The U.S. Census Bureau reports that in 1997, 92 million American
adults used a computer, almost 40% of all households had a
computer, and half of employed adults worked on a computer
on the job. Dozens of studies have evaluated musculoskeletal
symptoms and disorders of the hands and arms in computer users,
yet the long-term effects of numerous hours at the keyboard
determine the incidence of conditions developing from workplace
computer use, over 600 recently hired employees who used computers
at least 15 hours per week were asked to complete diaries
on the hours they worked, hours they spent on the computer,
and presence of symptoms in their necks, shoulders, hands,
and arms for up to three years. Researchers sought those with
symptoms requiring medication or scoring high on a pain scale;
the results of their study were published recently in the
American Journal of Industrial Medicine.
Over 50% of the workers suffered from musculoskeletal symptoms
in their first year at the new job. Almost one-third suffered
a new onset of neck or shoulder symptoms, and a quarter of
the individuals suffered new onset of symptoms in the arms
or hands. Carpal tunnel syndrome, one of the best-known conditions
related to long-term keyboard use, was surprisingly one of
the least likely disorders seen in this study - only 1% of
the workers developed it. Women and those over age 30 were
most likely to exhibit symptoms from computer use.
If you spend many hours in front of a computer, either at
work or at home, be sure to use the proper form and follow
basic guidelines to avoid injury: Maintain an upright posture;
keep your keyboard even with or slightly below elbow level;
be sure your mouse and other devices are within easy reach;
and be sure to get up and walk around regularly to stretch
and get the blood flowing to your extremities.
Gerr F, Marcus M, Ensor C, et al. A prospective study of
computer users: I. Study design and incidence of musculoskeletal
symptoms and disorders. American Journal of Industrial
Medicine 2002:41(4), pp. 221-235.
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for more information on shoulder and arm pain.