In August, The Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP) warned the increase in text messaging, especially popular with today’s youngsters, may contribute to a rise in repetitive strain injury (RSI) in young thumbs.
Sending text messages from cell phones – known as “texting” – is extremely popular with teens, as is chatting online and playing video games. Add them all up and you’ve got potential problems.
Bronwyn Clifford, of the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Occupational Health and Ergonomics (ACPOHE), said recently, “Physiotherapists are recognizing that text messaging regularly, over a long period of time, could cause RSI.”
'Too much texting can result in pain and swelling of the tendons at the base of the thumb and wrist,” she added. “The thumb is not a very dexterous digit. It is good at grasping but not good for repetitive movement.
As mobile phone technology develops, handsets are getting smaller with buttons closer together. Small, fine movements tend to aggravate more than larger movements. If the buttons are smaller they can be more difficult to activate.”
Clifford, who specializes in treating RSI, says there are three components to overuse: frequency, duration and intensity. With text messaging, she says you need to look at how often you repeat the same motion and over what period of time. If you are doing it for more than 10-15 minutes at a time, it can lead to problems.
A Growing Problem
Dr Deepak Sharan recently told The Times of India, "Year by year, the age is coming down. The youngest we've treated was aged five. He was brought to us for poor scholastic performance. We found he had RSI of the hand muscles so he couldn't grip a pencil. All because of hours of computer usage combined with video gaming."
The biggest sufferers are college students and young adults, he added. "Plus, there's not enough attention paid to ergonomics. RSI is preventable. It shouldn't be happening. That's because it's not taken seriously."
And by the look of things – an increase in miniaturization, and decreased usability – rates of aching thumbs among today’s teens will likely continue…to swell.
Learn more on the issues of texting, cell phone design, and usability in The Ergonomics Report™ ergonomicsreport.com.
Sources: Bronwyn Clifford/Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Occupational Health and Ergonomics (ACPOHE); The Chartered Society of Physiotherapists; The Times Of India.