Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2017;43(2):163-170    pdf full text

https://doi.org/10.5271/sjweh.3619 | Published online: 06 Jan 2017, Issue date: 01 Mar 2017

Reversible median nerve impairment after three weeks of repetitive work

by Tabatabaeifar S, Svendsen SW, Johnsen B, Hansson G-Å, Fuglsang-Frederiksen A, Frost P

Objectives The aim of this study was to evaluate the development of impaired median nerve function in relation to hand-intensive seasonal work. We hypothesized that at end-season, median nerve conduction would be impaired and then recover within weeks.

Methods Using nerve conduction studies (NCS), we examined median nerve conduction before, during, and after engaging in 22 days of mink skinning. For a subgroup, we used goniometry and surface electromyography to characterize occupational mechanical exposures. Questionnaire information on symptoms, disability, and lifestyle factors was obtained.

Results The study comprised 11 male mink skinners with normal median nerve conduction at pre-season (mean age 35.7 years, mean number of seasons with skinning 8.9 years). Mink skinning was characterized by a median angle of wrist flexion/extension of 16º extension, a median velocity of wrist flexion/extension of 22 °/s, and force exertions of 11% of maximal voluntary electrical activity. At end-season, mean distal motor latency (DML) had increased 0.41 ms (P<0.001), mean sensory nerve conduction velocity (SNCV) digit 2 had decreased 6.3 m/s (P=0.004), and mean SNCV digit 3 had decreased 6.2 m/s (P=0.01); 9 mink skinners had decreases in nerve conduction, 5 fulfilled electrodiagnostic criteria and 4 fulfilled electrodiagnostic and clinical criteria (a positive Katz hand diagram) for carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Three to six weeks post-season, the changes had reverted to normal. Symptom and disability scores showed corresponding changes.

Conclusions In this natural experiment, impaired median nerve conduction developed during 22 days of repetitive industrial work with moderate wrist postures and limited force exertion. Recovery occurred within 3–6 weeks post-season.

This article refers to the following texts of the Journal: 2009;35(1):19-36  2016;42(4):280-290