Suffering From Aches and Pains Due To Gadget Use? Here Are 5 Things You Can Do To Help

- Health -

6 min read. Written by Shirouz Elango

If you’re like most people, you’re probably scrolling, swiping and tapping through a variety of devices to get things done in everyday life. But convenience has a price—and one that may be taking a toll on several parts of your body. In fact, repetitive strain injuries associated with mobile device usage has been on the rise—a study found that the extended use of smartphones and other hand-held electronic devices could link to a greater likelihood of hand aches and pains associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.

So how can using mobile gadgets lead to chronic aches and pains? And what can you do to resolve them?

How Can Mobile Device Usage Lead To Body Aches and Pains?

According to Digital Report 2020, Singaporeans spend an average of 7 hours a day online. This means that they would be looking down, slouching and scrolling for long periods of time, most commonly while using their smartphones. Such bad postures and repetitive motions have increased the prevalence of aches and pains that lead to chronic conditions that impact the wrist, neck, elbow, and back.

Here are some common repetitive strain injuries that may occur due to heavy device usage:

1.   Texting Thumb

This is one of the most common injuries associated with phone and gadget use, simply because of the over-reliance on the thumb. Such repetitive hand movements, especially in a confined space, cause the tendons in the thumb joint to be inflamed.

2.   Cell Phone Elbow

Medically known as cubital tunnel syndrome, this is a condition that results from pressure or stretching of the ulnar nerve located at the elbow joint. Prolonged flexing of the elbow—such as when speaking on the phone or typing on laptops —causes compression on the nerve, and leads to inflammation that causes pain.

3.   Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Repeated pressure on the median nerve on the wrist due to forceful or awkward hand movements—such as typing or scrolling with the thumb—may develop into carpal tunnel syndrome. Symptoms may include pain, numbness in the fingers, and weakened grip strength.

4.   Neck, Back and Shoulder Aches and Pains

We’re all guilty of bad posture—be it using our phones, or working from our beds. But prolonged periods of looking down can be damaging in the long run, causing strain on our neck, back and shoulder muscles that may lead to inflammation and spasms. Try out the following tips which may help you avoid or treat neck pain and other issues like neck arthritis.

5 Ways To Relieve Aches And Pains Due to Mobile Device Usage

Take A Break

This may be difficult as most of us make use of our phones for plenty of daily activities. However, our body isn’t equipped to be static for prolonged periods of time, and any reduction in device usage can go a long way in reducing strain. Try to take a break from using devices by setting a time limit for yourself to reduce the strain on your muscles and nerves.

Go Hands-Free

If you do need to get on your device, consider going hands-free. For example, if you need to attend calls while on the go, make use of earphones or the loudspeaker feature instead of holding your phone for long periods of time or supporting it between your ear and shoulder and causing further aches and pains. If you do need to send a text, or make a quick search, consider using the voice-to-text, or audio voice messages instead.

Get Into A Different Posture

Most mobile devices require heavy use of our hands, making it stressful on our wrists. Minimize aches and pains by changing the way you use your gadgets. The trick is to straighten out your wrists and elbows as much as possible and avoid unnatural movements that may cause strain.

For example, if you’re using a smartphone or tablet, try placing your device on a table or on one hand, as you scroll with the other to reduce pressure on your thumbs and wrist. If you’re using your laptop or smart device for prolonged periods of time, position it closer to the eye level, placing your neck in a more neutral position and reducing stress on it.

Remember, there is no perfect posture. The best posture is your next posture!

Stretch It Out

Getting into movements and stretches can help greatly in alleviating any aches and pains you might be facing due to mobile phone usage. Some stretches you can do include:

  • Wrist Extensor Stretch: Extend one arm with your palm pointed towards the floor. With the other hand, bend your wrist until you feel a stretch in your forearms. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat on the other side. View this exercise here.
  • Lateral Neck Flexion: Gently tilt your head towards one shoulder. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Active Lifestyle and Strengthening

For longer-term improvements to your condition, consider reviewing other lifestyle factors such as stress, diet, sleep and physical activity. Strengthening exercises will also help the body perform daily tasks more efficiently. One easy strengthening exercise to start doing today is:

  • Scapular Retraction: Hold your arms by the side, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat.

When To Seek Help?

If you’ve tried all the methods above and still seem to be suffering from numbness, cramps, aches and pains, then it may be time for you to set up an appointment with a physiotherapist who can help you address areas that need attention. Reach out to us today to set up an appointment and find out how we can help.


Last Reviewed by Jaden Lim on 13/02/2022