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Did You Know that Texting Can Injure You?

Published in For the Health of It, Occupational Therapy Author: Brennen Gulden,OTR/L

As an occupational hand therapist, I’m aware of the “dangers” texting and mobile device use may cause.

Maybe you’ve heard of it before or maybe you’ve even experienced it.  From Stylus Finger to iPod Finger to Blackberry Thumb, the names of injuries you can get from texting too much or repetitive use of a mobile device all come down to one common injury.  It’s called repetitive strain injury (RSI), and, yes, you can get it from texting too much. It can affect your fingers, thumbs, wrists, forearms, shoulders even your neck and spine.

And computer users beware.  Frequent channel changers, drop that remote.  It isn’t just texters and mobile phone users who could injure themselves.  Anything that requires repetitive fine-hand motion hour after hour, day after day are at risk for RSI.  Your muscles and tendons react to that repetition, which often times will result in a strain or tear that causes a repetitive strain injury.

I‘m part of a generation that has embraced texting and the use of smart phones.  As the owner of a smart phone and a texter myself, I try not to overdo those repetitive motions.  But if I know I’m going to be on my phone a lot or sending more text messages than normal, I try to do simple range of motion movements in between messages.  Sometimes I’ll simply stretch my fingers and wrists to keep them loose and comfortable or will switch from using my thumbs to my pointer finger even though it isn’t as quick to send a message that way.

If you think you may suffer from a text-related injury, try these simple exercises to ease the pain.

  1. Tap each finger with the thumb of the same hand and hold for five seconds.  Repeat five times.
  2. Stretch your thumb firmly with the other hand five times.
  3. Wrap a rubber band around the tips of fingers and thumb and open your hand against the resistance ten times.
  4. Massage your thumb web and the back and front of your forearm.

So next time you pull your phone out for a marathon texting session, consider if it’s really worth it – especially if that person is just a phone call away.