If You Have A Smartphone, You Probably Struggle With Cell Phone Elbow

A cell phone elbow follows the rapid progression of tech-related repetitive strain injuries experts diagnosed in the last couple of years. It’s not surprising to observe the daily routines and smartphone practices of an always-on generation.

Statistically, nearly 50% of the American population spends five-six hours a day on their smartphones. The remaining use it for more than an hour at most. Many survey participants confessed that the designated period doesn’t include phone usage in a professional setting.

The way you hold your phone and the amount of time spent online can determine the possibility of developing a cubital tunnel syndrome or carpal tunnel syndrome.

This article sheds light on the causes, signs, and risks of tech-associated medical conditions. In addition, we discuss the importance of physical therapy for a cell phone elbow. 

Here’s what you need to know:

Cell Phone Elbow Overview: What Is Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

You might be aware of a tennis elbow or a golf elbow. A cell phone elbow isn’t much different when we consider the reasons for its development. Only this time around, you experience pain and discomfort because of frequent smartphone usage instead of playing a sport.

What’s it called in medical terms?

A cell phone elbow refers to cubital tunnel syndrome. Like most repetitive strain injuries, repeated actions result in this syndrome. In this case, using the smartphone for extended periods can be the leading cause of this injury.

As the name suggests, elbow placement and hand movements play a significant role. For instance, bending your elbow for hours while you text and attend phone calls can place undue pressure on your joints. The strain can cause the ulnar nerve and surrounding muscles to stretch because you stay in this uncomfortable position for excessive periods. Subsequently, tensed hand muscles and compressed nerves can reduce blood circulation in the affected area. It can cause muscles to swell and become inflamed. As a result, you experience a tingling sensation in specific parts of the forearm. You might observe this in the small fingers and pinky fingers the most. The localized numbness and pain differentiate cubital tunnel syndrome from carpal tunnel syndrome. That’s because carpal tunnel syndrome targets the longer fingers, index finger, and thumb.

The numbness might subside after you rest but shoots up again when using your smartphone. Alternatively, it might feel like your fingers fell asleep due to fatigue. Due to this, you can find it difficult to use the affected hand properly.

What Are Some Common Signs of a Cell Phone Elbow?

Have you ever bumped your funny bone (humerus)? The tingling sensation you feel isn’t much different from the initial signs of a cubital syndrome. In the beginning, the numbness and pain might be sporadic.

With time, nerve and muscle damage might increase. Due to this, you might experience other symptoms.

These include:

  • Muscle ache in target points (i.e., the forearm, wrist joint, fingers, and thumb)
  • Frequent numbness and tingling sensation in the target sites
  • Reduced muscle strength
  • A recurring feeling of tiredness and muscle fatigue in the affected area
  • Difficulty in grasping objects and performing other hand-related activities like typing, writing, drawing, etc.
  • Decreased coordination and mobility

Without treatment, a cell phone elbow can transition into chronic pain. The effects can be debilitating as your fingers and elbow joint become too stiff to move. Moreover, frequent texters and computer users can develop carpal tunnel syndrome simultaneously. The worst-case scenario includes paralysis in the affected hand. 

Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the risks and accelerate recovery from repetitive strain injuries.

The Treatment: Can You Treat a Cell Phone Elbow Naturally?

Cell phone elbow diagnosis

You might be interested in learning how to reverse carpal tunnel syndrome naturally or at-home treatments for a cell phone elbow. Physical therapy can help you in this scenario. It’s a non-invasive, biomechanically-oriented solution for reversing repetitive strain injuries. Regular physical therapy can ease muscle pain, support healthy mobility, and promote natural recovery.

We recommend seeking consultation at the first sign of a cubital tunnel syndrome. That’s because earlier diagnosis prevents internal injuries and physical pain from escalating.

On the other hand, your primary physician might suggest physical therapy as a supplementary treatment after being diagnosed with cubital tunnel syndrome. One of the advantages of physical therapy lies in non-invasive techniques. Physicians know that physical therapy strengthens affected muscles without intervening with medication or other treatments for the syndrome.

How can we help you?

Whether you visit Specialized Physical Therapy for prevention or rehabilitation, we can help. We aim to support individual recovery through careful assessment and result-oriented pain management techniques. Our supervision and your dedication result in positive outcomes and minimize the risk of further deterioration.

Here’s how Specialized Physical Therapy treats a cell phone elbow:

Receive a Complete Diagnosis to Start Treatment

Initial consultation revolves around a detailed physical examination to identify the root cause of your problem. We begin by asking questions related to your medical history and daily schedule. Pain patterns and the duration of the symptoms you experience are equally important in diagnosing the health issue.

These questions are combined with proper physical tests. We can ask you to rotate or bend your arms, grip objects, and do different physical tasks. We will have you grip a hand dynanamemter – basically a fancy device that measures your hand and grip strength.

When you perform these activities, our experienced practitioners make a note of how the pain impacts mobility. The acquired information allows us to create customized treatment plans.

