The Evolution of Text Messaging Injuries (TMI) April 2016


The first SMS (Short Message Service) was sent in 1992. A mere 19 years later, SMS text messaging has been reported as the most widely used data application in the world- the growth in global SMS worldwide is astronomical. According to Portia Research, the amount of SMS traffic will have doubled from 2009-2013.

With the exorbitant amount of SMS text messaging being performed, it is no doubt that new Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) are emerging. Orthopaedicians and RSI experts all over the world are reporting an increasing incidence of overuse syndrome, primarily Text Messaging Injuries (TMI).

What is of grave concern is how this is affecting children. According to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists regular texting using just the thumb to type can cause pain and swelling in the tendons and could eventually result in a long term injury. Nowadays, it is commonplace to see children with cell phones. reported that American teens are sending or receiving on average 3,339 texts a month (second quarter 2010)! In addition, 43% of American teens surveyed confirmed that the reason for obtaining a cell phone was for text messaging. So, as phones get smaller and more and more children acquire the technology, they are at risk of developing a condition that has in the past been mostly associated with desk (computer) based adults.

TMI’s are not immune!

Although teenagers run the greatest risk of developing TMI’s, adults are by no means immune to the overuse injuries resulting from high volumes of texting of computer work in the office. One just needs to look at Smart Phones. These trendy hand held devices have been dubbed as more dangerous than original text messaging, as people spend a lot more time typing out longer text messages or emails. In the 1990’s, common complaints of sore thumbs were associated with excessive video game usage. Texting and emailing on your cell phone is no different. The thumb is not very flexible and repetitive use of it can lead to damage of the tendon on the outside of the thumb.

How do such injuries manifest themselves?

Overuse injuries such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Tendinitis are common ailments. Symptoms include: swelling in the thumb, wrist or forearm. There could also be difficulty with fine movements of the thumb, a limp feeling in some muscles or discomfort, numbness or burning.

Fit hands

Here is some sensible advice for texting:

  • If texting starts to hurt. Stop. Use the other hand or call instead

  • Vary the hand you use

  • Vary the digits you use

  • Don’t text for more than a few minutes without a break

The advice is simple, but the problem lies in monitoring yourself and ensuring you don’t overdo it and predispose yourself to injury.


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