Soften the Cell Phone Claw

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In 1997, we saw the hilarious antics of Jim Carey in a movie called Liar Liar. In the movie, the comedic genius introduces us to “The Claw”, a game he plays with his son where his hand claws up and attacks his son. Little did we know that within 17 years, many people would be afflicted with the same syndrome. Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, the smart phone industry and cell phone use have exploded and as the tech industry grows, we become more attached and dependent on our phones.

Repetitive motions, like texting, can cause an irritation of the tendons of the thumb.

Repetitive motions like texting can cause an irritation of the tendons of the thumb.

Like any repetitive motion, texting can cause irritation to the thumb and surrounding soft tissues, but it’s not the only cause of wrist and hand pain. By holding our smartphones in a claw like position, we are starting to give ourselves de Quervain’s tendonitis (also known as blackberry thumb), named after the Swiss surgeon Fritz de Quervain. Symptoms include pain or tenderness, as well as swelling on the thumb side of the wrist. The exact cause of de Quervain Tendonitis is unknown, but many believe its inflammation caused by a repetitive strain injury.

When we hold our hand in the claw like position our thumb is held in abduction and extension for extended periods of time, which is considered to be a predisposition for the syndrome. Two thumb muscles, extensor pollicis brevis and abductor pollicis longus, are in a constant contracted state when we hold our phones for long period of time. This can strain the tendons, which run through the synovial sheaths in the wrist, which is why de Quervain’s is felt in the wrist. Our version of Jim Carey’s claw is not attacking others, but rather ourselves.

There is HOPE!

First, put your smart phone down more often…(after you finish this article, of course). Second, try to pay attention to how tight you’re gripping your phone, and loosen it a little bit. Third, get yourself a pair of Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls to help roll out the tension in the soft tissues of your hand. See the video below for suggestions on how to use your YTU Balls at your desk, from YTU Teacher Sandy Byrne. Sandy’s techniques are incredibly helpful to help erase the pain of the claw.

While there are many other ways cell phone use can be harmful to hands, I hear complaints about thumb pain from texting the most. Using the YTU therapy ball techniques in the video will help with the other muscle pains you may experience in your hand from texting claw!

Good luck & txt U L8R! LOL


Read more on wrist pain solutions.

Learn a quickfix for the hands & wrist.

Check out YTU pain relief solutions for the hand & wrist.

Jason Campbell

Jason always had a natural inclination towards yoga, often standing unknowingly in tree pose (or at least the legs of tree pose) while doing dishes. It wasn’t until 2005 at the insistence of his partner that he tried Moksha Hot Yoga in London, Ontario. He enjoyed it, but it didn’t seem this was the time to pick up yoga. It wasn’t until 2006 that he started to attend sporadic classes with his room mate, and began practicing via dvd at home that Jason really began to connect with this body work. In 2008, Jason made the move to Ottawa with his best friend to escape the boredom he was experiencing in London, looking for something new… anything new. Finding a job without speaking French turned out to be more difficult than expected, so with this free time Jason joined Moksha Yoga Ottawa’s energy exchange program. It was instant love, and his sporadic practice turned into a 6 day a week practice. This lead Jason to take the Moksha Yoga 500hr teacher training starting in March of 2009. It was life changing and he is forever grateful for the opportunity to make this life change. As a teacher he has always strived to help students understand why exactly they are twisting and turning in all kinds of weird (yet wonderful) ways. As Jason’s yoga education has grown, it’s enabled him to bring better experiences and education to the students at the studios. Jason is beyond excited to start a new yogic journey into the Yoga Tune Up® method. He believes it will revolutionize the current yoga industry, evolving it in an incredibly mindful, yet scientifically smart way. Jason looks forward to learning and growing with all of you, and hopes to see you in classes soon! Find me on facebook!

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Needed this!!

Kelly Cameron

Thank-you Jason! Excellent article that is needed as we are heavily dependent on our electronic devices in our daily lives, no longer just for work. This an excellent video that shares creative ways to affect the muscles of the arm, thank-you for sharing. I also loved your Jim Carey ‘claw’ reference, lol, excellent visual! =:0)

John Watson

Great information, thanks. It’s such a common problem, and cell phones definitely aren’t going anywhere. We all need to learn to adjust our habits to make it possible to enjoy all these great modern conveniences without allowing them to ruin our bodies!

Rita Chow

Thanks for the demonstration. I’ve always roll my arms and hands on the floor or against the wall, I will definitely try your variation! Great moves for office workers!

Ernie M

Devices like cellphones, computers and tablets are so integral now that most people would be reluctant to hand them over. This is the next best thing, countering the effects of overuse through movements and massage. I love that these exercises can be done right at the desk or really anywhere. If only everyone would carry a set of balls with them along with their cellphones. Instead of texting while waiting for the subway, how about rolling out the forearm instead? Ah that is my version of the perfect world…

Katelynn Corman

I did this sequence today and my hands and thumbs feel so much more limber! I wasn’t sure what I was rolling on until now, and it makes so much sense as to how it got so bad. The reminder about not texting as much is always appreciated. Thanks!

