Tips for avoiding smartphone hand pain

Tips for avoiding smartphone hand pain

The effects of smartphones on our fingers, hands and elbows


Did you know that the average Australian will spend 17 years of their life on their smartphone? This equates to 33% of our time awake!

All this time spent on your mobile can lead to aches and pains. If you’ve been feeling sore after scrolling through your feed, texting friends, playing the latest word puzzle game or watching your favourite streamer, this is the perfect place to be. Down below, you’ll see some of the more common conditions we see from mobile device use and some quick changes you can make.

Hand holding a mobile phone. Tips for avoiding smartphone hand pain.

Smartphone Pinkie (often a ligament or muscle overuse injury)


Most smartphones weigh between 160g to 240g. If you use your little finger as a phone rest all that weight is directly supported by the small muscles that are in your hand (palmar interossei) and the ligaments of your little finger. Nothing else uses these structures this way, (you don’t hang shopping bags off the side of your hand!) so constant use of your phone can easily overwork them. 

Quick tips:

  • Hold your phone resting the weight on the palm of your hand
  • Use a pop socket/stand
  • Intrinsic hand muscle strengthening


Man gripping an iPhone. If you spend a lot of time gripping or clutching your phone, your fingers and thumb can start to cramp or become inflamed.

It’s daunting to think about how many hours a day you might be clutching or scrolling on your smart device.


Text Claw (EDC tendinopathy)


Fingers curled around the edge of the phone, wrist bent towards you. Does this sound familiar? If you’ve been getting pain in your fingers or along the back of your wrist you may have overstretched your EDC tendon. Your EDC extends, or straightens out, your wrist and fingers. Just like the rest of your body, a bit of stretch is great, but long stretches can become uncomfortable. Everything in moderation 😉 

Quick tips:

  • Change positions frequently
  • Try to keep a neutral wrist
  • Use a pop socket or support your phone on a desk/table


Melbourne Hand Rehab hand therapist shows an example of the neutral wrist

The neutral wrist


Smartphone Elbow (cubital tunnel syndrome)


If you get pins and needles after long periods of time on your mobile while on calls, you may have smartphone elbow. This is caused by compression of the ulnar nerve at the level of your elbow. One of the most common causes of compression is spending too much time with your elbow bent, like when you’re taking a call. Just like stepping on a hose reduces the flow of water, your body reacts to compression by causing numbness and tingling. Over a long period of time, compression can lead to muscle weakness and atrophy.

Quick tips:

  • Use an in-line/blue tooth mic
  • Change positions regularly and try to straighten your arm


Image of woman using her thumb to scroll on her smartphone

If you spend a lot of time gripping or clutching your phone, your fingers and thumb can start to cramp or become inflamed.


Texter’s Thumb (De Quervain’s tenosynovitis)


Pain while scrolling through Instagram? Might be De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, which is an inflammation of the tendon sheaths at the base of your thumb. Inflammation is usually a result of repetitive extension and abduction of your thumb (think flicking your thumb up or swiping left).

Quick tips:

  • Use a stylus
  • Take frequent breaks


General tips for avoiding smartphone hand pain


  • Smartphones are an essential part of modern life that have changed how we use our hands. Just like learning not to sit at a desk for too long, it’s important to take regular breaks.
  • There are some quick fixes you can try to reduce your symptoms including: changing positions regularly, supporting your mobile in the palm of your hand or using a pop socket/stand, regular stretching and strengthening exercises.
  • If your symptoms persist for longer than a week or you are concerned and looking for further advice, our hand therapists are available to help.

Karen Friesen, Practitioner in Hand Therapy, Melbourne Hand Rehab

By Karen Friesen

If you are experiencing thumb, hand or wrist pain, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’d love to help you.



For more information, call us directly on 03 9458 5166


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Image credits: Creative Christians, Maxim Ilyahov, Kevin Bhagat, Viktor Hanacek  Unsplash