Beware of BlackBerry Thumb

CNET (Got ‘BlackBerry Thumb’? Rest UR digits) and the Newark Star-Ledger ( Feeling The Pain Of Handheld Devices) report on an ailment dubbed “‘BlackBerry Thumb”, which afflicts users of the popular BlackBerry device, as well as people who use their phone for text messaging.

These communication devices feature a tiny keyboard that is designed to be used with the thumbs, and just like with mouse and keyboard use, can cause pain for people who use it too frequently, too long, or too intensely. The Star-Ledger article discusses proper messaging technique (alternate between your fingers and thumbs, good posture, breaks), and also describes some exercises that users can perform to warm up their hands.

In the “strange but true” department, Virgin Mobile sponsored a Thumb Wrestling Championship to educate their customers on proper thumb conditioning to avoid injury. “Thumb wrestling is hands-down the best way to condition your thumbs for text messaging,” said Peter Boyd, vice president of promotions and partnerships for Virgin Mobile USA. Dunno if that’s true or not, but it sounds rather dangerous for someone who’s already experiencing thumb problems…

As devices such as the BlackBerry continue to proliferate, these new types of RSI problems will only grow. Users need to educate themselves to the dangers and learn use these devices within healthy limits. Basically, if you use one of these devices and it starts to hurt, pay attention — your body is trying to tell you something.

Randy Rasa

Randy is an engineer/programmer/web designer who has suffered from repetitive strain injury off and on for over a decade.

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