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Preventing RSI? 128

Posted by Cliff
from the carpal-tunnel-and-friends dept.
conJunk asks: "How do you protect against RSI? I try to practice good typing habits, but without the aid of wrist splints, I tend to get cold wrists. The splints are great, but they slow down my typing by a fair bit. What do you all do?"
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Preventing RSI?

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  • Or just a wrist rest if you don't use a mat/pad. Honestly, you'll get used to it very quickly and I strongly suspect it's the only reason I don't have crippling RSI by now. A decent natural "split"-style keyboard has also been my preference for years.
    • by Xtifr (1323) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @07:11AM (#14931622) Homepage
      I've never understood those gel pads. What good does a pad positioned an inch or so below your wrist do? :)

      The most important thing, in my opinion, is a chair with arms. If your elbows are properly supported, your wrists don't need to be, because they'll be in mid-air. If your wrists are resting on anything, you're doing something wrong.

      I suspect the split-style keyboards are good, but I've never bothered with them. But I can see the attraction.
      • What good does a pad positioned an inch or so below your wrist do?

        If that's the only portion it's supporting, you're probably not using it as intended or have a small gimmicky one -- the curve of the rest on the one I'm using now is several inches long. Before I'd tend to grip the mouse tightly (and preferred thin mice); the rest prevents that deathlock grip to a certain extent. I'm also a fan of software acceleration, reducing the amount the mouse needs to be moved. Some people find that high accelerat
        • Mind Over Matter (Score:1, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Isaac Asimov typed 90 words per minute for most of 50 years, and he did not get RSI. Why? I distinctly recall reading something to the effect that he actually enjoyed the typing process. Thus the "Subject" of this message. I think it would be interesting for the psychologists to study a large group of typists, to see how many of them don't like typing, and how many of those have RSI. Me, I learned on a manual typewriter approx 1968, and while my speed is only 40wpm or so, I've done lots of typing over
          • RSI is typically more associated with mouse use than keyboards, due to the tighter grip. There's probably something to the logic that enjoyment promotes healthy wrists, though -- in a good mood and/or without a looming deadline, you'll be less tense and more inclined to pay attention to any twinges of discomfort. The trick is forcing muscles and tendons to relax when you're distracted and focusing. Some people can probably do this naturally.
          • Re:Mind Over Matter (Score:2, Informative)

            by ianmh (818287)
            Sorry, but this is BS, I had very severe RSI for awhile. It got to the point where I could hardly hold a glass of water without shaking, and it was extremely painful. RSI will also cause depression for obvious reasons. I am a computer enthusiast, I love my job, and I love computers, design and and gaming. I really don't think anyone can understand RSI unless they have had it. It seems too trivial from a non-suffers point of view. I remember having a teacher warn me about it 10 years ago, and I laughed it of
        • I have RSI and I can say definitively that when typing your palms, especially near your wrists, should not be touching anything. Your blood vessels and nerves are especially close to the skin in that area and if they are compressed for an extended period of time RSI will develop due to lack of proper blood flow.

          The parent poster is absolutely correct. A chair with good arm rests (I have one with gliding armrests) will support your arms, wrists, and hands in the correct position. Blood vessels/nerves are not
          • your palms, especially near your wrists, should not be touching anything

            They aren't -- the mouse is moved with the upper part of the fingers/thumb, and the hand isn't cupped. A few years later and everything's comfortable.

            re: keeping weights by desk, which someone further down the comments mentioned, I've found this pretty good for breaks. I'm not trying to mitigate existing permanent damage, though, so it'd probably be a good idea for people to check with a doctor before trying anything too heavy.
    • Actually that's the worst thing to do. It isolates movement to your wrist. You should be keeping your wrist immobile and moving the mouse higher in your arm
  • Don't type (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by poeidon1 (767457)
    simply talk and ask your secretary to type it for you :D. For permanent relief, outsource your work.
  • Workrave (Score:2, Informative)

    by tka (548076)
    I have workrave [workrave.org] running on my computer. It's great!
    • Re:Workrave (Score:2, Funny)

      by Bromskloss (750445)

      I have workrave running on my computer. It's great!

      I tend to be sceptical when people recommend some program enthusiastically. I followed your advice, however, and it really is great! I immediately feel better!

