Joint Problems Associated with Mobile Phones 

Mobile phones have also been linked to a number of health issues.

Mobile phone use is ubiquitous in modern society and affords a wide range of benefits, such as connecting people and providing access to information. However, mobile phones have also been linked to a number of health issues. For example, many researchers and clinicians within psychology argue that extreme and problematic mobile phone use can fit the criteria of a behavioral addiction (1). Mobile phones have also been associated with joint problems, particularly in the hands and neck. This issue warrants the attention of several professional fields for research, prevention, and treatment, including primary care doctors, ergonomic specialists, orthopedic doctors, and chiropractors

Technological and behavioral changes have outpaced the rate at which the human body can evolve. In the musculoskeletal system, for example, the adverse effects of sitting for long periods (such as at a desk job) and some types of repetitive motion (such as in assembly line work and sports training) are well established. With mobile phones, users often engage in several unnatural positions or movements that can cause joint problems: the majority of the weight is often supported by just the pinkie finger, the arm may be bent in the same position for long periods, the thumbs or another preferred typing finger is used over and over, and the neck is often bent in a suboptimal position. Common problems related to mobile phones include pain, stiffness, or numbness, which can occur in the finger, hand, wrist, or neck joints depending on the individual (2,3).  

Awareness of this issue has been increasing through anecdotal reports and a growing body of research. Orthopedic doctors in Madrid reported two adults in their thirties with osteoarthritis of the trapeziometacarpal joint, a joint at the base of the thumb. Osteoarthritis is caused by gradual wear and tear of joints; it is uncommon in younger adults. Trapeziometacarpal joint osteoarthritis is even more uncommon but can be caused by repetitive thumb activities. Other studies have also reported inflammation of tendons, synovial sheaths, and fascia due to mobile phone use (4).  

Another group of researchers performed a retrospective analysis of 70 individuals who reported pain related to extensive use of handheld devices (mobile phones, tablets, game controllers), were diagnosed with a musculoskeletal disorder of the upper extremities, and underwent rehabilitation. Patients were more likely to have symptoms in their dominant hand. The diagnosed conditions included tendinosis and myofascial pain syndrome. Data suggested that the joint problems were linked to the predominant usage of a specific finger/thumb. Fortunately, patients recovered with rehabilitation, which is a positive sign for other providers seeking to design treatment plans for joint problems associated with mobile phones (5). 

In addition to data linking joint problems to mobile phones based on reported symptoms, studies looking for a mechanistic explanation have examined how muscles are used during phone use in symptomatic and healthy individuals. Xie et al. used electromyography on postural muscles in the neck and shoulders, and muscles controlling hand and thumb movement. Participants with neck/shoulder pain had higher muscle activity in postural muscles than healthy controls. Results suggest that unbalanced neck positioning is related to neck/shoulder pain, though whether the relationship is causal could not be determined. In addition, one-handed texting was associated with higher muscle load than two-handed texting (6). 

Individuals who frequently use mobile phones should try to stay aware of their head, neck, and upper back posture to prevent strain. Using two hands when possible may be beneficial for hand and finger joint health, while adding a device to change how you grip your phone (such as a pop grip) may also help (2,3). Ice and splinting, physical therapy, and chiropractic may be appropriate for treating pain. Overall, the best prevention strategy is to avoid phone overuse. 


  1. Gutiérrez, J. D.-S., de Fonseca, F. R., and Rubio, G. Cell-Phone Addiction: A Review. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 2016;7:175. DOI:10.3389/fpsyt.2016.00175 
  1. Waston, K. “How to Prevent Smartphone Finger and Smartphone Thumb.” Healthline, 2021. 
  1. Moyer, M. W. “Text Neck, Pinkie Pain and Other Ways Phones Can Wreck Our Bodies.” The New York Times, 2022. 
  1. Canillas, F., Colino, A., and Menéndez, P. Cellular Phone Overuse as A Cause for Trapeziometacarpal Osteoarthritis: A Two Case Report. Journal of Orthopedic Case Reports, 2014;4(4):6-8. DOI: 10.13107/jocr.2250-0685.213 
  1. Sharan, D., Mohandoss, M., Ranganathan, R., and Jose, J. Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Upper Extremities Due to Extensive Usage of Hand Held Devices. Annals of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2014;26:22. 
  1. Xie, Y., Szeto, G. P. Y., and Madeleine, P. A comparison of muscle activity in using touchscreen smartphone among young people with and without chronic neck–shoulder pain. Ergonomics, 2015;59(1). DOI: 10.1080/00140139.2015.1056237