Practice your finger guns to fight carpal tunnel.

Welcome to the 21st century—we don’t have floating cars or space vacation homes, but we do have tiny rectangles that allow us to talk to anyone anywhere in the world. While beautifully minimal, they miss the mark when it comes to ergonomic support…and since the average American spends more than five hours a day on their mobile phone, that’s a lot of time engaged in an activity that isn’t all that friendly to our fingers…no matter how many smiley face emojis we’re using in our texts.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that causes pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand and wrist, caused by compression of the nerves usually due to repetitive, constrictive motion in the wrist area.

“Think of the nerves like wires in the car and our brain is the battery, and our hands are the taillight. If there is a mouse in our car that gets ahold of one of the wires between the battery and the taillight, the taillight is going to blink, flicker and do odd things. So, what happens [with carpal tunnel] is, there is compression in the nerve (because the mouse is chewing on the wire), causing an issue in the hand.”

Jay Smith, Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner

While the jury is still out on the connection between carpal tunnel and texting, there has been an uptick in a condition commonly known as “Texting thumb” that seems to be similar or closely related.

This is the part where you might expect us to urge you to cut back on the texting—and while you could do that and still send as many “LOLs” as you want to your friends using a virtual assistant or other voice-to-text solution—we thought it might be more realistic to offer you a few exercises to help release some of the tension in your wrists and hands that could cause issues down the line.

The “Finger Pistol”

Pew! Pew! Try fitting this stretch in about 20 times a day…that should equal about 1 out of every 3 times you pick up your phone each day.

  1. Put your hand out like you’re about to shake hands, with fingers pointing forward and thumb straight up.
  2. Use your opposite index finger to loop around the upward facing thumb and pull back gently for 5 seconds.
  3. Repeat a few times and then switch hands.

The Tabletop Alligator

This one might feel a little weird, but just imagine your hand is the classic shadow puppet alligator chatting with friends, only there’s no flashlight, just a tabletop.

  1. Place the palm of one hand flat on a tabletop, keeping your hand flat and still, with fingers pointed away from you. (Sometimes this can feel best if you stand while doing it.)
  2. Make your alligator “talk” by slowly moving your thumb towards and away from the rest of your fingers.
  3. Repeat a few times and then switch hands.

These two exercises should help at least a little, but if you are experiencing consistent pain, tingling, or numbness in your wrists, fingers, or hands, you may want to consider discussing with a medical professional.

The team at Singing River Orthopedics is well-versed in carpal tunnel, texting thumb, and other common and not-so-common hand issues, so if you’re having recurrent issues, give them a call (on that fancy little glowing rectangle that’s probably contributing to the issue) at 228-205-6825 to book an appointment. No referral needed.

Content inspired by Healthcare is selfcare: The Podcast.

Find yourself struggling doing things like buttoning clothes or opening a jar? Have numbness and tingling in your fingers and wrist? Singing River Orthopedic NP, Jay Smith, explains what causes pesky carpal tunnel and the effects of ergonomics in this episode of the Healthcare is Selfcare Podcast.