
Keep your messages brief. Use the word prediction feature in apps and browsers. BTW, using abbreviations helps, too.
Use voice-to-text dictation. Or just have a phone conversation now and then instead of always texting.

When Tech Takes a Toll

If your neck or thumb pain symptoms don’t improve over time, get help from a primary care provider (PCP). Use our “Find a Doctor” tool to locate a PCP who can help the whole family handle their tech aches.