Alison Quinn

Super relevant! I’m sure there are a lot of people out there that may not attribute how they are using their phones to the aches and pains of their bodies – not just their hands but necks, shoulders, upper backs….the list goes on. I have taught classes at a local high school and device usage is definitely leaving its mark on the postural habits of many of the students I’m sad to say.

Sue O.

I had de Quervain’s in my left hand and I never thought to link it to how I held my cell phone – that could have been it! I don’t use my thumb to text. it was resolved with some wonderful physical therapy and hasn’t bothered me since. I’m going to keep rolling with my therapy balls-prevention is worth it to avoid going through that again!


Laptop usage also exacerbates this syndrome, whether you use an external mouse or the touch pad (which I think makes it worse because you then have to use your thumb to “click” the pad. I seem to also find myself using my phone more when I have to use my laptop more. So, all to say, ball rolling has been a gift in alleviating the pain caused by this modern living/working. This video is very helpful in showing how I can do this at home/work as well. Though I wish my desk had that kind of available space…

Andree-Anne Gagnon

I spend way too much time on my smartphone for work. I have found that having a strap attached to my phone’s case that allows me to hold it without clenching my fingers has made a huge difference in the level of fatigue and tension that builds in my hands, arms and neck. And what little tension is left is managed efficiently with my Therapy Balls!


Thanks for the video Jason. My friend was complaining of elbow pain the other day. I will have her try this.

isabelle deschenes

well, this gonna definitly help me and my students to get away the pain caused by all the computer work and using a cell phone. The video is great! Get the phone away is a good suggestion too!


Thank you for your blog, information on “the Claw” and great video tips on how to release the tightness in forearms and hands which will reduce “the claw”, carpal tunnel and repetitive strain injuries.


Great article and video. Clear information and suggestions relevant to today’s society. I will be incorporating this sequence into my practice. Thank you


Thanks for this Jason. I recently hyper-extended my thumb and stretching and icing it hasn’t helped. I’, going to try the YTU balls and hopefully roll the discomfort away.


My hand falls asleep while Facebooking! My wrist and neck hurt! It started to occur to me that maybe this wasn’t ideal. This post has some great suggestions (other than curbing my cell phone use, duh) that can work with the Tune Up balls to relieve some of that. Also interesting to ponder the mechanics involved in
just using a phone.

Jonathan McKinna

de Quervain’s tendonitis also comes with the new iPhone 7 Plus. JK kinda! My boyfriend recently upgraded from an iPhone 6 and has started reporting the pain you describe around his dominant thumb this week. It reminds me of a similar discomfort I experienced when I went from an iPhone 5 to a 6. How wonderful that our bodies eventually adapt. In addition to rolling, I’ll also advise him to loosen his grip and switch hands on occasion. Until they release the iPhone chip that’s implanted in your body, this article is going to be the gift that keeps on… Read more »

Marie streich

Interesting article on a topic so relevant to today’s society, we will all be walking around with “the claw” if we don’t correct our bad habits !


Thank you Jason for sharing your article and for including the video which shows a “work environment” for many. This is a great sequence to share and will hopefully educate others to the idea that pain in one part of the body may be “rooted” up/downstream from this location.


Thanks for the info Jason! This was very well-written and clever. I never really paid attention to how tight I grip my phone until now. I will definatly try to be more mindful, I don’t want that Jim Carey claw!


I get tension built up right underneath my left thumb, and I can actually feel the tightness through the entire chain from my thumb, through my forarms, biceps, and up to my shoulder. I find the YTU balls or MELT method balls help a lot.

Jen Montes

Thanks for sharing Jason, I enjoyed reading this. The last couple weeks I have been experiencing this pain in my thumbs and was shocked but not really that it has come to this point for me. I followed the video and am fascinated by how much rolling and massaging we can do with the therapy balls.
Looking forward to your next blog.

Alison Miller

Excellent article – thank you. Great outline of the anatomy, try easy to follow and understand. I believe we will be seeing many more longer people suffering from hand inflictions due to over using cell phone and other hand held devices. And forward head posture as well, caused by always looking down at the device.It will become even more important as practitioners and instructors to include hand exercises to help.

Lizzy Mulkey

As a Pilates trainer always pulling on springs and straps and what have you this is really nice to open back up the hand.

Miao Zhang

Jason and Sandy you are both so helpful to free people’s hands from such constant tension. My boyfriend has suffered from this and I’ll totally go through this sequence together with him at home. Thank you for sharing!


