Neck Pain and DeQuervains

Physical Therapy Management of Smartphone induced Neck Pain and DeQuervain’s Disease

The smartphone has no doubt been a tremendous technological advancement of the 21st century but has unfortunately brought with it a number of health problems that have recently been recognized. The culture of spending hours on the phone texting, gaming and even browsing the internet has resulted in ‘text neck’ and De Quervain’s disease. While it is understandably difficult to let go of these devices, in some cases symptoms can be severe enough to prevent patients from using the smartphone. Physical therapists are these days are more involved with patients who develop the symptoms and are able to offer safe and effective treatment.

Text neck and physical therapy

‘Text neck’ is a result of maintaining an abnormal posture while spending hours on the phone. These abnormal postures can include ones adopted when lying in bed and using the phone or and even sat for hours on the couch. As a result, the muscles in the neck are constantly stretched and put under abnormal strain. Over time this can result in spasm of the neck muscles and cause pain.

Physical therapists identify this as a problem and can describe exercises that allow for loosening of the neck muscles and reduce pain. Treatments can vary from spinal mobilization to long courses of exercise therapy. Studies have shown that manual therapy involving spinal mobilization provides better short-term results while exercise therapy provides better long-term results. More focus treatments combining the two have shown significant benefits and improvements in pain, disability, and patient-perceived recovery.

Physical therapy and DeQuervain’s disease

In patients with DeQuervain’s disease, physical therapists are able to offer a number of different treatment options. Rest is advised to allow for healing of the inflamed tendons, using ultrasound or iontophoresis helps relieve pain significantly. Patients will also be offered different stretching exercises that help reduce the pain and stiffness in the wrist. These can include the wrist flexion and extension movements, radial deviation exercises and even stretching of the adductor muscles and the thumb. The application of a supportive thumb spica splint has also been found extremely useful. In the early stages of DeQuervain’s disease, physical therapists may use ice packs to reduce edema and inflammation. They may also collaborate with occupational therapists to enable patients to manage their activities of daily living when recovering at home.


There is anecdotal evidence that excessive smartphone usage causes neck pain and DeQuervain’s disease. Physical therapy is directed towards managing the symptoms and restoring mobility. It is essential that people who use their phones excessively be aware of these risks and always make sure they take rest in between.

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