Computer use, poor office layout cause musculoskeletal pain

Improper use of computers and poor office layouts may lead to muscle and joint related injuries among physicians, nurses and other medical workers, especially among women, according to two recently published studies.

In the first study, Alan Hedge, PhD, CPE, FHFES, FIEHF, FIEA, AFBPsS, professor in the department of design and environmental analysis at Cornell University, and Tamara M. James, MA, CIE, CPE,assistant professor in community and family medicine at Duke University Medical Center, surveyed 179 physicians within multiple outpatient diagnostic clinics on their computer use patterns, most of whom reported daily use of a desk mounted computer.

Overall, study results showed that women physicians spent more time using a computer and were more likely to adjust the keyboard. However, women physicians also reported feeling less familiar with the adjustability features. Researchers found that more than half of physicians reported upper body musculoskeletal discomfort, and women physicians experienced more frequent neck, shoulder, upper back and right hand musculoskeletal discomfort symptoms, which seemed to relate to their hours of computer use.

In addition, more than two-thirds of respondents said they were not involved in the design or planning of their workplace or computer workstations, and most lacked knowledge of ergonomics.

Hedge and James also collected surveys on computer use patterns from 180 physicians and 63 nurse practitioners and physician assistants within multiple clinics in a second study where most respondents worked with desktop or laptop computers for much of the day.

Study results showed that during the 12 months prior to the survey, clinical computer use had increased and time for face-to-face interactions with patients decreased. Although daily use of a desk mounted computer was reported by two-thirds of respondents, only 20% often made adjustments to the keyboard and monitor position. Mobile computer carts were not used by more than two-thirds of respondents; two-thirds did not use a wall-mounted computer at work and two-thirds said they were not involved in the design or planning of their workplace or computer workstations, and most lacked knowledge of ergonomics, according to the researchers.

Disclosure: Hedge and James have no relevant financial disclosures.

For more information:

Hedge A. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting. 2012;56:887-891.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.