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Experts warn of the new IT danger: mobile fingerprint

Soon there will be more smart phones sold than PCs in the world. This was claimed by Google CEO Eric Schmidt during this year’s mobile fair in Barcelona (MWC). And technology-mad Sweden is doing its best to live up to the prophecy. During January, mobile phone sales in Sweden increased by 20 percent compared to the same time in 2008 – smartphone sales increased by a whopping 240 percent (source: GFK Group).

A concern that is now bubbling up is about the ergonomic aspects. Texting thumb has already become a term for the mouse arm-like injuries that occur when texting is too intense. But what happens when we soon do everything with the mobile phone that we previously did with the computer – and also with just our thumbs?

According to Eric Schmidt, the number of people surfing with mobile phones is increasing eight times faster per year compared to when the internet started to be used ten years ago.

Add to that all the mobile games, apps (small programs), e-mail and other functions that will soon be in every mobile phone and that require intensive tapping with the fingers.

– In the same way that you can get mouse arm from computer mice, you can get problems from using the mobile phone incorrectly. Unfortunately, it is not possible to design out repetitive movements on mobile phones, says Gustaf Brusewitz, PR manager at Sony Ericsson.

Research shows the health hazard
Ewa Gustafsson, ergonomist and researcher, has published a research work with the long title Thumb postures and physical loads during mobile phone use – A comparison of young adults with and without musculoskeletal symptoms, at Gothenburg University.

Her research shows the connection between pain in the thumb and intensive mobile use. With the increasingly intensive use of mobile phones, Ewa Gustafsson is worried.

– I suspect that this is an increasing problem. There are no studies on smart mobiles in particular, but since the movements are of the same type as when texting, you risk the same types of injuries.

Worried about young people
It mainly concerns problems with the thumb and forearm. If you then do not listen to your body and rest the exposed parts, it can have devastating consequences.

– There is a small risk of permanent damage if you don’t stop stressing your thumbs.

Today, it is mostly young people who are affected due to intensive mobile gaming and texting.

– What happens to them later in life? We don’t know that yet, says Ewa Gustafsson.

A follow-up to Ewa Gustafssom’s thesis on mobile phone damage is underway, but is expected to be completed only in five years. Then she hopes to have answers to the extent of the harmful effects of smart phones.

Therefore, your fingers are in danger
Naprapaten André Hansson believes that the movements used on mobile phones can be directly harmful. Even smart mobile phones with a touch screen, where you navigate with movements that feel natural, can be an ergonomic nightmare for your fingers if you don’t use the mobile in the right way.

This is due to the fact that the fingers of the hand are forced to carry out movements that involve above load and can in the worst case lead to chronic problems.

– In general, you can say that the thumb is more exposed than the other fingers. It has to do with the fact that the basic joint of the thumb is very mobile and can move the thumb in different directions – it can be maneuvered into positions where it is loaded incorrectly, and made to make movements that are not ergonomically natural, says André Hansson.

– In comparison, for example, the index finger is quite firmly anchored to the hand and mostly performs bending and stretching movements, the space to perform strange movements is then relatively limited.

Wrong movements increase the risks
The question then is who is in the risk zone of being affected. André has the answer.

– Anyone who insists on performing incorrect movements often for a long time may suffer from overload. To avoid being hit, you should pay attention to the warning signs; if you feel it starts to hurt, let your fingers rest properly, says André Hansson.

– For preventive purposes, you can also train the muscles in your hand to become more durable, for example by using a so-called training gripper or a rubber training ball, says André Hansson.

“There is a large number of darkness”
He believes that anyone who ignores the warning signs runs the risk of suffering from pain and discomfort when moving the thumb.

If you continue to perform the same type of repetitive movements without seeking treatment, it can cause pain or irritation in the surrounding tendons around the root of the thumb.

In the early stages, it can be treated with muscle and joint therapy, rest and a brace, but in the long run you may need to inject cortisone to bring about healing.

But all this is a new phenomenon and unfortunately André Hansson believes that many people do not take the problems seriously.

– I suspect that there are a large number of hand problems related to mobile phones. I think
that many consider the ailments so minor that they simply do not bother to do anything about them.

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