    • I installed this software and i find myself already able to ignore the "take a break every 3 mintues" prompt, i think my ability to tune it out so quickly means it has limited usefulness perhaps...it's an interesting little program. and in case you care it seems to use about 12 megs of ram on my WinXP system.
    • Seriously, how many people can stop completely after four hours? That doesn't cut it when most people work an eight hour shift. The rest breaks I can see, after forty-five minutes I can stand up and go somewhere for a few minutes, but a daily limit of four hours? That's not good.
      • Of course if I had spent about five seconds poking around with the program I would have found all those timers can be set accordingly in preferences. MD
    • I looked at the screenshots, but where's the "Time for slashdot!" prompt?
  • Rest and exercise (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Unipuma (532655)
    I have made it a habit to take my hands of the keyboard and mouse whenever I am in a conversation with someone, or whenever I'm not actively typing or using the mouse. Have a pen or pencil to play around with also helps to keep your fingers moving around at that time.
    I'm also a (not very accomplished :) freeclimber, so I tend to exercise the muscles in my arms once a week, and because you can quickly cramp up while climbing, this has taught me to relax my lower arm muscles whenever I'm not actively using th
  • I used to outsource all my typing to India.

    When my boss complained about my spelling and vocabulary, I told him I'd gotten dyslexic.

    atm, I'm an RSI-free full time couch potato. Too bad I can't outsource channel switching...
  • by dekaysion (551946) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @07:03AM (#14931601)

    I was lucky to never really develop major RSI related injuries, but I got very close, and I am still very alert when it comes to feeling pain in my hands. Generally I guess you could characterize the means for prevention into hardware and software (which mostly includes changing habits i.e. brainware as well).

    Hardware:
    • Mouse alternatives (like a tablet, trackball or, better, a combination of as many input devices as necessary)
    • Ergonomic keyboards
    • Ergonomic anything, desk, chair, office. There ARE many ways to get hurt or at least work on your chronic situations, not just RSI but back pain etc.
    • Medicine: In my case whenever I am in a phase where I need to work on a computer exclusively I start developing pain in my right hand, some kind of inflammation - which can be taken care of 3 days with ibuprofen or diclofenac. And which also keeps the thing under control for about another 9 months or so. Talk to your doctor!
    Software:
    • Break Scheduler: Software that enforces breaks, micro breaks; shows stretching tips etc.
    • Habits: change your habits, change your posture, change your input devices - do anything that keeps you from burning into one repetitive posture/gesture/.... (As with all things in life - change is good)
    • Macros, Automation: get a good spell checker, get a good macro software, program your editors to do things for you thereby reducing the repetitive work.
    Some links/Linklists: ;)

    thread at 43folders [google.com]

    google RSI prevention [google.com]

    btw: where is markdown formatting in slashdot's comment form?
    • Lots and lots of Advil. Don't you hate those commercials? "My wrists are on fire." Maybe you should treat the problem instead of just masking the pain. If you numb the pain, then how are you supposed to know when there is something wrong. Your wrists hurt because there is something wrong with them.
    • I second the rec for a mouse alternative. My right wrist was terrible due to a lot of cut & pasting and general mousework. The keyboards with the numeric keypad push the mouse so far out of natural body alignment, it's no wonder I was in pain. I tried switching my mouse to the lefthand side which worked for awhile, but really, a pen and tablet system has worked wonders for me. Fine pointer work (like for Photoshop) is much easier and more precise, too.

      I also switched to a split/natural keyboard. No
    • I like how changing posture is classified as Software. But I like your list anyway. :-)
  • Go by what you feel (Score:4, Interesting)

    by baryon351 (626717) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @07:04AM (#14931603)
    Go by what you feel when you're using a computer. If you feel something hurting, stop. right away. Then look at what you're doing and what could cause it, and try something different.

    12 years ago I worked in a department that insisted on bucketloads of ergonomic tricks to make things easier for people. If we were just using mouse and plain keyboard, we were pushed to try trackballs, wristrests for mouse & keyboard, split keyboards, ergo chairs etc. That made for a culture of workers feeling free to say "this isn't working for me, let me try something different" and most people found their niche setup, using components they didn't know were available to them, or didn't know were an option in the workplace.

    As it turns out I tried trackballs and found them cripplingly painful, and ergo chairs were comfy while I sat on them but locked my knees painfully into place. I'm most comfortable with plain old keyboard and mouse, and have been RSI free with that setup for 22 years. It's the best solution for me, and if that works for you too, don't be in too much hurry to change.
    • If you feel something hurting, stop. right away. Then look at what you're doing and what could cause it, and try something different.

