Smartphone Overuse Injuries—Can You Recover?

August 16, 2018 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Smartphone Overuse Injuries—Can You Recover?

You Could Receive Compensation for Smartphone Overuse

Do you sometimes feel like you're missing something vital if you're separated from your smartphone? Are you often checking email, texting your buddies, scrolling through your social media feeds or playing your favorite game wherever you happen to be? Smartphones are a great addition to our daily lives, making us more efficient and letting us stay connected to work, family and friends. But there's a downside to having technology in our pockets: The overwhelming amount of time we spend on our mobile devices. The average American smartphone owner actually checks his or her phone 110 times a day! This constant desire to use our smartphones means that there's a marked increase in overuse injuries related to fingers, thumbs, hands, arms, necks, backs, and even eyes. If you're like most people, you don't think twice about the possibility of developing a painful overuse injury until it happens to you. But, believe it or not, when you tap, type, and swipe for hours, your muscles, tendons, and nerves come under attack. Knowing the most common types of these injuries and how to prevent them—or at least, reduce their impact—can help you avoid the pain and suffering that usually accompanies a device overuse injury.

Five Common Overuse Injuries Associated with Smartphone Use

You may suffer a muscle strain or tendon inflammation from overusing your mobile device without taking proper precautions. People who use their smartphones for several hours each day are more likely to develop these five common injuries.

1. Text neck Smartphone Overuse Injuries

Sometimes also called “tech neck,” this injury occurs when you bend your neck over your device screen for long periods. Your neck has no issue supporting the weight of your head—which weighs about 12 pounds—as long as you stay relatively straight. But when you bend your neck forward and down, you dramatically increase the load your cervical spine has to bear. When your neck bends at a 15-degree angle, you're bearing about 27 pounds; increase that angle to 60 degrees and you're managing about 60 pounds of weight. All those extra pounds of load on your neck and upper back lead to increased wear and tear on your spinal column, including degradation to the discs, which can usually only be fixed through surgery. Younger and more flexible people, like teenagers, are even more likely than adults to hunch over or curl up in this position, leading to pain and inflammation at earlier ages. How to reduce the impact: Hold or rest your phone at eye level so your neck isn't bending.

2. Text claw Smartphone Overuse Injuries

It's not just your neck that suffers from hunching over and clutching your phone. The muscles and tendons in your hands can develop repetitive injuries from holding and typing on that small screen. This differs from carpal tunnel because it's really a type of tendonitis, or inflammation of the tendons in your hands. If you suffer from text claw, your wrist will hurt and you may have trouble grasping or lack grip strength. How to reduce the impact: Use hands-free options like talk to text whenever possible. If you do have signs of an overuse injury or tendonitis, rest your hands as much as you can and apply ice. You may wish to consult a physical therapist who specializes in overuse injuries to get help with a stretching and massage routine that can help alleviate symptoms.

3. Cell Phone Elbow Smartphone Overuse Injuries

Don't have wrist pain? Your cell phone can still cause inflammation of nerves and tendons in your arm up to your elbow because of how rigidly you hold your arms when you're using your smartphone. This is called Cubital tunnel syndrome and can lead to numbness and tingling—and sometimes pain. How to reduce the impact: Stretch your arms frequently when using your phone and switch hands frequently. Cut back on use if you experience symptoms.

4. Texting Thumb Smartphone Overuse Injuries

If you use your thumb a lot for alternatively texting and then gripping your phone, the repetitive motion of unnaturally bending your thumb back and forth can lead to pain and numbness. The carpometacarpal joint, where the thumb connects to your hand, can swell and actually develop arthritis over time. Kids who play games on a mobile device are more likely to develop problems with their hands and thumbs in young adulthood. How to reduce the impact: Use voice to text options when you can, and use fingers for texting when you must. Limit game time that uses your thumbs.

5. Eye Strain Smartphone Overuse Injuries

Not only do you blink less when staring at a screen—about 66 percent less—but you can strain your eyes by staring at the same small images for long periods of time. By focusing more on your screen, the muscles in your eyes, face, and neck tense up, leading to headaches and other issues. How to reduce the impact: Make a conscious effort to blink when using a device with a screen and use eye drops that help with dry eye issues. Take breaks at least every 20 minutes where you look away from your screen and focus on other things for a few seconds. Reducing your use and incorporating more hands-free options whenever you can mitigate most injuries related to smartphone use. If your employer requires mobile device use, ask about hands-free tools you can use and best practices for reducing your risk.

Contact the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA if You Have an Overuse Injury

At the first sign of symptoms that may be associated with overuse injuries, it's important to seek professional medical attention to prevent the issues from getting worse. Document your injuries, especially if they are associated with overuse from your job or other required device use. You may have a case to recover compensation, including workers' compensation, associated with any medical care or long-term problems connected to overuse of your employer-provided smartphone. Call our Clearwater office at (727) 451-6900 or contact us online for a free consultation with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney who can assess your situation and help you determine if you may be able to seek damages. Our lawyers have experience with workplace injuries and can explain your options if you're suffering from an overuse injury associated with smartphone use. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 (727) 451-6900


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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