Australian physios see thumb injuries from mobile phone overuse

Doom scrolling on mobile phones has skyrocketed since the advent of Covid-19, increasing thumb injuries.

Australian physiotherapists report an increase in the number of people with sore thumbs and other hand injuries from overuse of their devices.

Australian physios see thumb injuries from mobile phone overuse

“There is certainly an increase in thumb pain in clients that we see in private practice from excessive scrolling on phones, no doubt about it,” said Melbourne physiotherapist and hand therapist Karen Fitt.

“Since Covid struck, time on phones has increased by 50 percent or more, leading to a proportional increase in pain and injuries. And sure, that’s what we see in the clinic.”

Experts say that camera icon Mindless scrolling has led to more people developing thumb injuries. Stock credit: istock

Ms. Fitt said the problem was caused by the tendons around the thumb working abnormally.

“If you consider how most people would hold their phone, and they just swipe their thumbs up, there are two problems with that,” she said.

“It’s not a normal movement that we would make, so that tendon isn’t designed to work in a repetitive, straightening motion. You overload that tendon and ask it to do something it doesn’t normally do.

“The other problem is that it’s a very isolated movement – ​​the rest of the arm and wrist all remain quite stationary, and the whole exercise comes from one or two small joints in the thumb.

“Those two things together lead to irritation, inflammation, aggravation of the tendons around the thumb working abnormally, and irritation of the joint itself because there may be a pre-existing bit of arthritis in that joint, or it’s just not used to that level of repetitive movements.

“So we’re seeing injuries to the joint and also to the tendons.”

Camera icon Overuse injuries were more common in people over 40, said Melbourne hand therapist Karen Fitt. Credit: News Regional Media

While scrolling on a cell phone can cause problems for the thumb, doing it on a desktop computer can also cause problems with the index finger.

“You often get tendonitis in your index finger from scrolling when sitting at a desktop,” said Ms. Fitt.

People in their 40s were more likely to have overuse injuries, but physios saw them in children, too, she said.

Good news, though: Is such injuries are not permanent and would resolve with treatment, which usually involves splinting to give the finger a chance to rest, along with strengthening work.

The most important part of the treatment was advising people to stick to the guidelines of less than two hours a day of screen time outside of work and even less for children, Ms. Fitt added.

People also need to change the way they hold their phones.

“(To try) scrolling with different fingers, not always on and on the thumb,” she said.

“The other part of this in terms of physical injuries is that scrolling takes up the time we would normally spend doing other physical activities and moving our bodies, and so there’s that element as well.”

Research by the Australian Communications and Media Authority published in December found that the Covid pandemic has contributed to the rapid growth of Australians’ online activity.

Aussies downloaded a total of 9.8 million terabytes of data in the three months to June 2021, a 20 percent jump from June 2020.

The survey found that Australians are increasingly using the internet for various daily activities, including work, access to services, banking, and shopping.

Lori J. Kile
I love to write and create. I love photography, design, travel and art. I am a full time freelance writer and photographer.I am very excited to be creating new content and opportunities for my readers.