HealthDay News — Extended use of smartphones and other hand-held electronic devices leads to an increased risk of carpal tunnel syndrome, according to a study published online June 21 in Muscle & Nerve.
Peter White, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of health technology and informatics at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and colleagues followed up on their prior investigation involving 500 Hong Kong University students. Those students fell into two groups: intensive users of hand-held electronic devices (meaning five or more hours of use per day) and non-intensive users (less than 5 hours per day). Hand-held devices included mobile phones, tablet computers, and game consoles. More than half (54%) of the intensive group reported musculoskeletal pain and/or discomfort, compared with 12% among the less intensive group.
The new study looked at 48 students from the first study. Half were intensive users who spent (on average) more than nine hours a day using their devices. Those in the other group spent just under 3 hours a day on their devices. The participants answered questionnaires on electronic device habits and any pain or discomfort in their neck, shoulder, back, elbow, or wrist/hand region. Ultrasounds and physical exams on the wrist region were also done.
The researchers found that intensive electronics users had significantly more discomfort, and more severe discomfort, in their wrist and hand. The more time a person spent using a hand-held electronic device, the more intense and long-lasting their wrist and hand pain was. The team also noted that intensive users had significantly larger median nerve cross-sectional areas, flattening ratios, and perimeters, as well as greater bowing of the transverse carpal ligament, compared with nonintensive users.