June 14th, 2004

Think the Computer Is a Pain in the Neck? It Probably Is

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Think that your computer monitor on your desk could eventually turn into a big pain in your neck? Chances are, says a new study, that if the computer monitor seems to already be causing occasional muscular tension in your neck, odds are sooner or later you’ll end up with neck pain.

The study, conducted by a group of Swedish researchers, questioned over 1200 video display unit (VDU) users, 671 of whom reported no signs of neck pain at the start of the study, to determine whether job strain, physical exposure, age or the respondents’ sex could be a determining factor in who might develop neck pain. Starting with a questionnaire about the VDU users’ perceived muscular tension, their job strain and any physical exposures, and followed by ten subsequent questionnaires on newly-developed neck pain, the researchers sought to find out exactly what factors could be linked to an increased risk for developing future neck pain.

The results of the study, noted researchers in a recent report published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found that VDU users who reported muscular tension at least a few times per week were found to ultimately have a higher incidence rate for developing neck pain. Additionally, wrote the researchers, VDU users who also said they had high job strain on top of their muscular tension were more likely to develop neck pain than the respondents who reported high physical exposure along with muscular tension.

While the research only focused on the problem of neck pain, ergonomics focuses on the solutions. For example, a workspace set-up that employs ergonomics principals like a monitor positioned at a comfortable height and depth for each worker and other simple-to-fix accommodations like appropriate lighting and repositioning the computer monitor to eliminate glare can all play a part in reducing potential monitor-related muscular tension.

Source: Occupational and Environmental Medicine

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