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Mobile Phone Ergonomics

Mobile Phone Ergonomics

With more and more people owning smart phones and spending greater amounts of time texting, tweeting, emailing, e-reading and surfing the net, physiotherapists are seeing a significant increase in mobile phone and hand-held device related injuries.

Some of the most common injuries relating to excessive mobile phone use and poor mobile phone ergonomics include:

In addition to the common overuse and posture related injuries, there is also the risk of acute injuries sustained from using mobile phones in at risk situations (requiring your full attention), such as whilst driving or walking (particularly on uneven surfaces). It is important to be aware of the risks associated with using a mobile phone or hand-held device and to take healthy steps and safety measures to avoid potential injury. Below are our top occupational health and safety ergonomic tips for smartphone users.

  Mobile Phone Injury Prevention Tips

    Correct Posture & Ergonomic Tips

The posture often assumed whilst using a mobile device (i.e. slouched over a tiny screen using thumbs to type) is unnatural and can result in a number of overuse and posture-related aches and pains. The spine is not designed to be held in awkward postures for long periods of time and our thumbs are not made to do such repetitive tasks, over long periods of time, in such a small area. Here are some healthy posture and ergonomic tips for using a mobile device:

  • Alternate between using your thumbs and other fingers to type. Whenever possible, use your fingers to type instead of your thumbs, such as placing your phone down on a hard surface if you're texting, or holding the phone in one hand and texting with the other (as opposed to using one hand only).
  • If using your thumbs to type, use the pad of your thumb as opposed to the tip of the thumb, as this can create an awkward bent position for your thumb which can lead to potential injury.
  • Keep your wrists relaxed and as straight as possible. Minimize the strain on your wrists, fingers and thumbs by using a neutral grip when holding your device. A neutral grip is achieved when the wrist is relatively straight and not bent in any direction. If you keep your wrists bent whilst using a mobile device your fingers and/or thumbs have to work a lot harder than with a neutral grip.
  • Maintain an upright spinal posture when texting (see Posture). Avoid looking down as this bends the neck and tends to round the shoulders. This can ultimately lead to neck, shoulder or upper back pain. Avoid holding the phone in your lap or below chest height. Try to maintain the phone at your chest, chin or eye level to minimize the bend in your neck and to maintain optimal posture. If your phone is below eye level, look down with your eyes rather than your neck.
  • Avoid using the phone to one side body with the neck rotated.

 For more practical tips on Correct Posture & Mobile Phone Ergonomic contact with our expertise

Decrease the Amount of Time you Spend on your Mobile Phone

The following practical tips can help reduce the amount of time you spend on your mobile phone thus helping to reduce the risk of pain or injury:

  • Reduce your keystrokes by keeping your text messages brief, using abbreviations or voice recognition software to write messages. More keystrokes will cause greater strain on your wrists, hands, fingers and thumbs.
  • Whenever possible, take advantage of predictive text or auto complete tools which can help reduce the amount of time required to type words or sentences.
  • When texting on touch screen phones, use your phone in a vertical position while typing as this will reduce the amount of reaching space your thumb will have to cover to push a key.
  • When purchasing a mobile phone, choose one that has a full keyboard. Some older models require you to tap the key twice or three times to select the letter you'd like. This increases repetition and strain on your fingers and thumbs.
  • Use shortcuts wherever possible. Shortcuts not only help you get things done quickly, but also reduce the need to scroll.

Take Regular Breaks

  • Limit your typing time to no more than 10-15 minute sessions.
  • Take regular breaks of at least 2-3 minutes every 15 minutes. Ensure you are not interrupted during this time by placing your phone on silent.
  • If your thumbs do start to get sore, use cold packs after typing (for 20 minutes every 2 hours).

Stretch Often

Stretch your spine, shoulders, wrist, hands, fingers and thumbs often. Check out our exercises to stretch these body parts effectively: