What Is Cell Phone Elbow?

woman holding cell phone sitting on sofa Nov9th 2020

Causes of Cell Phone Elbow

If you’re sensing tingling or numbness in your ring and pinky fingers, you may be suffering from cubital tunnel syndrome.  You’ll experience finger, hand, or elbow pain like this because the ulnar nerve (located behind your elbow) has become pinched.

Can Cell Phones Cause Joint Pain?

Do you feel pain in your thumb, fingers, wrist or elbow after texting or playing a game on your mobile phone? The the pain is a tingling or numbness in your ring and/or pinkie fingers, this what’s commonly known as “cell phone elbow” or cubital tunnel syndrome. If you are experiencing this sensation, it could be a sign of cell phone elbow, or cubital tunnel syndrome, which is similar to carpel syndrome, except the ulnar nerve in your arm is pinched in the space right behind your elbow.

How Cell Phone Use Causes Elbow Pain

This pinch and subsequent elbow pain can occur after your elbows have been bent over for long periods at a time due to—for example— extended cell phone use. It’s the reason why cubital tunnel syndrome is more popularly known as “cell phone elbow.”

It can also feel like the widely-known “tennis elbow” if the ulnar nerve becomes overly stretched over the lateral epicondyle.

In spite of its unscientific names, cubital tunnel syndrome can also emerge if you sleep in an elbow-bent position, among other things.

Symptoms of Cell Phone Elbow

Cell phone elbow symptoms are virtually limited to strange sensations like tingling or numbness in your outer fingers, or an uncomfortable tightness, ache, or pain in your elbow. 

Whether it’s from a cell phone, gaming, or texting, the ulnar nerve can get pinched in your elbow and cause pain. To figure out which type of CTS you might have, have someone look at your hand for signs of swelling or bruising. If there is no swelling or bruising, then you may have a neuropathy, which is likely the result of damage to the nerves located outside of the brain and spinal cord (peripheral nerves). This often causes weakness, numbness and pain, usually in the hands and feet. It can also affect other areas and body functions including digestion, as well as the carpal tunnel syndrome throughout the wrists and hands.

What is Text Claw?

The pain brought on from excessive texting, typing and scrolling on smartphones that causes gramps and aches in the fingers and wrists is commonly known as “Text Claw”. While still a non-medical term, text claw can really take a toll on your wrist and hands. Unless you consciously make an effort to take care of yourself and your wrists, it can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome which causes pain, aches and numbness as well as reduced. While text claw isn’t actually carpal tunnel syndrome, the swelling from tendonitis that can occur, can be a contributing factor to developing carpal tunnel syndrome.

Cell Phone Elbow Treatment

Your cell phone elbow symptoms can usually be easily treated with just some anti-inflammatory medicine, as it can go away on its own. You can also use the medication with heat or cold pack application or stretching for a more quick and effective cell phone elbow treatment process. The treatment can be furthered by wearing a splint or elbow pad when you go to bed.

If your ulnar nerve was severely damaged from your tennis elbow, you may require cubital tunnel release surgery. This procedure moves your nerve from the back of the elbow bone to the front. This shift removes pressure from the nerve for easier bending free from elbow pain.

How To Prevent Cell Phone Elbow

You can limit your exposure to elbow pain and other cell phone elbow symptoms by taking a couple of mindful steps.

Curb the amount of time your elbows are bent in a strenuous way by utilizing hands-free bluetooth phone technology, changing your hand or arm position when talking or scrolling through your phone, or just cutting down your cell phone use overall. You can also regularly stretch your wrist extensors and arms to keep loose. 

Really though, there’s not too much else you can do on your own to stop cell phone elbow from ever occurring.

That’s because if you’re experiencing these symptoms—while the billions of other people using smartphones aren’t—then it’s more likely due to a genetic predisposition than genuine mobile phone overuse. You could just have a narrower cubital tunnel than most people have. Moreover, you could have been born with an extra muscle there, causing issues. 

Physical Therapy for Elbow Pain

If more than a week goes by and your cell phone or tennis elbow, or another form of muscular pain, is heavily affecting your quality of life: reach out to the expert physical therapists at Orthopedic & Sport Rehab Therapy. We will listen to your concerns and create a professionally-guided plan to strengthen the muscles in your hands, wrists and surrounding areas so you can go back to your daily routine as good as new. Contact us to schedule an appointment or consultation today!

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