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Does computer use affect the incidence of distal arm pain? A one-year prospective study using objective measures of computer use

PainSci » bibliography » Mikkelsen et al 2012
Tags: etiology, pro

One article on PainSci cites Mikkelsen 2012: Tennis Elbow Guide

PainSci commentary on Mikkelsen 2012: ?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.

This study reported that, in more than 2000 people over the course of a year, mouse usage was linked to acute pain, but not keyboarding, and neither one was “related to the development of prolonged or chronic pain.” It was a particularly good little study in many ways prospective!), but it had an acknowledged major limitation: “low keyboard times.” They didn’t study people who type a lot, so it was like studying running injuries in “runners” who don’t actually run all that much. Their “computer workers” didn’t actually type all that much! So this only established that light keyboarding isn’t much of a risk factor, and that mousing can definitely cause trouble but isn’t particularly a risk for stubborn trouble.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

PURPOSE: To study how objectively recorded mouse and keyboard activity affects distal arm pain among computer workers.

METHODS: Computer activities were recorded among 2,146 computer workers. For 52 weeks mouse and keyboard time, sustained activity, speed and micropauses were recorded with a software program installed on the participants' computers. Participants reported weekly pain scores via the software program for elbow, forearm and wrist/hand as well as in a questionnaire at baseline and 1-year follow up. Associations between pain development and computer work were examined for three pain outcomes: acute, prolonged and chronic pain.

RESULTS: Mouse time, even at low levels, was associated with acute pain in a similar way for all the examined regions. There were no exposure-response threshold patterns. Keyboard time had no effect. Mouse and keyboard sustained activity, speed and micropauses were not risk factors for acute pain, nor did they modify the effects of mouse or keyboard time. Computer usage parameters were not associated with prolonged or chronic pain. A major limitation of the study was low keyboard times.

CONCLUSION: Computer work was not related to the development of prolonged or chronic pain. Mouse time was associated with acute distal arm pain, but the impact was quite small.

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