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Use of keyboards and symptoms in the neck and arm: evidence from a national survey

Use of keyboards and symptoms in the neck and arm: evidence from a national survey
Use of keyboards and symptoms in the neck and arm: evidence from a national survey
The objective of this study was to examine the relationship between upper limb symptoms and keyboard use in a population survey. A questionnaire was mailed to 21 201 subjects aged 16–64 years, selected at random from the registers of 34 British general practices. Information was collected on occupation and on regular use of keyboards (for >4 h in an average working day), pain in the upper limbs and neck, numbness or tingling in the upper limbs, headaches, and feelings of tiredness or stress. Associations were explored by logistic regression, with the resultant odds ratios converted into prevalence ratios (PRs). Among 12 262 respondents, 4899 held non-manual occupations. These included 1871 regular users of keyboards (e.g. computer operators, data processors, clerks, administrators, secretaries and typists). Pain in the neck or upper limbs and sensory symptoms were common in the non-manual workers overall (with 1 week period prevalences of 30 and 15%, respectively), and were associated with older age, smoking, headaches and tiredness or stress. After adjustment for these factors, regular keyboard use was significantly associated with pain in the past week in the shoulders (PRs 1.2–1.4) and the wrists or hands (PR 1.4), but not with elbow pain or sensory symptoms over the same period, or with neck or upper limb pain that prevented normal activities in the past year. Disabling symptoms were somewhat less prevalent among symptomatic keyboard users than among other symptomatic workers. We conclude that use of keyboards was associated with discomfort at the shoulder and wrist or hand, but risk estimates were lower than generally reported in workplace surveys. Previous estimates of risk in the occupational setting may have been biased by shared expectations, concerns, or other aspects of illness behaviour.
neck and upper limb pain, population, typing
0962-7480
392-395
Palmer, K.T.
0cfe63f0-1d33-40ff-ae8c-6c33601df850
Cooper, C.
e05f5612-b493-4273-9b71-9e0ce32bdad6
Walker-Bone, K.E.
ad7d1336-ed2c-4f39-ade5-da84eb412109
Syddall, H.E.
a0181a93-8fc3-4998-a996-7963f0128328
Coggon, D.
2b43ce0a-cc61-4d86-b15d-794208ffa5d3
Palmer, K.T.
0cfe63f0-1d33-40ff-ae8c-6c33601df850
Cooper, C.
e05f5612-b493-4273-9b71-9e0ce32bdad6
Walker-Bone, K.E.
ad7d1336-ed2c-4f39-ade5-da84eb412109
Syddall, H.E.
a0181a93-8fc3-4998-a996-7963f0128328
Coggon, D.
2b43ce0a-cc61-4d86-b15d-794208ffa5d3

Palmer, K.T., Cooper, C., Walker-Bone, K.E., Syddall, H.E. and Coggon, D. (2001) Use of keyboards and symptoms in the neck and arm: evidence from a national survey. Occupational Medicine, 51 (6), 392-395. (doi:10.1093/occmed/51.6.392).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The objective of this study was to examine the relationship between upper limb symptoms and keyboard use in a population survey. A questionnaire was mailed to 21 201 subjects aged 16–64 years, selected at random from the registers of 34 British general practices. Information was collected on occupation and on regular use of keyboards (for >4 h in an average working day), pain in the upper limbs and neck, numbness or tingling in the upper limbs, headaches, and feelings of tiredness or stress. Associations were explored by logistic regression, with the resultant odds ratios converted into prevalence ratios (PRs). Among 12 262 respondents, 4899 held non-manual occupations. These included 1871 regular users of keyboards (e.g. computer operators, data processors, clerks, administrators, secretaries and typists). Pain in the neck or upper limbs and sensory symptoms were common in the non-manual workers overall (with 1 week period prevalences of 30 and 15%, respectively), and were associated with older age, smoking, headaches and tiredness or stress. After adjustment for these factors, regular keyboard use was significantly associated with pain in the past week in the shoulders (PRs 1.2–1.4) and the wrists or hands (PR 1.4), but not with elbow pain or sensory symptoms over the same period, or with neck or upper limb pain that prevented normal activities in the past year. Disabling symptoms were somewhat less prevalent among symptomatic keyboard users than among other symptomatic workers. We conclude that use of keyboards was associated with discomfort at the shoulder and wrist or hand, but risk estimates were lower than generally reported in workplace surveys. Previous estimates of risk in the occupational setting may have been biased by shared expectations, concerns, or other aspects of illness behaviour.

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More information

Published date: 2001
Keywords: neck and upper limb pain, population, typing

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 25879
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/25879
ISSN: 0962-7480
PURE UUID: 8458a14c-4d70-437c-b9ec-4bed6fae03cd
ORCID for C. Cooper: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-3510-0709
ORCID for K.E. Walker-Bone: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-5992-1459
ORCID for H.E. Syddall: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-0171-0306
ORCID for D. Coggon: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-1930-3987

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 26 Apr 2006
Last modified: 08 Jan 2022 02:51

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Contributors

Author: K.T. Palmer
Author: C. Cooper ORCID iD
Author: H.E. Syddall ORCID iD
Author: D. Coggon ORCID iD

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