Almost four million Britons suffer from text-related injuries, according to Virgin Mobile. Its report follows recent warnings about BlackBerry Thumb and iPod Finger. Listen to your body, say the experts: numb fingers and aching wrists are a signal to stop.
RSI, the symptoms of which include pain and immobility in the joints, nerves and muscles from the fingers to the neck, is caused by repetitive movements and fatigue resulting from natural stresses and strains on the body.
It is frequently found in the workplace, where factors such as inadequate computer set up or repetitive or monotonous work patterns are to blame. Texting is also a cause.
Each year, 3.8m people complain of injuries resulting from text messaging, according to the nationwide survey by Virgin Mobile. Each day, almost 100m texts are sent in the UK – so perhaps it is no surprise that 38 per cent of us suffer from sore wrists and thumbs as a result.
The problem stems from the small size of mobiles. People tend to hold the device in their fingers and press the tiny keys with their thumbs. This reverses the computer keyboard position, where clumsy thumbs are relegated to the space bar and let fingers do the typing.
And while most text messages are short, the survey shows that users make up for this by sending a lot of them: 10 per cent of those surveyed send up to 100 texts a day.
British Chiropractic Association (BCA) spokesperson Dr Matthew Bennett was unsurprised by the findings.
"BCA chiropractors recognise that text messaging regularly, over a long period of time, could cause repetitive strain which may cause both short and long term injuries," he said.
Dr Bennett expects the problem to worsen unless users take precautions.
"When text messaging, the tendency is to keep your shoulders and upper arms tense," he explained. "This cuts down the circulation to the forearm, when in fact it needs a greater than normal blood flow to achieve the consistent movements of the thumbs and fingers."
In a bid to prevent injury, Dr Bennett has compiled a range of simple exercises to combat effects of RSI through texting:
- If texting starts to hurt. Stop. Use the other hand or call instead.
- Vary the hand you use.
- Vary the digits you use.
- Don't text for more than a few minutes without a break.
Stop these exercises if you feel any pain otherwise you can do more harm than good.
In your texting hand:
- Tap each finger with the thumb of the same hand. Repeat five times.
- Pull your thumb firmly with the other hand. Repeat five times.
- Wrap an elastic band around the tips of fingers and thumb and open your hand against the resistance. Repeat 20 times.
- Palms down wrap an elastic band around each thumb and force apart. Repeat 20 times.
- Tap the palm and back of your hand on your thigh as quickly as you can. Repeat 20 times.
- Massage thumb web, back of forearm and front of forearm. Two minutes.
- Press and rub in a circular motion the painful nodules in those muscles. Thirty seconds for each nodule.
- Reach up high with both arms and shake your hands. Reach down low with both arms and shake. Repeat three times.
- Arms at 45 degrees, squeeze them behind you.
- If it still hurts after a week of doing exercises, wrap an ice pack on sore hand and arm parts. Do not put ice directly on the skin but wrap in a thin cloth or piece of kitchen roll. Ten minutes on, 10 minutes off. Repeat three times.
In November, the BCA warned that music fans who constantly use the scroll-wheel or buttons on their MP3 players are at risk of 'iPod Finger'. It said young children are particularly susceptible to this form of RSI because their bones and muscles are not fully developed. The BCA recommended that users flex their hand muscles – to keep the blood flowing and break up the repetition – and vary the finger used to operate the device.
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