      The same advice could be given to undergraduates taking CompSci courses.
    • This is the solution. Find what works for you. Everyones body is shaped differently, what works for one person may be painful for another. I find that ergo keyboards cause me tons of pain. I can type on an old fashioned keyboard for 10 hours and not have any problems. I also find that trackballs work better for me. Some people like mice, some people like quill mice, some people like joysticks. Use whatever it is feels most comfortable for you.
  • Wrist rests may work for some, but I find that they place pressure on the wrists and forearms right where I don't want it. My recommendations:

    1) Posture is important. Have a look on Google for guidance on arranging your workspace on ergonomic guidelines. Also, consider seeing a chiropractor - a competent chiropractor will be able to track down areas of weakness and suggest exercises to strengthen muscle groups which are causing problems. Which leads to:

    2) I find that regular light workouts with a set of

    • I have RSI in my right index finger. Basically, from using a scroll-wheel to scroll through webpages, yes, mostly /.

      I stopped using my scroll-wheel in favor of a touchpad on my laptop. I prefer a real mouse. I have never liked scroll-wheels because I knew they would give me RSI because after much scrolling my joints would get soar. Well, the scroll-wheel is very seductive to use, and I have gone to bed with the devil because of it.

      When I first noticed my joint swelling and the aching pain, I looked on t
      • With my laptop keyboard, I do this weird thing, which can't be good for me. Often the keyboard is at a very slight angle, and rather than using my fingertip, I actually curl the little finger and use the first joint to press the Shift/Ctrl keys.

        Am I the only one that does this?

    • 1) Posture is important. Have a look on Google for guidance on arranging your workspace on ergonomic guidelines.

      Quote below is taken from Typeonline's "safety first" page [typeonline.co.uk].

      Sit with your back straight and your feet, either flat on the floor or on a foot rest. You should be arms length, 12-30 inches (25-75cm), from your computer monitor (VDU). Raise the monitor (VDU) so the your eyes are level with the top of the screen. Make sure the F and J keys of the keyboard are immediately opposite the middle of your

  • by mwvdlee (775178) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @07:09AM (#14931616) Homepage
    ...but I have typed/moused daily for the past 12 years of my life and have never had any RSI problems. I'm a fulltime programmer and program as a hobby too, so you can imagine the amount of time I spend behind a keyboard.

    My secret; don't use wristsupport of ANY kind. The majority of RSI problems stem from straining your wrists, so don't strain them. My wrists are usually floating because I support my arms at my elbows if needed; the area of motion allowed just by skin flexibility (not even adding flexibility in clothing layers) around the elbows alone is enough to reach the entire keyboard and mouse physical space.

    At home I have a custom-built desk which lowers the keyboard and mouse to a comfortable position (just above my lap) where I don't even need to support anything; now I'm able to use all the muscles in my arms for the required motion; which is far easier.

    Often I see colleagues using wrist supports for their keyboards, where they quite literally push their wrists into the support and produce all motion from flexing the wrists; a sure way of getting RSI.

    Just try keeping the wrist afloat and everything will go much smoother. Perhaps even try raising the keyboard from your desk a bit if that makes it easier.
    • Indeed, if your elbows are properly supported, you shouldn't need to try to keep your wrists afloat--it should be difficult to get your wrists down far enough to need support! If your wrists hit the desk, you need to adjust your chair (or get a new one), IMO. Chairs without arms should be kept as far away from keyboards as possible.
    • You're quite right there - you get RSI because people get lazy with today's lghtweight, no-effort required input devices and start using the least amount of effort to use them.

      eg. a mouse, do you move it about by keeping your arm fixed and only moving your hand (ie pivoting at the wrist)? If so.. you'll get RSI. If you move the entire arm and keep your wrist fixed then you'll have no problems. (pretty much).

      The same goes for typing, lift your arms off the table and move the entire arm, you'll be fine. If yo
    • Exactly. I keep my keyboard about 6-8" from the edge of my desk; the point where my arms rest on the desk edge is then just below the elbow. I've been using computers this way for about 15 years now (the last 10 as an ISP system/network admin/developer/etc.) without any RSI problems.

      You should end up with the plane of your palm in line with your forearm. I pivot my hands from side to side when reaching to the edge keys, but my palms stay flat WRT my forearms. This keeps the wrist from bending up and dow
    • by Aceticon (140883) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:42AM (#14933404)
      I use the same trick.

      When i was a teenager i actually got into the early stages of RSI (i had loss of feeling in the palm of my hands) due to programing at home while supporting my wrists in the border of the table (ie the keyboard was next to the border of the table).

