By now, most massage therapists are aware of the infamous Blackberry Thumb—the hand, finger and thumb pain and stiffness that can result from overly enthusiastic texting, or typing on a hand-held personal digital assistant (PDA).

New research shows that a second PDA-related condition is making itself known: neck-and-shoulder pain directly related to texting.

“Most adults aged 18-21 prefer texting over e-mail or phone calls, and ergonomics researchers are starting to wonder whether it’s putting the younger generation at risk for some overuse injuries once reserved for older adults who have spent years in front of a computers,” noted a press release from the department of Epidemiology at the College of Health Professions and Social Work at Temple University, whose researchers conducted the study.

Judith Gold, an assistant professor in the department, recently presented preliminary research that suggested that among college students, the more they texted, the more pain they had in their neck and shoulders.

“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,” said Gold, who directs the Ergonomics and Work Physiology Laboratory. “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.”

Current studies on computer use show office workers are prone to carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, and tendonitis. Massage and other bodywork techniques have been shown to lessen neck and shoulder pain and improve range of motion.

“Looking around our campus, you see every student on their cell phones, typing away,” Gold said. “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.”

Related article: “Soft Tissue Massage for Shoulder Pain”

 

—Karen Menehan

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