Smartphones are everywhere—rockin’ the digital world at all hours of the day (or night). As this Pew Research study confirmed, it can be hard to distance yourself from technology: “29% of cell owners describe their cell phone as ‘something they can’t imagine living without.’”
So what, exactly, are adults doing on their phones that makes the attachment habit so hard to break? The short answer: a lot of things. You can use your smartphone to talk, text, candy-crush, and browse the Internet all at the same time. And in my case, I wouldn’t even be able to navigate to a new destination without the help of that handy Maps app (embarrassing, I know).
But can too much of a good thing lead to serious health problems? Are you—or, at the very least, your phone hand—actually at risk of turning into a crustacean without warning? Okay, so growing little beady black eyes and an exoskeleton might be far-fetched. However, if you can’t seem to put down dat iPhone, you might find yourself with a nasty case of “text claw.” Don’t worry; the term is not a medical one—yet. But it is a popular descriptor of the cramping, pain, and discomfort one might feel as a result of too much tech time.
All of the scrolling, swiping, and typing we do on our phones can cause—or worsen—conditions like tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Before you start debating whether you’re better off living as a hermit—or a horseshoe—crab, consider these five tips for relieving your discomfort, as adapted from this Huffington Post article:
1. Heat it up, or cool it down.
If you’re experiencing pain for more than several weeks, relax the tendons and muscles by applying a heating pad or a hot towel to the affected area. Warm and relaxed muscles are prime for stretching. On the other hand (no pun intended), if you’ve been in pain for a week or less, icing the area may offer more effective pain relief.
2. Stretch it out.
Once you’ve heated up your claw, reach your arm forward—palm facing up—and gently stretch your finger tips down toward the floor. This releases tight muscles and tendons in the arm and wrist. You also can perform the opposite stretch with your palm facing down. Flex your fingers toward the ceiling as you gently grab your fingertips and pull toward your body until you feel a gentle stretch in your wrist. Another way to release wrist tension: place your palms together—like you would in yoga—and hold them at heart’s center. Keep your palms together and gently press the heels of your hands together and downward.
3. Apply pressure
Massage is especially effective for releasing muscle spasms. Gently press down on your forearm (or have some other lucky soul do it for you), moving up and down your arm to find tightly knotted spots or nodules (which feel like a hard lumps under the skin). Then, apply pressure and gently massage anywhere you feel pain. You might find that the tension extends beyond your arm, into your hands or thumbs. If so, rub there, too.
If your smartphone is causing pain, cramping, and muscle tightness, snap yourself out of your crabby state by applying a little heat or ice, massaging the sore spots, and doing some stretching. And if that doesn’t work, find a physical therapist near you to help you feel better, faster.