Thursday, September 11, 2008

ASHT Guidlines for Hand Held Devices

According to The American Society of Hand Therapists (ASHT), heavy use of hand held electronic devices can lead to hand ailments.  In this national consumer education alert - initially issued in January of 2005 and recently reissued - professional hand therapists offer tips for preventing injuries caused by the extreme use of small personal music devices, smart phones and PDAs.

The excessive use of scroll wheels and frequent text-messaging associated with portable electronic devices are causing thumb, finger and wrist pain. “We are giving our thumbs, wrists, and elbows a real workout with heavy use of hand held electronics like blackberries and iPods,” said former ASHT president Donna Breger Stanton.  Injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, “BlackBerry Thumb” and tendinitis are being seen with increasing frequency as the use of these popular devices is increasing.


Respect Pain.   If you have pain while using a hand held device, stop and take a break.  Pain is the body’s warning sign that something is wrong.  Pain may be indicating that you are straining muscle groups.

Be aware of wrist positioning.  Hold the device with the wrist in a neutral position (not bent forward or back or angled to either side).  Even a small amount of wrist angulation can increase tension on the tendons and nerves.

Take a break.   Every 20 minutes or so, take a micro-break (stop the activity for one or two minutes, stretch, or switch to another activity).  Repetitive motions such as pressing small device buttons can cause inflammation of the tendons or cause nerve irritation.

Relax your arms.  If possible, place pillows in your lap and rest your arms on the pillows.  Or use the device with the forearms supported on a desk or tabletop (however, do not lean the elbows onto a hard surface or press the elbow or forearms onto the sharp edge of the desk).   This will allow you to keep your head in a more upright position than if the device is held in your lap and therefore decrease neck strain.  The pillows or desk will help support the arms so they do not have to be held up in the air.

Sit in an appropriate chair.  This is a chair that allows you to put your feet comfortably on the floor and also provides good back support.

Switch hands frequently and vary the finger being used for texting or activating the electronic device.   This will allow the one hand or other fingers not being used to rest for awhile and reduce muscle fatigue.

Don’t forget the eyes.  Frequently look away from the screen and focus on a distant object to help reduce eye fatigue.

Download the ASHT Alert

The American Society of Hand Therapists is a not-for-profit organization seeking to advance the specialty of hand therapy through communication, education, research and the establishment of clinical standards. ASHT’s 3,000 members in the United States, Canada and around the world strive to be recognized leaders in the hand therapy profession. For more information about hand therapy or to find a hand therapist in your area, visit

Marji Hajic is a member of ASHT and an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist practicing in Santa Barbara, California.  For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit
Hand Health Resources


PDA & SmartPhone Ergonomics

Laptop Ergonomics

PC & Video Gaming – Ergonomic Tips

Wi-itis and Other New Repetitive Injuries

Labels: , , , ,

Directory of Health Blogs