Preliminary research on college students in the US suggests that too much texting can lead to neck and shoulder pain, similar to that found in older adults who develop injuries from prolonged and repeated use of computers.

Judith Gold, an ergonomics researcher at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, presented the preliminary findings of her study at this year’s annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, that took place this week in Philadelphia.

Gold, who is an assistant professor of Epidemiology at the College of Health Professions and Social Work at Temple University, where she also directs the Ergonomics and Work Physiology Laboratory, told the press that texting is probably doing for this generation of young adults aged 18 to 21 what years in front of a computer did for older adults: it is putting them at risk of serious injury.

She told the press that:

“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.”

Current studies of people who sit for long periods at computers, such as office workers, show they are prone to carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, and tendonitis.

Gold said text messaging is a new technology, and a new area of ergonomics research, but given the similarities in the way the body is positioned for texting, “stationary shoulders and back with rapidly moving fingers”, findings from research on overuse injuries from computers could also apply to texters.

In her preliminary research, Gold found that among college students, the more they texted, the more pain they experienced in their neck and shoulders.

She and her team use infrared cameras, motion analysis and heart rate monitors to study the body’s position in several job-related simulations.

She now wants to explore further the physiological effects of text messaging.

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

“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,” she added.

The world record for texting keeps being broken, but it is currently believed to be held by a 21-year old student from Utah, Ben Cook.

In a contest held at the New York State Fair in September this year, Cook regained the world record on his 31st attempt. To do this he had to type the following 160-character message prescribed by the Guinness Book of Records in under 41.4 seconds:

“The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human.”

The three judges timed him at 40.72, 40.91 and 41.31 seconds, according to a report from Syracuse, the online version of the Post-Standard Daily Newspaper.

Sources: Temple University, Syracuse Online.

Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD