With all of the new iPhones and smartphones and other handheld internet devices that so many people seem to be constantly attached to, it’s no wonder when some come to see me with pain in their elbow. In some extreme examples, the pain can radiate out from the elbow during flexing the elbow or rotating the wrist under load. Carrying one’s internet device in the hand and keeping the elbow at a constant 90 degree bend can over time cause Lateral Epicondylitis to develop. This condition has also been called “tennis elbow” but since most people no longer play tennis, but carry a device instead, let’s call it “iPhone Elbow.”
Massage can be very useful in relieving the pain and tenderness associated with iPhone elbow. Longitudinal release and Cross-fiber friction will help to relax the forearm extensor muscles, and local compression will help to deactivate any trigger points. Ice massage will greatly reduce inflammation, and client education in conducting self-care for between massage sessions.
The best way to avoid iPhone Elbow is to carry your device in your pocket, purse, or in a belt pouch when you are not actively using it. Answer your phone, look up information, send a text, and then put it away. If you must use it for a prolonged time, say in an extended text message conversation, then find a place to sit down and rest it on a tabletop or on your knees. You’ll spare your hands and elbows pain, and you won’t be one of those distracted iPhone users who bumps into lampposts and other people.
Let your arms hang freely at your sides when you are not using the device, and do some wrist stretches throughout the day. Here’s a useful stretch for you:
Take one hand in the other and gently flex the held hand’s wrist. That is, bend the wrist in the direction of the palm of the hand.
Straighten that same arm’s elbow.
Slowly rotate the forearm so the elbow crease is pointing away from your body.
Hold for 30 – 60 seconds.
If you are doing this correctly, you should feel a stretch from wrists all the way up to the outside of the elbow – the lateral side of the arm. Gradually, you will be able to increase the amount of wrist flexion, and even add flexing the fingers at the closest knuckle to the palm. Do this stretch three or more times a day, and you will notice a big improvement in the reduction of tightness and pain in the elbow. Self-care is a great way to help relieve your pain.
Stretching will help, but the services of a professional massage therapist can usually completely relieve the pain associated with lateral epicondylitis, usually in one to four one-hour sessions. This, of course, depends on the severity of the case, but in mild to moderate cases, a single session usually brings tremendous relief.