New research from Harvard Medical School about the cause of carpal tunnel syndrome runs totally counter to common assumptions, and as a result is being heavily scrutinized in the blogosphere.
The study found that that carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by the compression of the median nerve in the wrist, which may occur because of heredity, body weight, fracture, or even pregnancy--but not computer use, according to a press release. Heavy computer use--up to seven hours a day--does not increase risk for carpal tunnel syndrome, although it can lead to a different disorder known as repetitive stress injury, the study says.
That's, by no means, saying that all our workplace ergonomics efforts have been done in vain, just that we need to be careful not to lump carpal tunnel and RSI together as one.
Blog community response:
"OK, I'll buy that. Now here's my unscientific, anecdotal 2 cents: I've been sitting in front of computers, typing words for a living, for more than 20 years. The only time I've ever experienced pain in my wrists was in 1996, when one of my jobs was to help create links for my publication's new Web page. It involved an intensive amount of mousework--I was clicking, dragging and dropping up a storm...Ever since then, I've been pretty convinced that excessive mouse use--yes, along with poor posture, etc.--is bad for you."
."Harvard is biased due to (a)lawsuit...I spoke with an ex-librarian of Harvard about 3-4 years ago. She had an operation for carpaltunnel and said that Harvard had lost a class-action with their employees over this but had done nothing to really address ergonomic issues...at least to her ability to continue to work there. When I talked with her she worked at Ziff-Davis."
--B. Rodgers on CNET News.com's Talkback
"For years, it's been drilled into all of us that sitting at a computer all day (especially with bad ergonomics) increases your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. Now, instead, we're being told that a new study shows heavy computer use has nothing to do with carpal tunnel. However...Heavy computer usage can cause repetitive stress injuries...they're just not called carpal tunnel. In other words, the pain is still real. It just changed names."