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Does Keyboard Use Increase the Risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Summary and Comment |
November 20, 2007

Does Keyboard Use Increase the Risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

  1. Thomas L. Schwenk, MD

This study suggested an inverse relation between use and risk, but questions remain.

  1. Thomas L. Schwenk, MD

Many clinicians believe that excessive wrist and forearm activity, particularly on a keyboard, is associated with increased risk for carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Swedish investigators examined the potential association among 2003 randomly selected working-age adults who completed general health status questionnaires that included questions about CTS symptoms, employment, and demographics. All 301 participants who reported symptoms possibly consistent with CTS were invited for clinical assessment; 219 ultimately underwent nerve-conduction tests.

On the basis of nerve-conduction findings, CTS was diagnosed in 97 subjects (overall prevalence, 4.8%). CTS prevalence was 5.1% in those who reported less than 1 hour of keyboard work daily, and it was 2.7% in those who reported 1 hour or more, a significant difference (adjusted prevalence ratio for greater use, 0.55).

Comment

These findings — that heavy keyboard use is not associated with a higher prevalence of carpal tunnel syndrome — go against conventional wisdom. However, in a similar cross-sectional study, the findings could be explained by the hypothesis that people with CPS symptoms had already voluntarily restricted their keyboard use. Prospective studies are needed to prove or disprove the notion that heavy keyboard use, over time, causes CPS.

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