Sunday, December 2, 2007

Harvard University Gazette: Computer use deleted as carpal tunnel system cause

Computer use deleted
as carpal tunnel syndrome cause

More common in assembly line work

By William J. Cromie
Harvard News Office

The popular belief that excessive computer use causes painful carpal tunnel syndrome has been contradicted by experts at Harvard Medical School. According to them, even as much as seven hours a day of tapping on a computer keyboard won't increase your risk of this disabling disorder.

carpal tunnel site diagram
A. Pain, tingling, and weakness often results when a narrowed passageway, the carpal tunnel, pinches the median nerve as it passes through the wrist to the thumb, index, and middle fingers. B. and C. When the hand is flexed or extended, the carpal tunnel narrows, pressing on the median nerve, causing distress and interfering with finger movements. (Diagram courtesy Harvard Health Publications)

The pain, numbness, and tingling are more common in those who do assembly-line work in industries such as manufacturing, sewing, cleaning, or meatpacking.

Genes account for about half the cases. Women are more likely than men to suffer the syndrome.

Additional factors involve weight, pregnancy, and some diseases. Being overweight doubles the risk, according to several medical studies.

Between 20 and 60 percent of pregnant women develop the disorder, but symptoms usually go away after the baby is delivered.

Diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus, and thyroid problems, connective tissue disorders, as well as previous bone dislocation or fracture, are also linked to a higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.

It's estimated to affect between 2 and 3 percent of adults, or millions of people in the United States alone.

Often the disorder is classified as a repetitive stress injury, but a Harvard health publication says that's incorrect.

Harvard University Gazette: Computer use deleted as carpal tunnel system cause:

"Surgery to relieve the pressure causing this nerve disorder is one of the most common procedures in the United States, with more than 200,000 carpal tunnel surgeries performed every year.

However, many people improve with splints or steroid injections."

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