Are You A Frequent Texter?

Cell phones and smart phones are everywhere you look. They are not only the “telephones” of the past, but also cameras, alarm clocks, e-mail, internet servers and more. Using them can become a mindless activity, adding up to hours of use in a single day! If you’re not sure about that, look at your own or dare to look at your child’s cell phone usage. Many plans now allow unlimited options when it comes to talking, texting or data usage.

A recent study suggests that 74 percent of people worldwide own cell phones and use them primarily for texting.  On average, American teenagers can send 50 to 80 texts per day. That’s over 2,000 texts per month and doesn’t count the number they receive. Most young adults (ages 18 to 24) may send even more, but this number tapers off for adults 25 and older.

What can this increased cell phone use (texting) cause? Small keyboards and screens cause people to repeatedly use their thumbs for keying and develop poor posture. Have you heard of Smart Phone Thumb, Cell Phone Elbow or Smart Phone Fog?  These are nicknames for repetitive, over-use injuries that cause pain, numbness, tingling or further injury related to cell phone use.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms in your hand or arms, here are some tips:
  • Rest and limit your daily texting
  • Learn to text with different fingers, not just your thumbs, or use a stylus
  • Maintain a comfortable posture and avoid prolonged periods of slouching with your head bent forward.
  • Use a voice-to-text program
  • Utilize word prediction and abbreviations
  • Focus on what you are doing, and never walk or drive while texting
If you have continued symptoms that are affecting and limiting activities throughout your day, it is important to make an appointment with your primary care provider, so he or she can determine a medical diagnosis. If your condition is appropriate, a hand or arm rehabilitation program can be prescribed to treat your condition. These programs typically consist of occupational therapy visits and exercises you can do at home between visits to assist in returning your hand or arm to normal, symptom-free use.

About the Author

Megan Check, OTR/L, CHT, is a registered occupational therapist and certified hand therapist who sees patients at the Prevea Regional Orthopedic Center at HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital Medical Center. She earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in psychology with an emphasis in child and youth care from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and a Master’s Degree in occupational therapy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As an occupational therapist, Megan enjoys helping people return to or improve upon activities that are most important to them.