Using a smartphone is a common way to communicate and browse the Web, but a growing number of medical professionals are giving it a thumbs down for our hands.
While “smartphone thumb” is not an officially diagnosed medical condition, tendinitis is. Inflammation in the thumb is typically a result of overuse, a direct blow, repetitive grasping, and certain inflammatory conditions like arthritis.
Since 2010, Mayo Clinic researchers have been studying smartphone thumb using a dynamic imaging technique to watch the bones of a healthy patient move and comparing them with those that are not, CBS News reports. While they have not reached any conclusions, they argue that the movements required to hold and text on our phones are awkward for our thumbs.
“One of the hypotheses is that the joints get loose and lax, and because of that, the bones kind of move differently than they would in a normal situation,” Kristin Zhao, PhD, a biomedical engineer at the Mayo Clinic, told CBS News.
Gripping and holding cell phones can constrict our flexor tendons, and excess smartphone usage may result in pain on the outside of the thumb around the wrist. Grip strength or range of motion may also be affected.
The researchers theorize that these abnormal motions could be causing pain onset — and potentially osteoarthritis.
To reduce repetitive stress on your thumb while using your smartphone, change things up: Use its voice-recognition feature rather than manually texting, switch the hand you hold it in, and incorporate other fingers into your texting method.
For more about the impacts of texting on your body and what you can do about it, read “This Is Your Body on Texting.”