Sit Up Straight: A Guide To Overcoming 'Smartphone Stress'

Most working people in the U.S. own and use cell phones -- in fact, according to a Pew Research study, 58 percent of American adults have a smartphone these days. And a lot of those people check their phones, read on their phones and otherwise spend a lot of time hunched over their phones. That leads to pain from repetitive muscle use and improper posture.

If you find that using computers, mobile devices and smartphones take up a big chunk of your day, you may wish to consult an occupational therapist for help in minimizing the strains these things may cause during regular use. You can also get information about how to create an ergonomically correct workstation, which can reduce the impact that such strains have on your body.

Minimizing Injuries

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has some recommendations for avoiding pain and numbness from repeated smartphone usage. These include:

  • Limit thumb movement. The motion of using the thumbs to text, type and select links is not natural movement. You are at a higher risk of repetitive injuries in your thumbs, so try to use tools that let you speak what you want to type.
  • Use hands-free technology. Don't try to hold the smartphone between your ear and shoulder; instead, purchase and use a headset or use the speakerphone setting on your device.
  • Break on a regular basis -- rest your hands and eyes, and straighten up your posture.

Performing Stretches

To limit the damage done by your repetitive motion while using the smartphone, do some recommended stretching every 10 to 15 minutes that you spend on your device.

One good stretching exercise to use regularly:

  1. Put your palms face up.
  2. Move the thumbs out wide, like you were giving a sideways "thumbs up" sign.
  3. Use your other hand to push your thumb back into a comfortable stretch.

Alternatives to Use

You don't always have to use your thumbs and fingers to type or text on a mobile device. There are other options that will improve your user experience and reduce your chances of getting a strain. Try these alternatives:

  • Use a keyboard attachment that better mimics a real computer. Keep appropriate posture while typing.
  • Use a stylus made for your device. Try to find one with a larger grip for easier use.
  • No stylus? Try a pencil. Use the eraser side to push keys.
  • Place your arms on supportive armrests or pillows when you type.

It's unlikely that you'll stop using your smart phone for work or leisure any time soon. But you can take steps to reduce the effects that smartphone usage can have on your thumbs, hands and wrists -- not to mention your neck and shoulders. Talk to your occupational therapist like one from Bayonet Point Health & Rehabilitation Center about other ways to keep "smartphone stress" at bay.