Anyone else getting RSI from their phone?

I’ve been using computers daily since I was twelve, and I’ve never had any trouble with RSI or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. When I look back at how I sat hunched over my Amiga 500 while playing games, that in itself is a small miracle. Nowadays, I pay close attention to my posture, and I can work long days without even the slightest hint of pain. Until I pick up one of my mobile devices that is.

Last night, I couldn’t sleep because my shoulder was sore. Had it been a Friday, this wouldn’t have surprised me, but this was Monday night, the end of my three-day weekend. When I started going over what I’d done the last couple of days, I started getting the suspicion that my iPod and phone were to blame. I’d not used my desktop PC in three days, and my laptop was still in it’s sleeve.

Think about it. If you’re the type of person who read long web pages on their phone and tweets often throughout the day, you end up holding that device up in front of you for extended periods of time. Modern smartphones are usually around 150 grams, so it’s no workout, but still. My current theory is that it’s mostly the weight of the arm itself.

At this point I’m going to try cutting back on my iPod and phone usage for a while, and see if that helps. I’m also not getting an iPad, because I’m pretty sure it would kill me. I’m also wondering whether other gadget freaks have similar issues. Are these mobile gadgets going to spawn a new RSI epidemic?


  1. I had problems with rsi back in 2001 and switched from using the mouse with my right hand to using my left hand. Problem solved. Sometimes when I have to use a mouse with my right hand for longer than 15 minutes my arm stiffens. The same thing happens now when I use my iPhone too long, like when I’m playing a game or reading news for too long. RSI is weird, once you’ve got it it never leaves…

    Comment by Henry — July 1, 2010 @ 3:36 pm

  2. Yes, absolutely. My thumb is tender and sensitive – it started when my much loved APPLE merged the trackpad and the mouse, so now you are whacking to click on a metal surface – at the same time, I moved from the PALM treo (nice, physical buttons, no thumbowkr really at all) to the iphone. All thumb, all the time. I’ve been computing since the age of 12 (punchcards, no laughing) and have been on computers most of the time, most of my life, but until the two devices above, NEVER had a problem. Am now looking like the typical RSI sufferers…lower keyboard tray, occasion wrist brace, nighttime devices. It stinks. I may have to dump the iphone and the mac. It’s killing me.


    Comment by judy — July 1, 2010 @ 5:06 pm

  3. I don’t get RSI from the iPhone but I do get blood flow problems to my arms when I lie in bed and read or play games on the iPhone. And if you lie on your side in bed, landscape mode can be very annoying 🙂

    Comment by Suzero — July 12, 2010 @ 10:14 am

  4. Same thing here. I have a HTC Touch Pro 2 from Verizon and recently developed Carpal Tunnel in both wrists… after being a developer for over 20 years. One day at work it hurt to send a text. I immediately grabbed an iPhone and Android phone to text with no pain, but still did on mine.

    Comment by Greg — July 14, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

  5. I’ve been in severe upper arm and shoulder pain for a while now since acquiring my iphone last November. It started with a sore spot in the right deltoid muscle and worsened gradually until I realised what was causing it and reduced my use. For me, it seems to be connected to the use of my right thumb after long periods of using certain apps that involve a lot of swiping across a landscape mode screen (too embarrassed to tell you which ones but they’re the really addictive time-wasting variety!). Got to the point where it was waking me up at night and was agony even at rest. It’s subsided since I’ve cut back, but the deltoid muscle is still really sore and movement is restricted. I’m amazed that such small and seemingly insignificant movements can cause a condition of such severity, especially as I too have used a computer keyboard for long periods over many years. Anyone got any remedies (other than abstinence)?

    Comment by Sandra — July 18, 2010 @ 12:45 pm

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  7. yep, ive had my htc desire for three months, on and off pain, and this last week has been horrendous, im all strapped up am now gonna sell my phone and go back to something which isnt a touch screen

    Comment by lianna — August 5, 2010 @ 11:44 am

  8. I am finding the same, been in IT fir over 30 years, former data entry operator but now have bad pain in upper left arm and left wrist….

    Comment by Kaye — September 27, 2010 @ 2:12 pm

  9. I have also had upper arm/wrist/shoulder issues since getting an iphone last year. i am considering getting rid of it now, unless there are some exercises or something to get rid of the soreness?

    Comment by Gary — November 2, 2010 @ 12:52 am

  10. I’ve had RSI for over 2,5 years from using the PC too much, or so i thought.
    I recommend reading this blogentry, my recovery was similar :

    Now i’m using the PC as much as i did before, but without medications, or any adjustments to my workplace. And i’m free of RSI.

    Comment by Jen — November 2, 2010 @ 12:59 pm

  11. You’ve developed iThumb & you’re not alone.. I’ve got it in both hands and the only thing that helps is abstinence & NSAID’s like Nurophen..

    Comment by weasel — November 21, 2010 @ 11:24 pm

  12. Have developed trigger finger – 2 different fingers – over time on right hand – had to have one operated on – Left shoulder has been an issue with long time on cell phone using apps or reading in bed with my nook. Must be a gadget out there to elimniate the stress of holding these electronics for long periods – Anyone willing to explore?

    Comment by Melanie — December 27, 2011 @ 12:00 am

  13. I’ve got an iPod touch and have to say my right hand thumb joint
    Has become real sore since using it

    at first I thought oh dayam arthritis? lol but In the back of my mind
    I thought hmm I wonder if?
    after reading numerous articles I’m convinced it’s my iPod touch

    Comment by Adam — March 8, 2012 @ 10:01 am

  14. If I use my iPod touch for extended periods, my right hand starts paining and ai have to relax it. Now my hand pains from a firm handshaker. I think it must be the iPod use causing this.

    Comment by johnny — May 27, 2012 @ 5:58 am

  15. Aha, it’s all falling into place now. I have severe upper arm pain and fizzing all down left arm to forefinger and thumb. Yes, I’m left handed and have an iphone. I thought I’d got it from road biking and the doctor told me not to go out on my bike again, but on reflection, I googled RSI and iphone and it sent me to you. I am very suspicious of my iphone now. Having physio now but not much improvement. I think I may abstain from using iphone. This has been very useful.

    Comment by kate747 — June 27, 2012 @ 6:58 am