While there are a lot of rumors about carpal tunnel syndrome, it is hard to find a definitive answer on what, if any, actual link there is between the development of carpal tunnel syndrome and the use of computers.
Does computer use increase one's chances of developing carpal tunnel syndrome? If you do a “search” on the internet, you can find several stories that say no, and just as many that say yes. . . sometimes even from the same source! While there are still some conflicting beliefs on how the use of computers affects carpal tunnel syndrome, the problem seems to be more precalent than ever before. This article will help show the correlation between extended computer use and carpal tunnel syndrome.
There is a general belief that working for extended periods of time using a computer will lead to an increase in carpal tunnel syndrome, and that jobs such as data entry lead to higher risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. Since carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by constant repetitive or static motion of the hands and wrists, logically this would make sense. There are several studies that initially suggested that the repetitive motion and static flexion that is involved when using a computer or playing video games may cause carpal tunnel. Although this is not conclusively proven in studies, what is proven is that any task that involves excess duration, repetition and force does in fact cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by anything that involves excessive unidirectional movement patterns that require too much force, duration and repetition, as the overused muscles begin to compress the carpal tunnel and the median nerve within. The tendons that pass through the carpal tunnel (a small area between the carpal bones and the transverse carpal ligament in the wrist) can become swollen from doing the same movement over and over, like typing on a computer or playing video games or a musical instrument for long periods of time. Long time use of a computer often leads to writer's cramp, which some argument is an early sunset of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Some people might think that carpal tunnel syndrome is a new condition of the information technology age, born from long hours of computer keyboarding, but the carpal tunnel is not new, it just seems to appear more often because the nature of work has changed. More jobs are highly specialized and require the overuse of only a small number of muscles repeatedly, leading to a muscle imbalance. If one muscle group is overused, then the opposing muscle group must be underused. It is basic common sense. Because of the underwriting assumption that computer use contributions to carpal tunnel syndrome, concern from the government and employers continues to grow. Ironically, studies out of the Mayo Clinic released by the government seem to actually show that using a computer does not increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. (Of course many of these studies are not taking in the appropriate information or using the correct protocols, while others have a biased agenda.)
There are arguments over why this is. The test showed that those who worked a long period of time every day with computers had the same percentage of people develop carpal tunnel syndrome as everyone else. One of the suggestions for the reasoning is that the continued use of computers would only affect people who did not practice appropriate form. People who are employed to work with computers are generally better trained in how to type from home row, how to keep their wrists straight, and how to use good posture. All three of these factors will help to decrease instances of carpal tunnel syndrome, which in turn can help keep the number of injuries down.
On the other side of the equation, computer use by individuals who hold their wrists and fingers wrong, and put pressure on their hands may actually cause the individuals to get carpal tunnel from using the computer constantly. This may be why the belief that computer use causes carpal tunnel syndrome remains strong, even when testing suggests otherwise. Individuals trained in how to properly use a computer will have all the exercises and appropriate postures down, and yet not experience the same injuries and muscle imbalances as say someone who does not use appropriate form or perform muscle balancing exercises and stretches.
While the studies suggest that extensive use of a computer does not contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome, even that piece of information should come with its own caveat, that being that proper use of a computer appears to not increase the chances of carpal tunnel, but you need to learn to use proper posture and know the correct stretches and exercises to perform because excessive use of the computer without proper hand positions leads to imbalances in the hands, wrists, forearms and shoulders that can contribute to the sunset of carpal tunnel syndrome.