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What Is Smartphone Pinky: Its Related Conditions & Impact On Worklife

10 min read
Published on 17 January, 2023

The telephone was first invented in the 1800s to establish communication with a person residing elsewhere. A great invention indeed! Over the years, the device underwent multiple changes. Soon, in the 1900s, the cell phone came into existence, which was a compact and wireless version of the telephone. Then, in 1992, IBM introduced the first-ever smartphone,"Simon the Communicator."

Fast forwarding to 2023, we now have smartphones that offer numerous features besides calling. Smartphones have become an essential commodity in everyone's life. Traveling or spending a day without them seems impossible.

Many people have even developed unhealthy lifestyle habits due to excessive phone use. One such related issue is the smartphone pinky. The hype about smartphone pinky is its negative impact on how your hand muscles and nerves function.

Developing any muscle or nerve-related troubles is harrowing, especially if you are a corporate employee. This is simply because you spend the maximum duration of your day typing on the keyboard, using the mouse, or the phone. All these activities have higher chances of triggering pain in your hand.

So, are you curious about what the term “smartphone pinky” means? Is it possible that you may be suffering from a smartphone pinky? And is it something to worry about? If yes, how can it affect your work life?

To answer all these questions and more, we have curated this article. Without further ado, let's give it a read.

What is a smartphone pinky?

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Smartphone pinky refers to deformation of the dominant hand's little finger. It develops when you improperly hold a phone for long periods of time.

This terminology has been making rounds on social media for quite some time, making netizens curious. Many social media users have also started sharing images of their disfigured pinky fingers, linking it to prolonged use of phones.

Health experts, however, debate that this term has no legitimate medical explanation. The topic, infact, requires in-depth research. Whatsoever, given the amount of time, we spend using a smartphone, this is something worth looking into.

Reading so far, you must have tried holding your phone to see your pinky's position. I did, too. Most people, including me, hold the phone differently, and sometimes it involves the pinky finger.

This is worrisome. Sources suggest using our phones in an improper hand position may eventually trigger finger pain and affect the ulnar nerve. Keep on reading to find out why!

How exactly smartphone pinky develops?

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The claim is if you use your ring and pinky finger more to grab your phone upright, the device's weight will take a toll on your fingers. Over the long run, if you continue putting the phone's weight more on your pinky, there is a possibility of nerve damage around the thumb and wrist.

Why does this happen? The wrist naturally twists slightly when you hold the phone like a claw, with your pinky finger holding most of the phone's weight. The twisted wrist also puts pressure on the nerves underneath, which eventually leads to minor strain injury. Moreover, the little finger of our hands is not built to take such heavyweight for a long time.

If you continue to hold your phone this way, your ring and pinky finger may end up with dents or even deformed.

According to medical experts, smartphone pinky may be a colloquial term, but they warn about smartphone use's damaging effects. They emphasize people who hold their phones wrongly may suffer from a condition called Repetitive Strain Injury.

Other conditions related to smartphone use

With the entry of social media apps, we have become more obsessed with smartphones. Going through the social media feed has become a ritual for many. And the obsession to scroll through the reels and stories or to chat on different social platforms is a commonly seen trait among all.

Surveys suggest Gen Z spend most of their time glued to their phones for four to five hours daily, and the millennials also spend the same amount of time, more or less.

Here is a list of possible conditions related to repetitive strain injury that may arise due to this habit of smartphone use:

1. Cubital tunnel syndrome

You may have often found yourself scrolling through your phone while lying on the bed, holding the phone with one hand resting on the elbow. When you spend an ample amount of time in such a position, the ulnar nerve suffers. This may lead to cubital tunnel syndrome.

The ulnar nerve is present inside the cubital tunnel, which runs through the elbow. Injury of this nerve causes it to become swollen and inflamed. This condition is also known as "smartphone elbow” or “cellphone elbow syndrome."

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • hand pain
  • numbness in your hand
  • tingling and discomforting sensation in your fingers or the entire hand when you bend your elbow
  • intense pain when you hit your elbow or your funny bone accidentally

2. Text claw

Growing up, almost everyone may have heard terms such as "Gamer's thumb" or "Claw hand" among those who play video games excessively. With the introduction of the text messaging feature, a different kind of addiction related to texting has risen. This is seen to cause "text claw," which induces wrist and thumb pain. Text claw is an outcome of using your phone mostly with one hand, wearing out your thumb.

3. Text neck

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Text neck is a condition that arises when you text on your phone while bending your neck for a long period of time. This may lead to a hunch on your neck and affect the muscles around your neck, causing neck pain and spasms.

Also read: 7 Effective Ways to Help You With Neck Pain at Work

4. Smartphone tendinitis

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Smartphone tendinitis is another type of repetitive strain injury that develops due to excessive use of smartphones. Experts point out that repetitive motions of texting or swiping on the phone screen can lead to smartphone tendinitis.

5. Numb thumb

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As the term suggests, a person suffering from numb thumb experiences numbness in their thumb. Other symptoms of a numb thumb involve painful tingling or burning sensation in the thumb area. This condition, however, has a medical term, too, known as Carpal tunnel syndrome.

Too much texting or even playing games on smartphones results in developing carpal tunnel syndrome. In this case, the median nerve that runs from the forearm into the palms of your hand becomes compressed. This further causes pain, swelling, and muscle weakness in the hand in different areas, including the thumb.

