Texting Can Be a Pain in the Neck, Shoulders

Study Shows Frequent Text Messaging May Cause Upper Body Pain

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on November 12, 2009
From the WebMD Archives

Nov. 12, 2009 -- Texting may be preferred over phone jabbering by many young people, but too much text messaging may increase the risk of neck or shoulder pain, a new study shows.

Judith Gold, ScD, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Temple University’s College of Health Professions and Social Work, presented evidence at this year’s meeting of the American Public Health Association suggesting that the more college students texted, the more pain they reported in their necks and shoulders.

She says in a news release that most people aged 18 to 21 prefer texting rather than email or phone calls, possibly putting the younger generation at increased risk for overuse injuries once associated with older folks who’ve spent years tapping computer keys.

"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," Gold says. "The way the body is positioned for texting -- stationary shoulders and back with rapidly moving fingers -- is similar to the position for typing on a computer.

"Looking around our campus, you see every student on their cell phones, typing away,” she says in a news release. "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."

Gold and colleagues conducted a study of 138 college students to see if correlations exist between the number of text messages sent per day and pain in the upper body.

They used body maps for the students to indicate areas of discomfort. The students were asked how many text messages they sent per day.

The researchers say they found an association, only in male participants, between shoulder discomfort and the number of messages punched out.

They propose that males might be particularly susceptible to physical discomfort related to texting.

Why would texting cause pain in the neck and shoulder rather than the wrists and arms? "We were really surprised at this also," Gold tells WebMD. "Remember, this is a preliminary study, and further research needs to be done to confirm the results."

Show Sources


News release, Temple University.

Gold, J. Abstract presented at annual meeting of the American Public Health Association.

Judith Gold, ScD, assistant professor, Temple University.

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