9 Tips for Pain-Free Texting (and Typing)
Typing and texting are everyday activities that many people don’t think twice about—but when you’re living with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) that is not the case. The finger, hand, and wrist inflammation that tends to be the hallmark of the chronic inflammatory disease makes living in the digital age a bit more painful. But it doesn’t need to be. Various treatments can help, and lifestyle management is crucial. Here are nine tips for texting and typing when you have psoriatic arthritis.
Never Underestimate the Power of NSAIDs
NSAIDs—like ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve)—work by blocking the production of chemicals associated with pain and inflammation. “Repetitive exercise like typing and texting can aggravate and result in flare up of underlying inflammatory arthritis and result in pain or swelling,” says Saakshi Khattri, M.D., a dermatologist, rheumatologist, and internist at Mount Sinai New York. NSAIDs can be taken either at the onset of pain or—if it’s known from your history that a particular activity will elicit pain—beforehand to help alleviate symptoms, says Dr. Khattri.
Get a Grip on Your Phone
When texting, we either hold the phone with two hands and type with our thumbs, or we grip the phone with one hand and type with the other. Both techniques can do a number on small joints of the hand. However, using a pop socket or a phone grip on the back of your phone can help. “A pop socket allows for you to alter your grip,” says Kayla Hazel, D.P.T., a physical therapist at Hospital of Special Surgery in New York City. “Additionally, it allows you to rest you phone down while still viewing the screen, potentially reducing the amount of time you are gripping your phone.”
Position Your Phone Differently
Instead of holding your phone, Dr. Khattri suggests lying your phone down on a table and using a folded towel or a wrist rest (typically used with laptops and desktop computers) to prop your wrists into a neutral position as you type. You could also try a phone/tablet clamp that lets you use your device with just one hand. The spring clamp attaches easily to tables, desks, countertops, and beds, while a sturdy, bendable hose lets you maneuver your device at any angle.
Swap Your Fingers for a Stylus
Small screens can be difficult to navigate when your fingers are swollen. “Depending on how PsA affects your hands and fingers a stylus could be more comfortable,” Hazel says. “To use a stylus, you only need to use three fingers instead of five.” The pen-like tool sometimes is included with your phone or tablet, but they are also available singularly in a variety of different grips. Khattri suggests seeking out wider models because a narrower stylus could be hard on psoriatic arthritic hands.
Use Speech-to-Text Options
Avoid texting altogether by using voice-to-text dictation services when you can. This may not always be practical depending on your surroundings but can save your hands from extra movement when you are having a flare up. One trick that helps with voice-to-text accuracy: Record in a quiet, preferably carpeted or curtained room. This helps minimize echoes that tend to mess with voice recognition software. Voice-to-text technology is already available on many smartphones, or you can download apps, such as Dragon Anywhere, which boasts a 99% accuracy.
Strengthen and Stretch Your Hands
“Exercising fingers and thumbs with a hand workout can improve their range of motion and decrease arthritis symptoms,” Khattri says. If you are not experiencing a flare or have active inflammation, she suggests squeezing a hand-exercise ball and finger bends. When typing or texting for periods of time, Hazel suggests taking frequent breaks to do hand stretches, such as rolling out your wrists or opening and closing your fists, to also provide some relief.
Take Regular Breaks From Long Bouts of Typing
Emailing or texting may be the default method of office communication these days, but when you have PsA, a good old-fashioned phone call can give your fingers a much-needed break. Aim for phone time spent preferably on speaker so you don’t have to hold the phone or Zoom chatting. While you’re Zoom-ing or chatting on the phone, take the time to stretch and check-in with how your hands are feeling.
Keep a Specialized Keyboard Handy
“An ergonomic keyboard positions your hands and fingers so that you’ll have the least amount of stress on the joints,” Hazel says. “Ergonomic keyboards can help improve comfort while performing typing and computer tasks.”
Look into an ergonomic, detachable keyboard that offers appropriate support for your wrists and hands while typing. An ergonomic product can lessen arthritis symptoms and will also lessen the likelihood of you developing other problems, like carpal tunnel syndrome. This one from LogiTech could be an option.
Rock a Wrist Splint
“I'd recommend wearing neoprene splints during the day,” says David McCombs, an occupational therapist and hand therapist. A soft, pre-made wrist splint can help rest your wrist and lessen the likelihood of inflammation. Ask your doctor if there’s a type they recommend, or you can test out a few different splints to see what works best for you.
Additional reporting by Ayren Jackson-Cannady and Carey Rossi
Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis: John Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.) “Psoriatic Arthritis.” hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/arthritis/psoriatic-arthritis
Psoriatic Arthritis: Mayo Clinic. (2019.) “Psoriatic arthritis.” mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/psoriatic-arthritis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354081
NSAIDs: Harvard’s Women Health Watch. (2013.) “Pain relief: Taking NSAIDs safely.” health.harvard.edu/pain/pain-relief-taking-nsaids-safely
What Is Considered Long-term NSAID Use: American Gastroenterological Association. (2005.) “Study Shows Long-term Use Of NSAIDs Causes Severe Intestinal Damage.” sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050111123706.htm
Hand Exercises: Mayo Clinic. (2019.) “Slide show: Hand exercises for people with arthritis.” mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/multimedia/arthritis/sls-20076952
Stretch Out Your Wrists: Arthritis Foundation. (n.d.) “Get in the Habit of Stretching.” arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/physical-activity/getting-started/get-in-the-habit-of-stretching