      Nowadays, 15+ years later, after working as a professional softwared developer for several years, i have no RSI symptoms whatsoever. No special keyboards, plain-ol-style mouse, no wrist support or any other support watsoever other than a table.

      The big secret:
      - Position your keyboard on the table far from you (typically next to the monitor). Your elbows should be supported by the table. When your arms are parallel, with your elbows supported by the table your fingers should reach the second top row of a common QWERTY keyboard (ie not the function keys row, the one below it).

      Typing is a question of moving your hands from side to side (and your fingers up and down :) ) with your elbows fixed in place or just slightly moving. Only pressing function keys ( a comparativelly rare operation) will require your to lift your arms from the table. Most of the time the whole arm (almost up to the wrists) will be supported by the table. With the mouse next to the keyboard, picking the mouse and moving it is also a question of rotating your arm on your elbows and (posssibly) sliding it around a bit when moving the mouse.

      A couple more usefull tip i've picked up:
      - You chair should be to such a height that with your legs bended at an 90 degrees angle, the whole sole of your shoes is on the floor.
      - Your screen should be in such a positions that your chest (and face) are facing the screen. If your position relative to the screen is such that your head is turned you're strining your neck
      - Your back should be fully in contact with the back of your chair and at a 90 degree angle to your legs (thus ||_ ). If your ass is forward (towards the front of the chair, like |\_ ) then your are straining your chest muscules (if you have chest pain it's probably this or a heart problem ;) )
    • Often I see colleagues using wrist supports for their keyboards, where they quite literally push their wrists into the support and produce all motion from flexing the wrists; a sure way of getting RSI.

      FWIW, I first got RSI in my wrists when I used a wrist support. It was first in my left wrist, and then in my right. Mostly, it felt like my hands were numb from the wrists to fingers.

      I don't know if its a coincidence or not, but I believe that wrist guards contributed to the issue, and have not had wrist is
    • (not even adding flexibility in clothing layers)

      Yep, I didn't want to add flexibility in clothing layers either. So today, I showed up naked at the office. Of course, there were some funny looks, but I think that will pass.

  • I'm personally not affected by RSI but i would suggest that the best way against it and any other injures related to extensive keyboard and mouse usage
    is not use those devices for long time without a break. There are also many devices for muscular developement at the wrists. Maybe you should review your
    typing habits, finger placement, etc.
  • Sue? (Score:3, Funny)

    by HaydnH (877214) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @07:24AM (#14931659)
    1) Move to America
    2) Get RSI
    3) Sue
    4) PROFIT!!!
  • by lisaparratt (752068) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @07:29AM (#14931669)
    I know I'll probably get the piss taken out of me for this, but I tend to do a lot of glowsticking - often up to an hour a day, in the privacy of my home. It's fun and fairly good exercise, plus it means gonig out clubbing all night doesn't leave me a smouldering wreck the morning after.

    It mostly involves fluidly moving the hands via the wrists faster than the eye can see, along with a fairly hefty dose of arm waving, continuously, for anywhere from an hour to ten hours.

    I've never been able to tell if it's good or bad for me. I don't have RSI, but then I didn't have it before I took up glowsticking, either.

    Anyone know? Us ravers need to know! :D
  • Sitting properly! (Score:5, Informative)

    by MaestroSartori (146297) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @07:39AM (#14931693) Homepage
    I know, sounds daft. But setting up your chair for *real* comfort as opposed to slouching, with a view to helping your wrists stay in the proper position.

    Your chair should be high enough so that your feet naturally lay flat on the ground, and your thighs are perpendicular to your shins. If you have one of those annoying spring-backed chairs which let you lean way back, lock it all the way forward for support. Some chairs have adjustable back supports too, move them to the correct place (which I think is supporting the lower back).

    At this point, sit up straight and reach your hands out in front of you to a comfortable position. Put the keyboard under them, with the mouse mat next to the keyboard. This should be a decent position for you to work from without straining anything.

    A tip I've had from people who get back pains at work is to buy a really big exercise ball, and sit on that instead of a chair. You'll look stupid and people will mock you, but it really helps build up the lower back with all the unconscious movements you use to keep balanced on it. Of course, if your balance sucks you'll fall off and get mocked even more ;)
    • I'm going to sue you for pinky damage!

      I was folowing your instructions, I raised my chair to make my knee's a 90. I reached out and moved my keyboard in a good spot. I didn't think I was close enough to the monitors, so I grabbed the arms of my chair and began to scoot up. SMASH, Pinky crushed between arm of now raised chair and top of desk!!! Owe, it hurts!

