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Is computer use as dangerous as drinking?

Saturday Night Palsy

“Saturday at night palsy” is generally used to refer to a nerve compression that happens to people when they fall asleep inebriated or intoxicated on their arm. They wake up in the morning with numbness and weakness of the hand and wrist. This results from pressure on the nerves in the arm pushing against the solid surface. The condition usually involves the radial nerve that runs right along the humerus, which is the large upper bone in the arm. Researchers at Maimonides Medical Center and the University of California at San Diego have teamed up to reinvestigate this phenomenon. Using a longitudinal prospective nationwide epidemiological database researchers have been able to identify patients who present to emergency rooms with these complaints and determine the causes. Surprisingly, a similar number of people presented to emergency rooms with these complaints not after falling asleep on their arm when drunk, but rather falling asleep on their arm while on the computer.

“It’s a sign of the times,” says Dr. Jack Choueka, Chairman of Orthopedic Surgery at Maimonides Medical Center. “People sitting at the computer can lose track of time and fall asleep at their desks, which can lead to many problems, including nerve compressions and the arm. This can lead to temporary or even permanent loss of function in the hand.” Researchers caution patients to be careful about spending long hours at the computer, especially at night.

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