“Digital” Thumb Sprain Preventing Hand Fatigue and Pain in a World of Digital Devices

In this very digital world, we tend to spend a lot of time holding our tablets and smartphones. Little do we realize that we sometimes place pressure on joints and ligaments which may become a source of discomfort with repeated stress. Occasionally, modifying how we utilize our devices may help reduce repetitive stress.

Some individuals may decide to hold their phones or tablets with the bottom of the device resting on top of the small finger. This positioning leads to most of the weight of the device is distributed to the small finger and in some circumstances may create stress on the PIP joint (proximal interphalangeal joint) of the finger. Individuals may develop pain involving the radial collateral ligament of the PIP joint of the small finger.

Picture 1: Radial collateral ligament area of PIP joint of the small finger circled.

As an alternative, you may want to let the device rest in the palm of your hand. This will allow for a more even distribution of pressure and avoid placing uneven stress on the PIP joint of the small finger. Another approach, which alleviates all pressure, would be to rest the phone on a surface.

When scrolling on a device, individuals may utilize their thumb to swipe. Over time, pain may develop within the interphalangeal joint of the thumb. If you notice pain in the thumb, attempt switching how you utilize the touch screen. Place the device on a flat surface and instead utilize your fingers to swipe.

Picture 2: Interphalangeal joint area of the thumb circled.

Other conditions which may develop in the hand and impede the ability to utilize your device include carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome or trigger finger. With carpal tunnel, consider avoiding holding your device with the wrist bent. With cubital tunnel, consider avoiding prolonged device handling with your elbow in a bent position or with your elbow resting against an object that places excess pressure on the medial (inside) elbow.

With trigger finger, your fingers or thumb may develop a clicking or catching sensation associated with pain. Your physician may be able to offer treatments that help you return to the utilization of your device without pain.

In this very digital world, we should pay attention to how we utilize devices. In some circumstances, activity modification may improve hand fatigue and pain while allowing us to continue our regular routines.

Caution: You should ensure that your device is properly secured to prevent any drops or damage.

Disclaimer: Pain, discomfort, and fatigue may develop in the hand from a variety of causes. This information is not written to specify any singular cause of symptoms. This information is not intended to covey, substitute or supplant any medical advice. In order to establish a treating relationship, please schedule and complete your visits with a licensed physician.

Copyright 12/9/2021 Tanay Amin, MD

Do not copy, distribute, or publish this article. Please contact Precision Hand and Orthopedic Surgery PLLC with regards to any inquiries or corrections.