      Anyway, nice tips. I think this is more comfortable than the old way, so I'm going to get a few 2*4 blocks and raise the desk so the chair will fit
    • I strongly agree. I had RSI problems for a while, and resolved them by getting a /good/ office chair and setting it up properly. Your chair should be as high as you find comfortable. You should /not/ be leaning back in it--in fact, it's best if you can tilt the seat slightly forward. you should never be "lounging" in your chair. Always sit with your back straight. The back of the chair is there for additional support and reinforcement, you should barely touch it most of the time.

      Wrist pads are usefu

  • by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes.xmsnet@nl> on Thursday March 16, 2006 @07:42AM (#14931704)
    i.e. no single item can prevent you from getting RSI. You'll have to combine healthy work habits, regular exercise, and good equipment.
    - Work habits: Set up your work area correctly. Desk height, chair height, monitor placement, etc. You should be able to find a relaxed position. Take regular breaks, and do some exercises during those breaks.
    - When you're at home, don't spend the entire evening sitting at your home computer.
    - Exercise: Couch potatoes are more susceptible to RSI (and a host of other problems).
    - equipment: Use a good mouse (optical, low-friction worked for me, YMMV) or trackball, etc. Consider getting an ergonomic keyboard. Lighting, and a good monitor are important too.

    One cause of many RSI complaints is 'static tension': the muscles in your arm and hand are contracting but not moving. The muscles need movement, so every 10 minutes spend 20 seconds to stretch your arms, relax your hands etc.
  • a curved keyboard really helps, even if you already have rsi (as i do). also i switched from a mouse to a digitizer
  • by Half a dent (952274) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @08:04AM (#14931770)
    Since I stopped visiting "adult" web pages my wrist RSI has greatly improved!
  • I haven't had RSI but i can think of those in a minute:
    Mouse scrolling(and the autoscroll)
    Healthy lifestyle(no allnight coding!)
    Macros/Automated or sheduled tasks
    scripts and bots
    Slow typing with breaks
    Laconic/condensed writing/language
    custom keyboard layouts/drivers
    voice input,contact-pressure keyboards
    anything that reduces the work tempo

  • Porn. I think you need to relax more, so watch some... Oh! PREVENT rsi... nevermind
  • First of all, work out regularly. This increases the blood flow everywhere, which has a lot of benefits besides preventing RSI. Working out encourages your body to increase the efficiency and capacity of your blood vessels, leading to better endurance when you're sitting behind a desk. Basically, it will allow your hands and arms to recover more during work, because the material supplies required for the recovery are transported there in larger quantities. Also, increased blood flow will decrease recovery t
  • I&#180;ve lived with RSI for 5 years now. I&#180;m 27. I&#180;ve had therapy, shots, many medical treatments with bad results.

    Now I go to the gym every day... that the only way I can type without hurting myself.
  • I've been rather extensively typing on all sorts of keyboards for the last 25 years, and have yet to develop any RSI symptoms. Some of these years were in conditions "less than perfect" (understatement of the century).

    What helps for me is that I simply don't type longer stretches than 15 minutes. I get up to get some tea, coffee, water, whatever, but don't touch a keyboard for the next 5 minutes. Also I try to refrain from using a mouse if not necessary, take intermittent breaks if I do start to feel annoyi
    • What helps for me is that I simply don't type longer stretches than 15 minutes.

      15 minutes of straight typing? Does that really happen very often? I suppose if you're a typist it would, but I don't expect there are that many typists on this site right now.

      • 15 minutes of straight typing? Does that really happen very often? I suppose if you're a typist it would, but I don't expect there are that many typists on this site right now


        Generally only with the bane of any /.'er... Namely documentation.. (Erk. The D-word!)

        Splut.
    • "What helps for me is that I simply don't type longer stretches than 15 minutes."

      That's the best advice right there. Fifteen minutes with five off isn't terribly practical but twenty-eight/three should work. Wiggle your wrists around on the off time and focus out the window too (might as well take care of eyes at the same time).

      If you're regularly feeling *pain* you're past the warnings and into potentional damage. Tingling or "stretching" sensations are generally the first signs you are doing something wro
    • Agree:Take breaks. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by blueZ3 (744446)
      I was getting RSI in my hands from too much mousing and typing. After a couple of months of ignoring it, things got bad enough that I was feeling some low-level discomfort all the time, not just when at the PC. It got to the point where my wife would ask me to open jars and I couldn't seem to grip them tight enough to get the lids off. Bad. (Sometimes I'm sure that's the only reason she married me :-> )

      Anyway, I did some research and started taking breaks. I get out of my chair for at least 5-10 minutes
  • ... both times recently with a really comprehensive blob of text explaining myself.

