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I Got an Injury Texting! A Case Study

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 12 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Mobile Phone Blackberry Business

Jess is sitting in the porch of her cottage, wearing old jeans, wellies and dressed for outdoor work. She has just finished a long day at the garden centre and market garden that she runs with her partner Dave. As she sips a mug of hot tea and picks up a piece of homemade cake, she looks relaxed, tanned, healthy and happy.

“This is a complete change though compared to three years ago,” she says through cake crumbs. Jess was a high-flier who did an MBA after completing a maths degree at London University. “By the age of 25 I was a stockbroker in the city and I thought it was fantastic. I thrived on the pressure, I enjoyed the job and the lifestyle and I was making plenty of money,” she says.

Lifestyle Problems

Jess was always sensible; she didn’t get into the habit of dealing with the stress of long working hours by taking up smoking or drinking to excess. “I even ate quite well, even when I ate out, which was often. I also played badminton three times a week and went running,” she laughs.

With her approach to life, Jess expected to be able to lead the madcap business lifestyle and outlast many of her less well balanced colleagues. “I saw people getting burnt out after a couple of years and changing tack completely – but I didn’t ever see it happening to me,” she says.

But problems were looming. Even though many aspects of Jess’s lifestyle were good, the pressure to work long hours was building and Jess found herself affected in ways that she had never anticipated. “I started getting headaches a lot and then pain in my finger joints and wrists, which would sometimes go all up and down my arm. I also had very stiff shoulders and started to feel tired all the time.”

Changes – But Not Good Choices

Jess worked on a netbook, a PC at work, a laptop and she had a blackberry, a PDA and two mobile phones, one for work and one for private calls and texting her friends. “I used to get up and check the blackberry and sort out a few emails while I was having breakfast – I worked out a great technique of using my thumb with the blackberry on the table next to me held down by a blob of blue tac! I ate my toast with the other hand...” says Jess.

An hour on the netbook with constant checking of the work mobile and blackberry followed on the commute to work, then it was really into texting, checking figures, working and a constant round of communications throughout the day. “In the evening, I would catch up with friends by texting on the way home and would quite often carry on during my time off, I even started a blog which meant using the computer to write articles every day for it – sometimes I couldn’t be bothered to sit at the computer so I would do them on the blackberry watching TV,” she says, looking amazed at the amount of time she now realises she spent punching little buttons.

Diagnosing Repetitive Strain Injury

After five years in her job, things had changed quite a lot for Jess. Plagued by more regular headaches, tiredness and aches and pains, including a very swollen joint in her right thumb, she had given up playing badminton, was relying more on comfort food and she had become fond of a glass of wine, or three, in the evening, to try to drive away all the pain she was in. “I actually worried that I was getting something really serious – like MS,” she says.

Eventually, encouraged by her worried parents, Jess went to see her GP who, by chance, had been reading the latest research about the repetitive strain injuries that can occur in people who use mobiles, PDAs, computers and blackberries to excess. “He said I was a text book case – I was amazed. I never associated using my communication devices with the impact they were having on my posture and my body,” she says. Repeated sessions, day after day, over the course of five years had caused Jess’s over used thumb joint to become very swollen and she had arthritis in her shoulder and at the base of her neck, caused by hours and hours of hunching over screens and mobile phones.

Changing Lifestyle

Within three months, Jess made a huge decision. “I sold my flat in London, worked my notice and came back to Somerset to run a business with Dave, who I went to school with. City life is just a distant memory – and I am never going to own or use a mobile phone again!“ she laughs.

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