Too Much Texting Impacts Hand Health

Frequent texting has become an integral part of daily life, especially with the widespread use of smartphones. Texting with those handy thumbs can feel natural, but recent evidence reveals that excessive typing on the phone can have adverse effects. More people are developing a condition called de Quervain’s tenosynovitis at younger ages. Preventing the condition using proper typing mechanics is ideal, but treatment is also available should the condition develop.

Understanding de Quervain’s tenosynovitis

Known to affect people between the ages of 30-50 and occurring more commonly in women, de Quervain’s tenosynovitis is a condition that affects the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist. The tendons in this area become inflamed, leading to pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the thumb and wrist. Other symptoms may also include a clicking or snapping sensation when moving the thumb and tenderness along the thumb side of the wrist. Over time, the hand weakens, developing reduced grip strength. The exact cause of de Quervain’s tenosynovitis is not fully understood. Still, repetitive activities involving gripping and twisting the thumb can strain the tendons and contribute to the development of this condition.

The connection to excessive texting

Smartphone use is incredibly common nowadays, from banking to social media and everything in between. Excessive texting on the phone can be considered a repetitive activity that may contribute to de Quervain’s tenosynovitis. The repeated motion of typing messages on a smartphone can strain the tendons in the thumb and wrist. This strain leads to more inflammation and the eventual development of the condition. Furthermore, the smaller size of smartphone keyboards and the need for rapid, precise typing can increase the strain on the tendons, further exacerbating the risk of developing de Quervain’s tenosynovitis. While recurrent activity can significantly contribute to the development of a repetitive strain injury like de Quervain’s tenosynovitis, other factors, such as anatomy or pre-existing conditions, may also play a role.

Treating the hand

Individuals who notice pain when typing or reduced grip strength should seek medical advice from a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or a hand specialist. The doctor will conduct a thorough examination to diagnose the condition and recommend the appropriate treatment. Treatment options may include rest, applying ice, or using a splint or brace to immobilize the thumb. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are also recommended to reduce pain and inflammation. Performing specific exercises or attending physical therapy (PT) can improve the range of motion (ROM) and strengthen the affected tendons. In severe cases, surgery can help correct the issue with the tendon, providing long-term relief.

Prevention over cure

Individuals can take specific preventive measures to stop the development or recurrence of de Quervain’s tenosynovitis. One good practice is to take frequent breaks from activities that involve repetitive thumb movements, such as excessive texting on a smartphone. This allows the thumb and wrist tendons to rest and recover from any strain. Additionally, practicing proper ergonomics while using electronic devices can help reduce the risk of developing the condition. This includes maintaining good posture and using devices designed to support appropriate hand and wrist positioning. Moreover, individuals can use voice-to-text features or a larger external keyboard to type. Regular stretching and strengthening exercises for the thumb and wrist can also help prevent the development of de Quervain’s tenosynovitis.

Beware excessive typing

Daily typing is an inevitable part of technology use and will not go away anytime soon. Excessive typing may be unavoidable due to work, business, or other obligations. Repetitive strain injuries like de Quervain’s tenosynovitis will arise earlier due to constant typing and smartphone use. The goal is to prevent the condition from worsening and manage the symptoms as soon as pain is felt. If this approach fails, see a doctor immediately for non-surgical and possibly surgical treatment.