What’s the Link Between Cell Phone Use and Hand Pain?

Not all people who use cell phones experience hand pain. But the number of those who do is higher than you might think. After all, we use our smartphones for everything these days—talking, texting, sending emails, playing games, scrolling through social media, taking pictures, searching the Internet, checking the weather, watching videos, etc. They’re meant to make our lives easier, which is why you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t own one.

That said, nearly six out of 10 U.S. smartphone users admit they use theirs too much, with several polls confirming the average cell phone user spends between three and five waking hours per day on their phone and can exchange upwards of 100 text messages a day. As a result, complaints of hand, finger, wrist, and thumb pain are on the rise.

It is important to note that cell phone use isn’t responsible for all hand pain. We use our hands, fingers, wrists, and forearms for everything, whether it be writing, typing, tying our shoes, driving, grabbing a can from the pantry, shaking someone’s hand, or lifting weights in the gym. And at some point, an injury or other issue will make performing these and so many other daily tasks difficult, if not impossible. But phone use is a perfect example of a repetitive activity that can cause hand pain if we aren’t taking mindful breaks or rest.

Do You Experience These Hand Pain Symptoms?

  • Pain in the hands, fingers, or thumb
  • Aching, cramping, and throbbing
  • Numbness, especially in ring and pinky finger
  • Pins and needles
  • Mild deformities
  • Inflammation and stiffness
  • Clicking sounds when you move your thumb
  • Difficulty moving your fingers in the morning
  • Pain that radiates into the wrist
  • General weakness


Are you concerned that your recent hand pain is related to phone overuse?

The expert physicians at the Fort Worth Hand Center want to help. Call 817-877-3277 to schedule a consultation.

The Impact of Cell Phone Overuse on Hand Pain

If cell phones are supposed to be so helpful, why do we experience pain when using them? Well, the simplest answer lies in how we hold them and the repetitive movements required to use them that we take for granted. The reality is that while phones have evolved over the years, our hands haven’t. As a result, there isn’t really a failsafe, ergonomic way to use them for long periods without the possibility of hand pain.

There are millions of positions we can use them in, and most aren’t good. One way is to use one hand, which places undo stress on the entire hand, including the wrist, fingers, and thumb. You could also hold your cell phone at the sides with both hands, but texting with both thumbs is equally as stressful given that it has less dexterity than the other fingers.

When you hold your phone for long periods, you are forcing your hands and wrists to maintain specific, repetitive, and awkward positions to clutch it so that it doesn’t slip from your hands. As you scroll or swipe with your dominant thumb, you are performing a repetitive movement that can cause problems when done for hours on end.

Too much of these awkward hand positions can cause repetitive stress injuries and conditions such as the following:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome — This condition affects roughly 4-10 million Americans and is where the median nerve, which runs the length of your arm into your palm, becomes pinched at the wrist. When it is compressed, a person will experience symptoms ranging from numbness and tingling to cramping, hand weakness, and morning stiffness.
  • Cubital Tunnel Syndrome — Commonly referred to by the non-medical term “text claw,” cubital tunnel syndrome is a condition brought on by increased pressure on the ulnar nerve at the elbow. The ulnar nerve connects to your pinky and ring fingers and can lead to numbness and cramps.
  • Smartphone finger — Also known as trigger finger, this condition is characterized by mild to excessive swelling in the finger that results in pain, stiffness, and possible sensations of clicking and locking.
  • De Quervain’s Tendinitis — This is a painful condition affecting the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist. It can develop slowly or come on suddenly, and at first, you may experience pain at the base of your thumb when gripping or pinching objects such as a cell phone. Eventually, your hand pain could radiate into the wrist and forearm. This is because of inflammation around the two tendons connecting your thumb to your wrist.
  • Thumb pain — This can also be referred to as texting tendinitis, trigger thumb, or texting thumb. The medical name is De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis, which is where both the tendon and tendon sheath in your wrist near your thumb become inflamed and cause pain.
  • Arthritis — While studies are still ongoing, many experts are beginning to see a connection between gripping your cell phone and texting with increased symptoms of arthritis in the thumbs.


Please do not delay seeking expert treatment for your hand pain from an orthopedic surgeon.

Call 817-877-3277 to schedule a consultation with the specialists at the Fort Worth Hand Center.

How To Prevent Hand Pain From Cell Phone Use

It is very difficult to avoid using your cell phone in daily life, whether it be for work, school, or fun. That said, hand pain from consistent cell phone use can worsen the more you use your phone. Therefore, it’s important to look at ways to reduce repetitive hand motions where possible to prevent hand pain.

Here are a few tips to consider:

  1. Take frequent breaks or use your phone in shorter sessions.
  2. Use voice-to-text to avoid having to type longer text messages.
  3. Use hands-free features, headphones, or earbuds.
  4. Use cell phone accessories such as flex straps and PopSockets to reduce grip strain.
  5. Switch hands when you notice yourself using one hand more than the other.
  6. Apply hot or cold compresses when you experience hand pain.
  7. If you notice hand pain, put your phone down.
  8. Incorporate hand and finger stretches and massages into your daily routine.

Need Relief From Hand Pain? We Can Help!

Hand pain related to excessive cell phone use doesn’t have to result in a trip to your local orthopedic surgeon. Many times, reducing your phone usage, switching positions, and using ergonomic and voice features can limit pain and get you back to enjoying your phone.

Occasionally, the pain you’re experiencing has escalated to a point where it’s not getting better no matter what remedies you try. If this is the case, please visit us as soon as possible. We want to help. Waiting or ignoring your hand pain as it increases can lead to long-term pain and other complications which impact your ability to do the things you love doing. Don’t do this to yourself—call one of our experts today!

From fingertips to elbows, Fort Worth Hand Center offers expert diagnosis of injuries, chronic conditions, and degenerative diseases. If surgery is your best treatment, our orthopedic physicians operate in state-of-the-art, accredited surgery centers.

To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call 817-877-3277 or complete the form below.

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Prior to starting any new treatment or if you have questions regarding a medical condition, always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

Fort Worth Hand Center serves the DFW area, including Fort Worth, Grand Prairie, Grapevine, Haltom City, Haslet, Hurst, Keller, Kennedale, Lakeside, Lake Worth, Mansfield, Newark, North Richland Hills, Pantego, Pelican Bay, Richland Hills, River Oaks, Saginaw, Sansom Park, Southlake, Trophy Club, Watauga, Westlake, Westover Hills, Westworth Village, White Settlement, Arlington, Azle, Bedford, Benbrook, Blue Mound, Burleson, Colleyville, Crowley, Dallas, Dalworthington Gardens, Edgecliff Village, Euless, Everman, Flower Mound, Forest Hill, and all of North Texas.

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