Smartphone-Induced Wrist Pain- A Case of Tendinitis

Smartphone induced thumb pain
(a) Use of iPhoneX with one hand. (b) Use of iPhone 6. (c) Use of iPhoneX with two hands

An otherwise healthy man suffered from wrist pain after he bought a new smartphone with a bigger display. Overuse of thumb led to tendinitis!

Texting is a known cause of de Quervain tenosynovitis. Especially, with the advent of larger-display smartphones, the incidence of tendinitis is increasing. Using a large-display smartphone with one hand and using the thumb to navigate across the screen leads to tendinitis as the thumb, being shorter than others, is unable to reach the corners of the screen; thus, aggravating the tendinitis. It is imperative for physicians to be aware of the diseases of the new era. Awareness will enable the physicians to inquire the patients regarding the size and the type of smartphone they use; also which digit they use for texting. Here is a case as an example of tendinitis due to smartphone use.

An otherwise healthy Japanese man in his 40s, presented with complaints of gradually progressive pain in his right wrist. The pain was mainly on the radial aspect of the wrist. Moreover, he revealed that the pain was worsened by extension, abduction, or adduction of his thumb. However, without any wrist movement, there was no pain.

Examination revealed no swelling or erythema. However, there was tenderness on palpation over the abductor pollicis longus and extensor pollicis brevis tendons. Additionally, the pain was only on the dorsal wrist, whereas, the palmer side had no positive findings on examination.

The history and the physical examination suggested the diagnosis of de Quervain tenosynovitis. The patient did not take any medical treatment and wanted his symptoms to resolve spontaneously.

Since the symptoms were not treated, the complaint persisted. Subsequently, he was unable to hold heavy items as it would elicit pain.

After a week, he noticed that his symptoms particularly worsened after the use of his new phone, the iPhone X, which he had bought 2 months prior to the onset of the symptoms.

He revealed that he used his right hand to hold his iPhone and texted with the thumb of the same hand. Although he had always used his phone with his right hand, his previous phone, iPhone 6, had a much smaller body and display as compared to the new one. Since the history revealed that the symptoms correlated with the use of the new phone, his doctors concluded that use of a bigger phone resulted in the tendinitis.

The doctors advised him to give rest to the right hand. When needed, he should use his left hand to hold his phone and use the right hand’s index finger to manipulate the display. Symptoms gradually improved over a few weeks. Consequently, he became symptom-free.

SOURCEIwata K. Smartphone-induced tendinitis: A case report. J Family Med Prim Care 2019;8:1784-5
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Dr. Arsia Hanif has been a meritorious Healthcare professional with a proven track record throughout her academic life securing first position in her MCAT examination and then, in 2017, she successfully completed her Bachelors of Medicine and Surgery from Dow University of Health Sciences. She has had the opportunity to apply her theoretical knowledge to the real-life scenarios, as a House Officer (HO) serving at Civil Hospital. Whilst working at the Civil Hospital, she discovered that nothing satisfies her more than helping other humans in need and since then has made a commitment to implement her expertise in the field of medicine to cure the sick and regain the state of health and well-being. Being a Doctor is exactly what you’d think it’s like. She is the colleague at work that everyone wants to know but nobody wants to be. If you want to get something done, you approach her – everyone knows that! She is currently studying with Medical Council of Canada and aspires to be a leading Neurologist someday. Alongside, she has taken up medical writing to exercise her skills of delivering comprehensible version of the otherwise difficult medical literature. Her breaks comprise either of swimming, volunteering services at a Medical Camp or spending time with family.


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