Texting Can Trigger Overuse Damage

It's the preferred method of communication for young people

Over the past few years, actual telephone calls or e-mail accounts have been rendered obsolete by the advent of the SMS (Short Message Service). This has been most visibly reflected in the preferences of young people today. Polls indicate that most people under the age of 21 now use messages to stay in touch, rather than call each other, send e-mails, or talk in written letters. However, this habit of constantly typing may be putting the young ones at risk of overuse injuries, which have thus far remained the thing of older citizens, who spend many years in front of a computer, for example.

The greatest concern, ergonomics researchers say, is the fact that youth today does not have the best possible position of their hands when using the cell phone to type messages. In fact, it can become very uncomfortable at times, and children continue to do the same thing day after day. There are several recorded cases in which parents have discovered – through their telephone bills – that their children had sent thousands of messages in a single month, amounting to a few hundred per day at least.

“What we've seen so far is very similar to what we see with office workers who've spent most of their time at a computer. The way the body is positioned for texting – stationary shoulders and back with rapidly moving fingers – is similar to the position for typing on a computer,” explains Judith Gold. She is an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Temple University College of Health Professions and Social Work, and also the director of the Ergonomics and Work Physiology Laboratory.

While recently speaking at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, Gold revealed that preliminary analysis indicated the fact that college students who texted an awful lot experienced much more shoulder and back pain than those who only sent moderate amounts of text messages. The scientist also reveals that ergonomists are barely starting to learn about the effects of texting, most likely because this is a habit that has only been around for a short period of time.

“But given the similarities in body position, findings from research on overuse injuries from computers could be applicable here,” she says. “Looking around our campus, you see every student on their cell phones, typing away. It's the age group that texts the most, so it's important to know what the health effects may be to learn whether it will cause long term damage,” Gold concludes, quoted by ScienceDaily.

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