The more time college students spent text messaging, the more neck pain and shoulder pain they reported experiencing, according to a preliminary Temple University study that could eventually provide more insight on how texting specifically affects the upper body.
As recently presented at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA), the Temple study observed 138 university students with the purpose of determining the relationship between texting and upper body pain. Infrared cameras, motion analysis and heart rate monitors were used to observe body positioning and areas of discomfort while texting.
In addition to the students reporting more neck pain with more texting, the study also found that only male students developed shoulder pain when the quantity of text messaging increased, with researchers suggesting that men could be more prone to physical discomfort from frequent texting.
Why text messaging led to neck and shoulder pain as opposed to pain in the hands or wrists is unknown and a reason for more study, according to Judith Gold, ScD, an assistant professor at Temple’s College of Health Professions and Social Work, and researcher and presenter on the findings at the APHA conference. Gold suggested these early findings on text messaging and neck and shoulder pain could be comparable to what was once discovered about sitting in an office for eight hours a day and typing on a computer, which can lead to back pain, neck pain, carpel tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and other symptoms and conditions.
Nowadays, work-related back pain and neck pain are well-understood, with causes often attributed to poor body mechanics like slouching in an ergonomically-unfriendly chair and engaging in prolonged, repetitive motions and activities like typing. Modern workplace ergonomics incorporate a variety of principles, including but not limited to sitting posture, workstation adjustments, computer screen height, and even stretching exercises, to help people avoid pain on the job.
Ergonomic principles have also evolved into other areas of life, such as when driving, standing and even walking on concrete floors. Perhaps one day they will expand to texting, a popular activity that is growing beyond students to many age groups, making it a trend to watch for possible health concerns.