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Open Access Research article

Musculoskeletal symptoms and computer use among Finnish adolescents - pain intensity and inconvenience to everyday life: a cross-sectional study

Paula T Hakala12*, Lea A Saarni3, Raija-Leena Punamäki45, Marjut A Wallenius4, Clas-Håkan Nygård1 and Arja H Rimpelä1

Author Affiliations

1 School of Health Sciences, FIN-33014 University of Tampere, Finland

2 Tampere University Hospital, PO Box 2000, FIN-33421 Tampere, Finland

3 Tampere University of Applied Sciences, Kuntokatu 3, 33520 Tampere, Finland

4 School of Humanities and Social Sciences, FIN-33014 University of Tampere, Finland

5 Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2012, 13:41  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-13-41

Published: 22 March 2012

Abstract

Background

Musculoskeletal symptoms among adolescents are related to the time spent using a computer, but little is known about the seriousness of the symptoms or how much they affect everyday life. The purpose of the present study was to examine the intensity of musculoskeletal pain and level of inconvenience to everyday life, in relation to time spent using a computer.

Methods

In a survey, 436 school children (12 to 13 and 15 to 16 years of age), answered a questionnaire on musculoskeletal and computer-associated musculoskeletal symptoms in neck-shoulder, low back, head, eyes, hands, and fingers or wrists. Pain intensity (computer-associated symptoms) and inconvenience to everyday life (musculoskeletal symptoms) were measured using a visual analogue scale. Based on the frequency and intensity, three categories were formed to classify pain at each anatomic site: none, mild, and moderate/severe. The association with time spent using the computer was analyzed by multinomial logistic regression.

Results

Moderate/severe pain intensity was most often reported in the neck-shoulders (21%); head (20%); and eyes (14%); and moderate/severe inconvenience to everyday life was most often reported due to head (29%), neck-shoulders (21%), and low back (16%) pain. Compared with those using the computer less than 3.6 hours/week, computer use of ≥ 14 hours/week, was associated with moderate/severe increase in computer-associated musculoskeletal pain at all anatomic sites (odds ratio [OR] = 2.9-4.4), and moderate/severe inconvenience to everyday life due to low back (OR = 2.5) and head (OR = 2.0) pain.

Conclusions

Musculoskeletal symptoms causing moderate/severe pain and inconvenience to everyday life are common among adolescent computer users. Daily computer use of 2 hours or more increases the risk for pain at most anatomic sites.