Professional diagnosis allows you to address internal injuries quicker. They also heal you holistically, unlike medications and remedies available for short-term relief. Additionally, a personalized approach proves more effective for many patients. That’s because it fits your daily routine and aligns with your endurance level better than generic advice.

Personalized Physical Therapy for a Cell Phone Elbow

We divide physical therapy treatments for cell phone elbow into different segments depending on individual symptoms. Most patients receive onsite support through massaging, soft tissue treatment, and manual therapy. The treatment can also include electrical stimulation techniques to promote blood circulation and reduce pain.

In addition to this, your designated physical therapist will teach you strategic home exercises. The workout regime predominantly features muscle stretching and strengthening movements. These are designed to treat affected muscles by improving agility, flexibility and inhibiting pain. In turn, regular exercise restores the lost range of motion in the affected area.

We recommend patients continue physical therapy exercises long after treatment. It’ll ensure that your tensed muscles retain functionality through relaxation and strengthening movements.

Our experienced team can help you overcome the drawbacks associated with smartphones and digital devices. We provide functional training and ergonomic assessments for workspaces. The latter includes evaluations with tips on maintaining a good posture while using digital devices. Additionally, we offer actionable suggestions on how workers can upgrade their desks to minimize the risk of recurring wear and tear of the body.

As a result, we help promote a better quality of life. Our practitioners do this by increasing self-awareness about how you use your phone. Subsequently, this knowledge allows you to work and play on your cell phone without triggering pain.

Bonus Tip: How to Use Smartphones Ergonomically?

Going on a full digital detox isn’t possible in a tech-dependent world as we need smartphones to stay connected with work and social contacts. Therefore, the best way to treat (or prevent) cubital tunnel syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome will be the ergonomic usage of a smartphone. Small changes can result in significant progress in subduing pain patterns and accelerating natural recovery.

Here are some things you can do:

#1. Invest in an Ergonomic Office Chair

Deskbound workers should upgrade to an ergonomic office chair. It’ll help you to straighten your back and shoulders. Subsequently, it will ensure that your elbows and wrists are positioned correctly. Maintaining a good posture can effectively reduce the amount of pressure placed on nerve points.

When dealing with a cell phone elbow, seats with hand rests and adjustable height are the best. These features can allow you to use the smartphone comfortably and ergonomically. Don’t restrict the purchase of workstations. We recommend using proper seating for casual settings too. That’s because you’re far more likely to use your smartphone for extended periods before and after work.

#2. Avoid Gripping Your Phone Tightly

A tight grip can add to the strain placed on your fingers, wrists, and elbows. Therefore, you should be mindful of how you hold digital devices. Try maintaining a loose grip when you’re using your smartphone. Alternatively, you can use a pop socket or lazy hands.

These devices make it easier for owners to hold smartphones with large screens. More importantly, they promote an ergonomic position of holding the cell phone. Plus, you can even use these devices as stands by propping up your smartphone in a vertical or diagonal position. This way, you can watch videos or play games in a hands-free mode.

#3. Use Bluetooth Hands-Free Sets

Investing in hands-free Bluetooth sets and Airpodscan also be beneficial. That’s because it limits the time you spend holding your smartphone during long calls. In this way, you won’t have to hold your cell phone in an uncomfortable position that compresses your nerves.

Moreover, it doesn’t reduce the risk of developing a cell phone elbow. It also helps prevent other repetitive strain injuries like back pain, text claw, wrist pain, tech neck, and other physical problems.

#4. Remember to Take Breaks

Do you spend a significant amount of your day on the phone?

Whether you do it to scroll through emails, social media feeds, make calls to clients or your loved ones, you need to drop that smartphone occasionally. That’s because even with ergonomic support, your muscles and nerves need adequate rest.

Therefore, we recommend taking a three tofive minute-long break to stretch once in a while. Use this time to do some desk exercises to stretch your fingers, wrist, and elbow. It would also help if you walked around during this period to prevent your legs from cramping as well.

Other things to do during breaks:

  • You can massage and rub your pain points to alleviate pressure on your elbows, wrists, and fingers.
  • Use heat or cold compression therapy to soothe sore muscles after a tedious workday.
  • Keep a compression ball at hand to strengthen hand muscles and grip.

Aside from stretching, you should switch hands when you’re using the cell phone for over an hour. It will reduce the amount of strain placed on the hands and elbows.

Parting Words

In a nutshell, our digitally connected lives make us susceptible to repetitive strain injuries like a cell phone elbow or text claw. You can avoid this by adopting more ergonomic habits while using digital devices. These include adjusting workstations to reposition our hands and elbows and investing in a hands-free device. Additionally, you can schedule breaks in between prolonged sessions to give your elbows some relief.

If you’re already experiencing symptoms of a cell phone elbow, consult a physical therapist. An experienced consultant can treat cubital tunnel syndrome and teach you how to reverse carpal tunnel syndrome naturally. Early intervention can prevent long-term debilitating pain and loss of mobility.

Are you considering physical therapy for cubital tunnel syndrome? Book a consultation with Specialized Physical Therapy to receive personalized care and support. Call (201) 773-8851 for further details.