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Computer Mouse Linked to Hand, Wrist, Neck and Shoulder Problems

In two separate studies presented at the 27th International Congress of Occupational Health two teams of Danish researchers looked at the incidence of musculoskeletal disorders resulting from computer use. Their findings indicated that workers were more likely to experience pain, numbness and swelling anywhere from the hands up to the neck the more time they spent operating a computer mouse.

Dr. Chris Jensen and a team of researchers from the National Institute of Occupational Health in Copenhagenx surveyed 3,500 workers from eleven Danish companies and did a follow-up about a year and a half later.

They found that the risk of hand or wrist problems increased when more than two-thirds of the work-time was spent on the computer. But for those who worked at the computer most of the day while using the mouse for at least half the time the risk went up four times over those who spent the same amount of time at the computer but used the mouse only a quarter of the time.

In another study researchers at three different hospitals surveyed 7,000 technical assistants and machine technicians with a one-year follow-up. They reported that with 30 hours per week of mouse use there was eight times higher risk of developing forearm pain, twice the risk of moderate to severe neck pain and three time s the risk of right shoulder pain. Neck problems were reported after more than 25 hours of weekly use and right shoulder complaints appeared with only five hours of weekly use.

One of the researchers noted that professionals that rely heavily on mouse use such as computer-assisted designers were at considerable risk. It must also be noted that 80% of survey respondents used a traditional mouse and the researchers did not look at any possible outcome differences between the traditional and newer ergonomic models.

Dr. Jensen concluded by stressing the need to strike a balance between keyboard and mouse use and the utilization of preventative exercises to interrupt mouse and keyboard use. He expressed doubt that solutions to musculoskeletal disorders would come from other technologies or devices designed to replace present mouse technology.

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