On average, a person can spend 3 hours and 15 minutes throughout the day using their mobile phone. This adds up to over 20 hours weekly, which are spent chatting, sending emails, using social media, or playing games. According to reports from the BBC, almost 19 billion messages can be sent through chat applications and around 17,6 billion via text message which can cause a high impact on the physical health of mobile device users.
The results of several studies carried out identified three basic or everyday ways of typing when using mobile phones or other devices:
- With one hand and the thumb.
- With two hands and both thumbs.
- Holding the device with one hand and typing with the other, either with the thumb or the index finger.
Regardless of the preferred way of typing or holding the device, the gaze and neck tilt down, a position that when sustained for long periods of time can contribute to the development of pain, discomfort, and other symptoms in places like the neck, shoulder, elbow, wrists, and of course the fingers.
This strong reliance on mobile devices has contributed in the appearance of different musculoskeletal diseases, for example, Quervain’s tenosynovitis, trigger finger, rhizarthrosis or arthritis of the thumb, carpal tunnel syndrome, compression of the ulnar nerve in the elbow, thumb tendonitis, among others.
How are the wrists and hands affected by the misuse of mobile devices?
- The constant use of large buttons on virtual keyboards presents longer periods of fatigue compared to using conventional buttons or smaller keys, which increases the use of the primer interoseodorsal and decreases the mobility of the thumb abductor.
- The constant flection and extension of the wrist decreases the space in the carpal tunnel, which generates a reduction in the space designated for tendons producing a compression of the median nerve.
- The wrong posture when it comes to flexing the hand and the repetitive use of the thumb can impact on the median nerve and some structures surrounding the hand, like the joint between the trapezium and the first metacarpal (radiocarpal joint).
What recommendations could we give you for the proper use of mobile devises?
- Support the arms on a table or armrest.
- Use both thumbs to type.
- Hold the phone with both hands.
- Don’t tilt the neck or head forward. Maintain an upright posture.
- Don’t send speedy messages.
- Don’t use the mobile device for long periods of time, but if it’s necessary for employment reasons, make sure to have active pauses or stretching starting from the neck all the way to the hand and fingers.
- If you frequently use chat apps, install web WhatsApp on your computer, which forces you to use both hands when typing.
- Replace long chat messages for voice messages.
Currently, many tech companies are developing new tools which are reducing the need for the user to use their hands to use multiple devices. Tools that, in a not too distant future, will allow human beings, from an anatomic standpoint, to give a better use to these devices. However, in the meantime, it’s important to correctly use these tools in terms of grip and ergonomic use in order to avoid possible complications in the future of neck, wrist, hand, and finger health.