The aetiology of upper quadrant musculoskeletal pain in high school learners using desktop computers : a prospective study
Thesis (MScPhysio (Physiotherapy))--Stellenbosch University, 2008.
The Western Cape Education Department initiated a project that aims to provide all the learners from the province with computer access and to promote computer use in schools. Prolonged sitting in front of computers and psychosocial factors have been associated with musculoskeletal symptoms internationally. However, the impact of computer use on musculoskeletal pain among South African high school learners is yet to be determined. Objective The objective of the study was to determine whether sitting postural alignment and psychosocial factors contribute to the development of upper quadrant musculoskeletal pain in grade ten high school learners working on desktop computers. Study design An observational analytical study was performed on a sample of 104 asymptomatic high school learners. Methodology Six high schools in the Western Cape metropole were randomly selected 322 grade ten learners who are using desktop computers, were screened for upper quadrant musculoskeletal pain. Measurements at baseline were taken of the 104 asymptomatic learners, 49 girls and 55 boys. The sitting postural alignment was measured by using the Portable Posture Analysis Method (PPAM), which measured head tilt; cervical angle; shoulder pro- and retraction angle and thoracic angle in the sagittal plane. Depression and anxiety were described by using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and the Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children (MASC) respectively. The exposure to computer use was described in terms of duration and frequency of daily and weekly computer use. At three and six months post baseline, the onset and area of upper quadrant musculoskeletal pain was determined by using the Computer Usage Questionnaire. Results After six months, 27 of the 104 learners developed upper quadrant musculoskeletal pain due to seated or computer-related activities. There was no difference in computer exposure between the learners who developed upper quadrant musculoskeletal pain symptoms and the learners who remained asymptomatic. An extreme cervical angle (<34.75° or >43.95°; OR 2.6; 95% CI: 1.0-6.7) and a combination of extreme cervical and thoracic angle (<63.1° or >71.1°; OR 2.19; 95% CI: 1.0-5.6) were significant postural risk factors for the development of upper quadrant musculoskeletal pain. There was a tendency for boys to be at a greater risk for upper quadrant musculoskeletal pain than the girls (OR 1.94; 95% CI: 0.9-4.9). Weight greater than 54.15kg and a depression score greater than 11 was found to be significantly associated with a poor posture (OR 3.1; 95% CI: 1.0-9.7; OR 1.02; 95% CI: 1.0-1.1). Discussion and conclusion The study concluded that poor posture, relating to extreme cervical and thoracic angles, is a risk factor for the development of upper quadrant musculoskeletal pain in high school learners working on desktop computers. South African boys were at a greater risk of developing upper quadrant musculoskeletal pain than the girls. However the study found no causal relationship between depression, anxiety and upper quadrant musculoskeletal pain among South African high school learners and computer usage.