    Rejected both times. I guess I should rename myself to beatle-beatle or something ...
  • eyes? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Chimera512 (910750)
    this doesn't exactly relate to RSI, but recently I find myself with sore eyes after using either my computer or reading for more then an hour or so at a time; i assume this is just eye strain? will going to an optomitrist or getting glasses help me? My vision is fine, if not good otehrwise, eyedrops don't seem to help so it isn't just dryness.
    • I would check out the refresh rate of the monitor, and possibly the resolution. I myself am light sensitive to begin with, and whenever a CRT is set at 60 Hz (the default), I find myself reacting, even from across the room.

      Also, if it's an old monitor and the resolution is set higher than the pixels will easily show, then it become very tiring trying to pick out what one is seeing.
    • Yes, I'd go see an optometrist. Your vision may seem fine, but there are several eye problems [wikipedia.org] that aren't obvious without optometric equipment, and will often manifest as headaches or sore eyes.

      Your monitor may also cause problems. Too low a refresh rate, interference between the monitor refresh and the overhead lighting, bad monitor settings giving a fuzzy image, etc.
    • Yes, definitely check your monitor refresh...so many people have theirs set at 60Hz, which I find physically painful to look at.

      A visit to an optemetrist would also be a good idea. There are more eye problems than near- or far-sightedness. I am near-sighted, but I also have a relatively significant astigmatism (irregularity in the shape of the lens on my eyes). I stopped getting more nearsighted when I was about 16, but I've had a couple prescription changes since (I'm 23 now) because of my astigmatism

    • this doesn't exactly relate to RSI, but recently I find myself with sore eyes after using either my computer or reading for more then an hour or so at a time

      I developed a problem with my eyes that I put down to spending too long staring at a monitor screen. It wasn't painful as such, but I could feel a nerve in my eyelid twitching very fast, you couldn't see it, but you could feel it. I had to stop using a computer at all for about a month, after that, I started using a rest timer. Now I make sure to take

  • Dvorak (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Some RSI suffers report that the Dvorak layout (www.mwbrooks.com/dvorak/) is easier. The layout's arguably more efficient, but it does come with a learning curve particularly if you are already very skilled at typing on a qwerty keyboard.

    If you try this, plan to use it for 2-3 weeks before you even begin to feel comfortable. Its absolutely maddening for the first few days, but once you get past that you eventually begin to adjust.
    • Dvorak education comes faster if you play videogames online that require you to communicate with team members quickly and efficiently. That's what finally worked for me.
    • Being a dvorak user I would definitely recommend it to anyone seeking to optimize their work space around preventing RSI, but I would subjectively describe the contribution of the dvorak layout to preventing RSI as "minor". It does reduce the amount of finger movement you need to do which reduces the amount your tendons move through the carpal tunnel, which at the very least causes less fatigue... but in general I find overall body position to have a vastly greater impact. A few minutes worth of tying wi
      • I agree with most of the things you said.

        However, there's an interesting point you're missing: people like me who never had any typing training. My hands were flying all over the place when I was using QWERTY, and would tire out quickly. Using Dvorak ensures that your hands are positioned properly because of the location of the keys: now, I'm much more stationary when I type - allowing me to position my elbows and wrists more comfortably without worrying about moving them around.

        I definitely recommend Dvo
  • May sound daft but.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Gaewyn L Knight (16566) <vaewyn@wwwrogue. c o m> on Thursday March 16, 2006 @09:16AM (#14932041) Homepage Journal
    This may sound stupid... but recent studies are showing that most people that get RSI actually get most of the damage from sleeping on their hands at night.

    So...
    #1 No hands under the pillow/head
    #2 No hands between the legs to keep them warm
    #3 If you ever have numb hands from cuddling your S.O. that's a no-no also

    I changed my sleeping habits just that little bit and now no matter how much I abuse my wrists at work programming or playing Enemy Territory I have no more pain.
    • huh... have you got a link for this?
    • This is quite important. I don't know about the claims of "most people" getting their RSI this way, but it is a factor.

      I am a musician, and musicians, especially string players (I play cello) are notorious for wrist problems. Our problems tend to be more in the line of tendonitis than carpal tunnel (that's what the pianists get), but a lot of the general preventative measures are pretty much the same.

