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Posture may not prevent pain with computer use

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Posture may not be the key to avoiding aches and pains brought on by using computers, after all, a randomised controlled trial in the Unites States has suggested, so we should be cautious about encouraging any particular posture.

Incidence of musculoskeletal (MS) symptoms in hands or arms and neck or shoulders over six months was no different, nor did the time to noticing symptoms differ significantly, among three groups of newly recruited office workers in the trial. Two groups were randomly assigned to receive postural interventions, and a control group was allowed to carry on as usual. The interventions were based on protective factors derived from a previous prospective study (alternative intervention) or well known national occupational safety and health policies or private company policies (conventional intervention). The main drawback was low compliance—only 25% for the alternative and 38% for the conventional intervention—mainly because of inflexible workstations, so a potential effect cannot be ruled out.

The trial included 376 recruits in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia, using computers for 15 hours or more a week currently and in their previous job. Demographic information, work and medical history, and computer use were collected by questionnaire at enrolment. Computer use was recorded daily by the recruits and symptoms weekly during follow up.

The use of computers has seen an escalation in work related musculoskeletal problems in the upper body. Such a potentially huge impact on public health means it is important that trials test the assumption that posture does protect.

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