Long hours at the keyboard can certainly lead to a host of health problems, but carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) can no longer be counted among them. Indeed, a new study from Clarke Stevens and his colleagues at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., disproves the common belief that computer use causes the condition, which produces tingling, pain, and numbness in the hands and fingers. "The findings are contrary to popular thought, but nobody has studied the problem carefully," Stevens says. "There has been very little formal study of carpal tunnel syndrome in computer users, and there is not much literature."

To fill that gap, the scientists surveyed 257 Mayo clinic employees, all of whom used computers up to seven hours a day. They then followed up with respondents who had symptoms of CTS, giving them an electromyogram (EMG), or nerve conduction study, to confirm the diagnosis. In total, they found that only 27 of the test subjects met clinical criteria for CTS; EMG tests offered additional proof in only nine participants. "There were about 30 percent of our employees surveyed who had tingling of various sorts in the hand but only 10.5 percent of them turned out to have carpal tunnel syndrome," Stevens says. "I'd like computer users to know that prolonged use of a computer does not seem to lead to carpal tunnel." That said, he adds that a majority of the study subjects suffered from neck and upper extremity pain.