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Keyboard carpal culprit? Not so, study says

A new research report says heavy computer use does not lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.

Your wrists may hurt after a long day at the computer, but your ailment isn't likely to be carpal tunnel syndrome.

Contrary to popular belief, heavy computer use--up to seven hours a day--does not increase the risk that a person will develop carpal tunnel syndrome, according to a report issued Wednesday by the Harvard Medical School.

That's because the wrist ailment, which surged into public consciousness in the 1990s, typically arises from factors such as heredity, body weight, fractures and pregnancy. It does not stem from repetitive stress, the report said.

Office workers can put themselves in harm's way, however, because of improper computer use and other workplace conditions that could provoke repetitive stress injuries. Pain from poor posture isn't limited to the hands; it can also affect the neck, shoulders and other parts of the body.

Carpal tunnel syndrome affects between 2 percent and 3 percent of the population, and almost twice as many women as men, the Harvard report said. It occurs when one of the three major nerves that travel from the spinal cord to the hand becomes pinched.