Thank you for spotlighting the hands and fibers in this article! I had not thought of the GRIP of my hands and fingers on my phone, the emphasis is usually on the cervical spine in articles like this one, great reminder

Katy Haldiman, MS, RN

This is such an important article for the majority of people in our smartphone-crazed culture (myself included!). I use my phone and tablet a lot for work and I can’t wait to try these YTU exercises to loosen up my “claw”. Thanks for the tips!


tis is perfect! my husband is a tv news and sports junkie! thanks for sharing! cheers!I will show him these useful ;poses

Becky Battle

You quoted my favorite movie! I enjoyed the link to the video. Very applicable to modern day problems with the use of our arms, wrists, and fingers.


Rolling and stretching the soft tissues of the hand, the forearm, the elbow, and the wrist should be a priority in every single class considering the amount of texting going on these days. Since “text messaging” is a pretty new thing within the last 15 years or so, its going to be crazy to see how many people come out with tendonitis and other joint issues in the hands/arms due to texting within the next few years.


I have used the balls with my clients especially on their forearms; think I will try these next:

– ball in the elbow (my partner complains of this but it could be a variety of things)
– edge of the desk (wiggling her fingers)
– arm behind body (2 for the price of 1)

Sue Taylor

Great article Jason. I’m a one finger texter so perhaps I will be able to avoid the thumb irritation! In all seriousness I have found that it is not until people start exercising their hands and using the Roll model balls to self-soothe that they realize they do have irritation in their thumbs and other tissues. For the majority our hands are in a claw like position much of the day…think about holding cutlery, the steering wheel, a toothbrush and now we compound this with holding our communication devices! I have found simple exercises such as making the palm as… Read more »

Dennis Hunter

Loved reading this, and I’m a prime candidate for a therapeutic intervention to correct “cell phone claw.” I even wrote a blog entry about “Smart Phone Addicts Anonymous.” “Text Neck Syndrome” is another increasingly common condition seen these days by doctors and physical therapists. All too often, it afflicts the young, since they are the ones who spend the most time craning their heads down to stare for hours on end at their handheld devices. And then they come into a yoga class, predisposed to neck injury, and they want to stand on their heads. Oy! – Dennis

Janie Hickman

Hand, thumb and forearm pain is a common occurrence for knitters. Now there is knitting and there is knitting, some are conservative, taking much needed breaks and stopping after a reasonable amount of time. Tren there are the knitting addicts who can spend 14 plus hours a day working on a project. The therapy balls, taking breaks are both great helps for those of us who just do not know when to stop.

Kerry Cruz

Jason! Thought I’d support your clever blog <3 Always thinking on your feet, this article was fun to read, and love how everyone can relate to it. I also love to roll my hands and forearms. It creates such a relief and feels awesome! Hope to see more blogs from you.

Andrew Bathory

Jace, brother – great article. I am definitely an over texter and while I have not felt and immediate suffering or dis-ease in my thumbs personally, I have several clients (who work extensively on computers) that are suffering from pain and discomfort in the hands/writs. The video with Sandy is great and I look forward to practicing these techniques. Funny that originally it was named “blackberry thumb” how could they have known about the smartphone name that would yet come?! 😉 I know i know, blackberries are so 2007. Thanks for your insights into the hands, I look forward to… Read more »

Nicole A Johnson

In todays society detached and dependent on cell phones is so true and sad, and to know that you can get tendonitis from to much aductiuon and extension of the thumb is well not appealing at all. thanks for the info.

Miriam Rigney

Great post. Such an effective and accessible technique to help ease up this new-found tension in the tissues of the thumb! The YTU balls are fantastic for highlighting blind spots that often contribute to more painful issues elsewhere in the body – e.g neck or shoulders.


Thank you for this. Over the course of the past year I’ve noticed that I have pain in my right hand after holding handstands for a while. My left hand feels fine. I think the pain in my right hand directly related to holding heavy bags, and gripping my computer mouse, and my cell phone all with my right hand. I will be trying out these YTU techniques. Hopefully they will lead to less pain and more stable handstands!

Kim Truong

Sometimes while in downward dog and while holding my phone in a semi-twisted position, I feel a slight twitch of pain around the scaphoid and trapezium. This technique left a bit of a warming/burning sensation but overall it felt good. Thank you!

Jared Cohen

Self-empowerment strikes again!! As kelly starrett says, “its a moving target.” We dont live in a vacuum. We may find ourselves more positionally compromised at times; however, we can equip ourselves with preventative tools to undue some of the incurred damage before it becomes de Quervain’s.

Glenda Garcia

Thank you so much for this article and video! I greatly appreciate that you highlight a modern and insidious epidemic. I love how the video acknowledges the fact that what happens in the hand may have roots in, or branches up to, the arm and shoulder. This sequence will be a daily practice for me and I will definitely share with students and clients!


Thank you Jason. I’m trying to be more mindful of things like my hand postion when you any of my various computer, iphones, etc. I will keep an eye out for the claw position. So easy to forget when we spend hours with our devices close by.