Over half of surveyed college students are experiencing pain they are attributing to computer use. The study objective was to evaluate the effect of computing patterns on upper extremity musculoskeletal symptoms.Methods
Symptom experiences and computing/break patterns were reported several times daily over three weeks for 30 undergraduate students over a semester. Two-level logistic regression models described the daily association between each computing pattern and both any and moderate or greater symptom experienced, adjusting for covariates.Results
The associations between most computing/break patterns and experiencing any symptoms were positive: total hours of computer use adjOR = 1.1 (90% CI 1.1–1.2), 1–2 breaks versus none adjOR = 1.3 (90% CI 0.9–1.9), 3–6 breaks versus none adjOR = 1.5 (90% CI 1.1–2.2), >15 min break versus none adjOR = 1.6 (90% CI 1.1–2.2), and number of stretch breaks adjOR = 1.3 (90% CI 1.1–1.5). However, breaks for less than 15 min were negatively associated with experiencing any symptoms: adjOR = 0.6 (90% CI 0.5–0.9). The associations between most computing/break patterns and experiencing moderate or greater symptoms were positive: total hours of computer use OR = 1.1 (90% CI 1.1–1.2), 1–2 breaks and 5–6 breaks versus none OR = 1.8 (90% CI 1.1–2.9), 7–8 breaks versus none OR = 2.0 (1.0–4.2), >15 min break versus none 1.8 (1.1–3.1), and number of stretch breaks OR = 1.3 (1.0–1.5).Conclusion
Computing/break patterns were consistently associated with experiencing symptoms. Our findings suggest evaluating breaks with computing duration (computing patterns) is more informative than assessing computing duration alone and can be used to better design ergonomic training programs for student populations that incorporate break times.