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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

The Dangers of Text Messaging

Published June 10, 2010 8:09 AM by Cheryl McEvoy

I didn't get a cell phone until I was 17, and that was solely because I got my driver's license and my parents couldn't bear to send me on the road without some communication device.

Less than 10 years later, kids a third my age are toting Smartphones and using them around the clock. The worst part is, they text more often than they call. Good for the library; bad for social skills and hand health.

This week is Healthy Hands Week, an awareness event sponsored by the American Society of Hand Therapists (ASHT). The goal is to increase recognition of hand therapy and awareness of hand injury prevention, including those related to handheld electronics.

In observance of the week, we've posted new hand health features on our site. Check out our top story on "Texting and Hand Injuries," which explores the toll too much texting could have on our paws, both short- and long-term. To accompany that article, we've posted a Patient Handout to help physical therapists educate patients about the potential risks of overusing handheld devices. The handout also includes sample stretches (with help from ASHT) to ease strained muscles.

It may seem excessive to tell patients "Beware the Blackberry," but there are some legitimate dangers. Even service providers are recognizing the risks. Virgin Mobile, a British-based virtual network provider, launched an awareness campaign back in 2006 to promote hand health. "Practice Safe Text" is a tongue-in-cheek spin on another health movement, but it gets the point across. There are stats, warnings and exercise recommendations--and the irreverent presentation could be just the thing to get teens' attention.

The company even quotes a chiropractor in a press release about text messaging injuries. "When text messaging, the tendency is to keep your shoulders and upper arms tense. This cuts down on the circulation to the forearm, when in fact it needs greater than normal blood flow to achieve the consistent movements of the thumbs and fingers," Dr. Matthew Bennett said.

Our hand health expert, Mark Walsh, PT, DPT, MS, CHT, ATC, noted a similar circulation issue in our interview for "Texting and Hand Injuries."

At the same time, it's still early in the game to declare texting a public health threat, and of course, it's all in moderation. 

What's your take on the texting trend? Should texting fiends fear for their fingers, or are we sounding a false alarm?

1 comments

I would not call "texting" a dangerous practice any more than cutting up 5 pounds of potatoes on a daily basis if you are working in a deli that makes their own French fried potatoes or running too far on your first day training for a 5 or 10K run. Any activity that is done in excess, such as running, cycling, knitting hours on end, may cause the usual aches and pains of daily life.

"Texting" is very trendy amongst kids, young adults and even some of us older folk. Attributing this to a "trade name disorder" is dramatic and attention getting, but I am not sure different than any other activity done in excess.  Caution should be taken in any activity done in excess- moderation, moderation.. should be the mantra.....

That being said, if you have overdone it and need a consult on how to manage your pain, don't forget you can consult a physical or occupational therapist who specializes in managing rehabilitation needs of a painful musculoskeletal disorders.

Sue Michlovitz June 10, 2010 1:34 PM
Ithaca NY

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