Could texting cause medical problems? Is your Instagram habit sending you on a one-way trip to tendinitis? Find out what some studies are saying about the impact of all-day smartphone usage.
Carpal tunnel. Tendinitis. Arthritis. Numbness. None of these afflictions are pleasant, but they all have one activity in common as a potential aggravator: texting. Our bodies did not evolve to handle a smartphone, and with the rise in these devices, doctors are also seeing a rise in injuries to the hands, wrists, fingers, and arms.
72% of Americans own a smartphone, yet we still don’t have solid data on how our bodies handle decades of intensive, every-day phone usage. Medical professionals are already bracing for the worst, fearing that there will be a year-over-year rise in hand and wrist strain that reflects our society’s ceaseless addiction to our devices. Of course, much of our risk factor for issues like carpal tunnel syndrome is also genetic and/or environmental; so like most everything else, it’s not necessarily a matter of 1:1 cause and effect. Still, there’s no denying that using your smartphone to text all day practically seems like an invitation for repetitive strain injuries.
It’s not just smartphone usage in general that carries risk of strain injury: texting itself is likely the worst culprit, according to emerging data. The reason? While swiping down your feed on Instagram certainly uses your thumb quite a bit, the act of typing out thousands of words a day by hitting tiny icons on your screen is a particularly demanding activity. The small muscles and tendons in your fingers, hands, and wrists simply weren’t designed to keep up with your all-day conversations.
In particular, researchers identified the 5-hour mark as being the point where your daily smartphone usage has likely crossed the line into doing some potential damage. These 5+ hour users were found to have larger and more flattened median nerves, and simply more anecdotal hand and wrist pain than those who used their phones less.
The lesson here is that smartphone usage is like anything else: best done in moderation. If you’re starting to experience numbness, tingling, or nagging pain in your fingers, hands, or wrists, that’s a sign that you should put the phone down for the day, right away. Or better yet, take an entire weekend off. Your notifications will still be there when you get back, and your hands just might thank you!