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Electronic Devices May Contribute to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 05 Jul 2017
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Image: A new study suggests heavy cell phone use can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome (Photo courtesy of Getty Images).
Image: A new study suggests heavy cell phone use can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome (Photo courtesy of Getty Images).
Intensive users of handheld electronic devices suffer more wrist and hand pain than non-intensive users, according to a new study.

Researches at Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Kowloon, China) conducted a study among 48 university students, half of them intensive users (over five hours a day of interaction with electronic devices), and half of them non-intensive users (less than five hours a day of electronic devices usage). Study participants filled in a questionnaire, completed provocative tests, and underwent ultrasonic measurement of carpal tunnel morphological parameters. All participants were right-handed.

The results showed that intensive users had significantly more positive results in Phalen's and Durkan's tests and reported more wrist and hand pain than non-intensive users. They also had significantly larger median nerve cross-sectional areas, flattening ratios, and perimeters, as well as greater bowing of the transverse carpal ligament compared with non-intensive users, resulting in numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand. The study was published on June 21, 2017, in Muscle & Nerve.

“Our prior work identified that out of 500 students, 54% of intensive users and 12% non-intensive users reported musculoskeletal symptoms in relation to use of electronic devices. We randomly selected 48 students for further investigation, and our results showed that excessive use of electronic devices may be linked to a greater risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome,” said study author Peter White, PhD. “Therefore, vigilance in educating and monitoring young people using electronic devices is important, especially children and adolescents, as they are less capable of self-regulating.”

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a median entrapment neuropathy that causes paresthesia, pain, numbness, and other symptoms in the distribution of the median nerve. It appears to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, including diabetes, pregnancy, obesity, hypothyroidism, and heavy manual work or work with vibrating tools. Other disorders such as bursitis and tendinitis have been associated with repeated motions performed in the course of normal work or other activities.

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Hong Kong Polytechnic University

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