This study investigated the relationships between thumb muscle activity and thumb operating tasks on a smartphone touch screen with one-hand posture. Six muscles in the right thumb and forearm were targeted in this study, namely adductor pollicis, flexor pollicis brevis, abductor pollicis brevis (APB), abductor pollicis longus, first dorsal interosseous (FDI) and extensor digitorum. The performance measures showed that the thumb developed fatigue rapidly when tapping on smaller buttons (diameter: 9 mm compared with 3 mm), and moved more slowly in flexion-extension than in adduction-abduction orientation. Meanwhile, the electromyography and perceived exertion values of FDI significantly increased in small button and flexion-extension tasks, while those of APB were greater in the adduction-abduction task. This study reveals that muscle effort among thumb muscles on a touch screen smartphone varies according to the task, and suggests that the use of small touch buttons should be minimised for better thumb performance. Practitioner Summary: Through measurements of electromyography, thumb performance and perceived exertion, this study reveals that demand on FDI increases when the thumb taps small buttons and in flexion-extension orientation, but that demand on APB increases in adduction-abduction orientation. The decreased thumb performance with small buttons is attributed to a combination of smaller targets and increased demand on FDI.
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