Smartphones increasing RSI risk

Touchscreen smartphones and tablets are fuelling Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), experts have said.

Holding handsets and the non-stop exposure to these devices – plus the lack of knowledge and help in the NHS – could lead to serious problem, RSI charities and chiropractors have warned.

RSI has been associated with heavy usage of desktop PCs and work telephones. It affects the upper body and can lead to bad posture, stiff wrists, back aches and shoulder aches. Companies in the past have moved to ease the risks developing mice, keyboards and chairs, which have been specially designed to help the way people rest their hands and also use their upper and lower arm muscles.

However, some reckon the increased emphasis on mobile computing is set to increase cases of RSI. 

One chiropractor told TechEye: “We see around 340,000 cases of RSI a year and since the past year, nearly half of these complaints have been as a result of technology such as smartphones and touchscreen tablets.”

She said people who use their phones to surf the web and for regular social networking were most at risk.

“People reading long web pages and using the device to Tweet or update their statuses throughout the day are most at risk because they end up holding their device up in front of them for extended periods of time.

“Modern smartphones are usually around 150 grammes, which may not seem heavy but it’s a problem because all the pressure is mostly on the arm itself.” 

She added that using a thumb to scroll through pages and also play games also increases problems as it cuts down the circulation to the forearm, when it actually needs a greater than normal blood flow to achieve the consistent movements of the thumbs and fingers.

“Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from Smartphones and BlackBerry devices are now unfortunately becoming more and more common. People have aching hands, wrists, necks, and backs.”

Steve Fisher, chairman of trustees at charity RSI Action, agreed: “If you use a finger for touchscreen then it puts an extended strain on your fingers,” he told TechEye.

He said that smartphones and mobile computing could contribute to RSI issues in the future.

“Exposure from new devices will increase symptoms of RSI as we’re using these throughout the day and often into the evening for gaming, texting and web browsing. This means that unlike desktop PCs, you’re never away from the exposure.”

He also warned that some don’t realise they have RSI. He says that many UK doctors and chiropractors aren’t equipped to deal with the condition – meaning it can be difficult to get the correct treatment.

“There are no centres of excellence in the NHS,” he told us.  

Some tips to help combat the risks of RSI and smartphones include preventing eye strain by by looking away from the tiny screen as much as possible, rest elbows on an armrest or on your sides while using the gadget and turn off your smartphone at night.