Thumb postures and physical loads during mobile phone use - A comparison of young adults with and without musculoskeletal symptoms

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Abstract

The aim of this study was to evaluate thumb postures, thumb movements and muscle activity when using mobile phones for SMS messaging and to determine whether there were differences in these exposures (a) across various mobile phone tasks, (b) between gender and (c) between subjects with and without musculoskeletal symptoms in shoulders and upper extremities. Fifty-six young adults (15 healthy and 41 with musculoskeletal symptoms) performed a series of distinct tasks on a mobile phone. Muscular load in four forearm/hand muscles in the right arm and the right and left trapezius muscles were measured using electromyography (EMG). Thumb movements were registered using an electrogoniometer. The results showed that postures (sitting or standing) and the type of mobile phone task (holding the phone versus texting) affected muscle activity and thumb positions. Females compared to males had higher muscle activity in the extensor digitorum and the abductor pollicis longus when entering SMS messages and tended to have greater thumb abduction, higher thumb movement velocities and fewer pauses in the thumb movements. Subjects with symptoms had lower muscle activity levels in the abductor pollicis longus and tended to have higher thumb movement velocities and fewer pauses in the thumb movements compared to those without symptoms. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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