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A cross-sectional study of the relation between symptoms and physical findings in computer operators

Author(s): Jepsen Jørgen | Thomsen Gert

Journal: BMC Neurology
ISSN 1471-2377

Volume: 6;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 40;
Date: 2006;
Original page

Abstract Background The character of upper limb disorder in computer operators is subject to debate. A peripheral nerve-involvement is suggested from the common presence of a triad of symptoms consisting of pain, paraestesiae and subjective weakness, and from physical findings suggesting neuropathy. This study aimed to examine the outcome of a detailed neurological examination in computer operators and to compare findings with the presence of symptoms. Methods 96 graphical computer operators answered a modified Nordic Questionnaire including information on perceived pain in the shoulder, elbow, and wrist/hand scored for each region on a VAS-scale 0 – 9. In addition, they underwent a physical examination including the subjective assessment of the individual function of 11 upper limb muscles, of algesia in five and vibratory threshold in three territories, respectively, and of mechanosensitivity of nerves at seven locations. In order to reflect an involvement of the brachial plexus (chord level), the posterior interosseous nerve and the median nerve at elbow level we defined three patterns of neurological findings illustrating the course of nerves and their innervation. The pain scores summarized for the three upper limb regions (min. = 0, max = 27) in the mouse-operating and contralateral limbs were compared by a Wilcoxon test and the relation to each physical item analyzed by Kendall's rank correlation. The relation of summarized pain to each pattern was studied by application of a test of the trend across ordered groups (patterns). Results Pain, paraestesiae and subjective weakness was reported for 67, 23, and 7 mouse-operating limbs, respectively, with the summarized pain scores exceeding 4 in 33 limbs. Abnormal physical findings were prevalent. The summarized pain was significantly related to a reduced function in five muscles, to mechanical allodynia at one location and to elevated threshold to vibration in two territories. Brachial plexopathy was diagnosed in 9/2, median neuropathy in 13/5 and posterior interosseous neuropathy in 13/8 mouse operating/contralateral limbs, respectively. The summarized pain was significantly higher in the mouse-operating limbs and in limbs with any of the defined patterns. There was a significant trend between the summarized pain and the summarized scores for the items contained in each pattern. Conclusion This small-scale study of a group of computer-operators currently in work and with no or minor upper limb symptoms has indicated in symptomatic subjects the presence of peripheral nerve-afflictions with specific locations.

Tango Jona
Tangokurs Rapperswil-Jona

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