6. Dry eyes

Dry eyes is another common medical issue that develops due to too much screen time. The severity of dry eyes should not be underestimated. Suffering from dry eyes has become a common condition among corporate employees. Increased laptop screen time, reduced eye blinking, and sitting in a centrally air-conditioned workplace are some reasons behind developing dry eyes.

It is a known fact that blinking is an involuntary action. But when it comes to using smartphones or laptops, to avoid the troubles of dry eyes, it is advisable to blink frequently.

7. Underlying medical issues

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It is observed the pain and deformity that emerge from excessive phone use may also be because of some other underlying medical condition. Here are some medical conditions that may be present, triggering such pain:

Clinodactyly - It is a hereditary condition that causes the fingers to become curved.

Dupuytren's contracture - It is believed to be a hereditary condition that affects the ring and pinky fingers. This condition causes the ring and pinky fingers to become deformed without any pain.

Impact of smartphone pinky on work-life

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The common work culture in the corporate world is to deliver work timely and have untapped productivity. Along with this, the perceived ideology about working in today's time is if you keep performing poorly and your contribution towards the organization's goal is not met, you become replaceable.

Suggested reading: 7 Ways To Foster A Healthy Work Environment To Improve Employee Health

Hence, if you have to put up with any pain related to smartphone pinky or excessive phone use, it will only affect your productivity at work. Suffering from any kind of physical pain also slows down your ability to concentrate. This, in turn, will affect your overall performance at work. Also, if your work requires you to type a lot or have a sitting job, such conditions can aggravate further. Moreover, being in physical pain will make you feel inactive and lethargic.

As you can see, improper and excessive phone use is not only known to cause smartphone pinky, but you may also perform poorly due to its related pain troubles.

Tips to reduce pain at work

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While working, many tend to dive deep into their work, forgetting to change their sitting position or sometimes even to blink. Sitting in the same position for an extended time worsens such pain.

1. Change your sitting position

The saying is, "A good posture leads to a better life." It turns out that this saying is definitely true. Growing up, our parents have always corrected our posture (well, as kids, we hated to be pointed out in this case). But now, on reaching adulthood, it all makes sense, doesn't it?

What you have to do is, as you sit in your work chair, make sure the chair is adjusted as per your height. Position your laptop to match your eye level.

The same applies while using your phone - ensure you maintain a healthy position as you head into the world of social media.

2. Take a break

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Give yourself breaks timely and spend some time away from your phone. Taking breaks is essential to give both your eyes and hands a rest. Nowadays, social media applications have the feature of setting daily usage alerts. This feature allows you to set a time limit on your social media consumption. Give this feature a try, and the results will astonish you.

Now, this even applies in the workplace. Sitting in front of the laptop for long hours hampers your well-being. This is why you should always remember to get up from your seat and move around a bit, performing the NEAT exercises. With this, you can burn off some extra calories. This way, you can kill two birds with one stone.

3. Switch hands

If you spend a large amount of time talking over the phone, switching hands is advisable. Handling your phone with two hands alternatively reduces the possibility of any nerve or muscle damage.

4. Go hands-free

The tech industry has been introducing significant innovations into this world lately, making our lives much easier. One such innovation is the ear pod. If you don't own one, get one today. Go hands-free as you make calls, and give your hands the rest they deserve.

5. Practice stretch exercises

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Stretch exercise is your holy grail to reduce and prevent any impending physical pain due to bad posture. Here are some exercises that you can perform while sitting at your desk:

  • Chest stretch
  • Shoulder shrug
  • Spinal twist
  • Torso twist
  • Forearm stretch
  • Neck stretch

Suggested read: 15 Easy Office Stretches For Better Employee Health

6. Use a phone and laptop stand

An average smartphone weighs between 140 grams and 170 grams. And holding a phone of this much weight is not healthy for your hand. Now, if you use your phone frequently while at work, you should get a phone stand for your work desk.

Phone stands help to take off the phone's weight from your hand. The phone stand also keeps your work desk clear and organized.

A laptop stand is another asset that comes in handy. It helps in adjusting the screen at eye level. A little heads up - Using a laptop stand may be uncomfortable at first. However, this product reduces the strain on your neck and back.

Additional tips to minimize pain related to smartphone pinky

Here are some tips that you can apply on a daily basis:
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1. Text on your phone using an alternative feature

Smartphones nowadays possess a swipe keyboard feature that allows you to text effortlessly. Switch to this feature, where you only have to swipe through the screen instead of tapping on the screen to type. Other than this, you can also try the speech-to-text feature.

2. Heat compress

The Heat compress is an age-old home remedy to eliminate swelling or pain. If your pain is not going away, try heat compress with the help of a heating pad.

How to hold your phone correctly?

The correct way to hold your phone correctly is to ensure you don't strain any fingers or your hand while holding it. Remember to use the phone with two hands as much as possible. Avoid holding your phone with your pinky, carrying most of its weight.

Wrapping up

Technological advancement is a boon that will continue to make the world a better place. Even so, you must learn to live with them without falling prey to their drawbacks. Coming to the smartphone pinky topic, it may not be a real medical condition. But, you should always be cautious about the dangers of using smartphones in an unhealthy manner.

Use your phone responsibly, enjoy the immersive features that it has to offer, and keep any repetitive strain injury at bay.

This article is written by Supriya Singh who is a content marketer at Vantage Circle. Writing is how she keeps her creative side ignited. An avid dog lover. Loves to cook and binge watch TV shows. To get in touch, reach out to editor@vantagecircle.com

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