Hoping Santa will send you an iPod, a Nintendo Wii or the latest mobile phone this Christmas?

Be careful what you wish for: It could come "painfully" true.

Sore thumbs, inflamed elbows and stiff shoulders are among the musco-skeletal injuries linked to excessive use of the popular high-tech games and gadgets that could be under the tree.

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"This is a pretty big issue, especially as more and more people are using gadgets a lot more," said William Lenihan from Singapore's Osteopathic Pain Relief Center.

"These repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) are in the long term very detrimental to the whole body and once RSI comes on, its very difficult to get rid of," he told Reuters. "The secret to avoiding this is knowing when to stop."

A few years ago, RSI only used to strike computer and jackhammer operators, who spent hours performing the same movement over and over again.

While the majority of IT users remain RSI-free, more and more people are becoming afflicted, with some children as young as seven developing symptoms, the British awareness group RSI Action said on its Web site.

According to the group, RSI is on the rise because more people are "using more computers for more tasks, workplace stress is increasing, mobile communications are increasing and leisure use of games and iPods are increasing."

It appears too that the gadgets have the potential to become more hazardous as the technology advances.

As mobile phones get smaller, their keypads also shrink, requiring finer finger movements that could aggravate joints.

Some users of Apple's iPod music player have also complained about the intensive thumb movement, according to leading British-based online IT magazine www.bit-tech.net.

"Hospitals have reported an increase in RSIs of the thumb from usage of gadgets and mobile phones, primarily from sending sms [text messages]," Dr. Er Beng Siong of Singapore's Physiotherapy Associates said. "It's a disease of modern times."

Ouch Factor

Video game consoles can also contribute to RSI.

While sitting for hours on a sofa, clutching a joystick and staring at a television are the ideal way to unwind for many people, it could also be risky.

Daisuke Ito, the head doctor at Senzoku Orthopedic Plastic Surgery in Tokyo and who often treats RSI, said he expects to see more game-related cases in the future.

"Once you do suffer from tenosynovitis," he said, referring to a type of inflammation of the wrist and hand tendons, "we can treat it with shots. There's also medicine to ease the pain and braces to wear on the wrist.

"Of course, the most obvious way to treat it is to stop playing the game."

Popular game consoles, such as Nintendo's Wii — which has been flying off shelves worldwide — come with health warnings.

The Wii website urges players to take a break every 15 minutes. Sony's PlayStation 3 manual also asks users to take breaks and be aware of their posture while playing.

Experts say moderation, proper posture and stretching are key to preventing your high-tech presents becoming painful.

"People who work at a computer 8 hours a day are already doing a lot of damage," said osteopath Lenihan. "Then they go home and do some more. Prevention is always better than cure."