      I've had wrist problems on and off for the past several years, and one of the string faculty at my col

  • Two very important things:

    1) Take your hand off the mouse/keyboard when you're not using them. Even if it's only for a few seconds, it gives your muscles a break. Put your hands in your lap.

    2) Half the problem is the muscles in your hand are constantly "ready" and tensed ready to push that button. Be aware of this. Relax your muscles. And do (1) often to relax them again.

    • I lean way back in my chair, feet on the table, arms resting on the chair seat and hands on the front of the seat, under my thighs (which are raised now). Wireless MX1000 mouse resting in the palm of my right hand, and a flick of the wheel/press of a button brings the next page for reading. Relaxed muscles and comfort while reading articles! It might look rather unprofessional in the workplace though.

      An added bonus is that I can do basic mousing (OK/Cancel, gestures, moving stuff around) right on the seat,

  • I used to suffer from RSI in my right elbow (mouse arm, mind you this was at a time I used to play UT rather a lot...) My solution is I use the mouse in my left hand at work, and right hand at home. Not as difficult as it sounds - you get used to it quite quickly.
  • It's called Repetative Stress Injury for a reason. Just cut it out! Seriously though, a lot of RSI's come from performing the same task over and over again in the same position (stop it dirty minds!). Vary the activity, take breaks. The problem is aptly named...try to remember that.
  • by GypC (7592)
    Just frickin' relax. People get all tense when they try to type fast, and it just slows them down and causes injury. Seriously, just try to keep your muscles as loose as possible when typing and mousing.
  • RSI overblown (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @10:42AM (#14932758)
    I have been programming for over 10 years, 8 - 12 hours a day, 5 - 6 days a week, and have never suffered RSI. I am a touch typist and can type 50 - 80 wpm, never really bothered to measure it.

    The problem I find with most people that have RSI caused by typing is that they tend to keep their wrists in a rigid locked position and they tend to pound on the keys with their fingers. This WILL cause RSI because you are constantly straining your tendons unnaturally. My brother-in-law types fast, but he does it in short bursts, his wrist and arms go rigid and he types blazingly fast, fingers pounding on the keyboard for about 30 seconds, then he has to stop and rub his wrists because they are sore. RSI is repetitive STRAIN injury, and by keeping your wrist rigid and tendons strained, this is how you cause the condition.

    My typing style is relaxed, and I am not measuring or care how fast I type. By not keeping my wrist rigid and only applying enough pressure on the keys to depress them enough to register a press, I quite honestly that this prevents me from the kind of RSI problems most people suffer from. I find that relatively slow and steady will beat out the productivity and discomfort of trying to type blazingly fast for short bursts. I can maintain a consistent typing rate for hours that will exceed someone typing in quick short bursts and having to stop because the pain becomes unbearable.

    Another thing I believe in is that your company or boss has to give you the right tools to do the job. I will refuse to program if I don't use Microsoft's Natural Keyboard. I have used one almost my entire programming career, and before it, in the early days of using those straight unnatural keyboards, I did feel I was starting to suffer some strain in my wrists. Since then I have found this keyboard layout to cause no undue strain on my wrists. If your boss is too cheap to buy you the right equipment then it will pay in the long run for you to invest in your own equipment. If your not allowed to bring your own keyboard and/or mouse into your office, then quit. You work to live, you don't live to work, and any company that doesn't recognize that they must cater to your personal comfort and safety at work is not a company you should work for. This goes too for the kind of desk and chair you sit in. A chair without adjustable height and adjustable arms so that you can position your arms appropriately to the height of the keyboard is essential to proper typing technique that does not involve RSI.

    Another important factor is to simply take a break, at least 5 minutes every hour. Get up and walk around, get a drink from the water cooler or something, go to the washroom. I rarely spend more then an hour of solid typing without giving my body a break. Even if your boss ties you to your desk, just stop, drop your arms and take a rest for 5 minutes.

    Most people assume that typing causes RSI, that there is no way to avoid it because the motions of striking fingers onto a keyboard is the fundamental definition of RSI. Bullsh*t! If you are suffering from RSI then you significantly underestimated the importance of ergonomics in your work environment. Change that keyboard and change your typing habits, pay attention to how your holding your wrists, if rigid learn to loosen them up, stop trying to go for speed records typing as many words per minute as possible (its not a competition) and realize you don't have to strike your keyboard with a lots of force in order to move those keys. If you can't touch type, then learn to, its more efficient the the 4 fingered speed hunt and peck that most people do when they don't know how to type. Your wrist splints are probably more of a hindrance then they benefit, and the fact you mentioned they slow down your typing suggests you feel quantity is better then quality.

