The associations of mobile touch screen device use with musculoskeletal symptoms and exposures: A systematic review

PLoS One. 2017 Aug 7;12(8):e0181220. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0181220. eCollection 2017.


Background: The use of mobile touch screen devices (MTSDs) has increased rapidly over the last decade, and there are concerns that their use may have negative musculoskeletal consequences; yet evidence on the association of MTSD use with musculoskeletal symptoms and exposures is currently dispersed. The aim of this study was to systematically review available literature on musculoskeletal symptoms and exposures associated with MTSD use. The synthesised information may facilitate wise use of MTSDs and may identify areas in need of further research.

Methods: EMBASE, Medline, Scopus, PsycINFO and Proquest electronic databases were searched for articles published up to June 2016, using keywords describing MTSD, musculoskeletal symptoms (e.g. pain, discomfort) and musculoskeletal exposures (e.g. posture, muscle activity). Two reviewers independently screened the articles, extracted relevant data and assessed methodological quality of included studies. Due to heterogeneity in the studies, a meta-analysis was not possible and a structured narrative synthesis of the findings was undertaken.

Results: A total of 9,908 articles were screened for eligibility with 45 articles finally included for review. Included articles were of cross-sectional, case-control or experimental laboratory study designs. No longitudinal studies were identified. Findings were presented and discussed in terms of the amount, features, tasks and positions of MTSD use and its association with musculoskeletal symptoms and musculoskeletal exposures.

Conclusions: There is limited evidence that MTSD use, and various aspects of its use (i.e. amount of usage, features, tasks and positions) are associated with musculoskeletal symptoms and exposures. This is due to mainly low quality experimental and case-control laboratory studies, with few cross-sectional and no longitudinal studies. Further research is warranted in order to develop guidelines for wise use of MTSDs.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Computers, Handheld*
  • Humans
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / etiology

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.