Tingling and numbness at the hand or fingers among computer operators cannot be due to nerve compression, says research by Overgaard et al.
As part of the Danish NUDATA study (a 1- year prospective cohort study of musculoskeletal symptoms and disorders of the neck and upper limbs among 9,480 technical assistants/computer workers), 20 subjects where chosen who had unilateral tingling or numbness in their hands and fingers occurring at least weekly. These workers were matched with 20 non-symptomatic individuals with control for age, gender, height, weight, and the amount of work they performed with a mouse, keyboard or computer.
Vibratory sensory testing was performed on both groups. Seven out of 20 symptomatic cases had elevated vibration thresholds compared to three out of the 20 in the other group. This resulted in a lack of statistical difference between the two groups. No members of either group with elevated vibration threshold had reduced nerve conduction velocity.
Having ruled out nerve compression as a cause for the tingling and/or numbness symptoms, the authors focused on other factors including underlying job or life dissatisfaction as the reason for the unexplained symptoms. In particularly, they noted that the symptomatic subjects had lower scores on baseline health concepts of vitality and general and mental health conception.
The researchers, however, did note that the value of vibratory sensory testing in nerve compression evaluation is considered controversial.
Overgaard, E; Brandt, A; Ellemann, K; Mikkelsen, S; and Andersen, JH. “Tingling/numbness in the hands of computer users: neurophysiological findings from the NUDATA study.” Internal Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health 77: 521-525, 2004.
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2005-02-15.