    There is no one single thing you can do to prevent RSI, its a collection of habits and the tools you are using that are causing it. But I can safely say with the right combination of both, you should experience no pain or RSI symptoms, period.
  • by hubie (108345) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @11:07AM (#14933019)
    Get your forearms and wrists off of the table and sit in a proper manner. This is certainly something that history can teach us. I don't think it is any accident that RSI is a relatively new thing.

    A hundred years of typing pools, and several hundred years of piano playing tell you how to sit and work, and it is no accident that proper typing posture [ibm.com] is the same as proper piano posture [northern.edu].

    I just Googled up an interesting site [ualr.edu] that discusses both issues.

  • I use an old IBM keyboard with a solid click to the keys. The tactile feedback lets me know that the key has been pressed so I can release pressure before the key bottoms out.

    Whenever I try to use the more recent el-cheapo keyboards I find that I constantly bottom the keys forcing my fingers to a full stop while the muscle is still taut. The impact on my hands is uncomfortable.
    • I've never had RSI but as a programmer/violinist/pianist I naturally take an interest [freeserve.co.uk] in how to avoid it. I've got an additional mouse (actually a trackball) that I've put on the floor and work with my toes. This works very well with being a touch typist; I get to keep my hands on the keyboard, in the home position.

  • The subject says it all. Every morning when I sit down at the desk, I roll up my sleeves and lift my pencil about 10 times.

    On a more serious note, in my experience it does help to exercise those muscles a bit. You can do it with your own weight. Do a few press ups and sit ups while watching TV. If you don't have the discipline for that, install a break reminder. When it pops up, put your hands flat on the desk and press real hard for about a minute.

    I run Linux and use XWrits [lcdf.org] as follows:

    xwrits typetime

  • I guess if you're a windows or mac user you'd have a harder time with this, but lately I've been developping a number of signs of badness in my right hand/arm. There may be a number of factors there, but one thing I've identified was mouse usage (one thing is I seem to show signs of problem with the ulnar nerve, I'm thinking in part from my poor posture re mousing, e.g. pressing my wrist on the edge of the desk). As such, I've moved myself (at work, not home) to try to minimize mouse usage, using a window
  • - Dumbell writ curls
    - Dumbell wrist reverse curls
    - Hangboards are good, too
  • ... seriously. Back in the old days, when I was a kid, we learned to type on manual typewriters, which meant that we had to hold our wrists up high and press straight down with our fingers to get enough force to make a good clean mark. Most people on computers type with their wrists on the table, or on a wrist rest, which means the wrist is extended back and the tendons that run through the carpal tunnel (ie, the space between the carpal bones of the wrist and hand) are pressed against the fibrous sheath
    • Even banging on an old VT100 or IBM model-M series keyboard -- where you need to keep your wrists up in order to get enough force on each key -- is better. And good luck playing tricky runs on the piano with your wrists down...nowhere to rest your wrists on a piano keyboard...I wonder why that is?

      I still remember our typing teacher walking around with a yardstick keeping an eagle eye out for anyone with poor posture or droopy wrists. She'd only touch it under your wrists (or small of back, or top of

  • You don't have to be ambidextrous. Just switch your mouse to the oppositte hand every week or so. It really, really, really, really helps.
  • Programmer for a quarter century, 4 guitars... you can see it coming, right? :)

    I've been fighting with RSI for well over a decade now, and I have to agree with the following advice others have mentioned:

    • There is no single magic bullet
    • Proper arm support
    • Split keyboards help. I've got a number of Microsoft Natural keyboards.
    • I found a trackball helps too. Microsoft Trackball Optical is great for the price. In fact, for a sucky software company, Microsoft makes good hardware. ;)
    • Posture while sleeping
    • In addition to some of these...

      • I switched from using the mouse with my right hand to using it with my left hand.
      • If there is a CLI and a GUI way to perform a task, then I always use the CLI way. I only use the GUI way if there is no easy CLI way to do it (e.g. drawing a diagram).
  • Osteopathic Manipulation is my magic bullet. Nothing else worked for me.

    Osteopathy is putting the body's structures back where they're supposed to be. Lets see... This post [slashdot.org] wasn't too long ago, I know I've mentioned osteopathic medicine a couple times in the last year (buy a subscription?).
  • Even if your symptoms are very localized, the cause probably involves your whole body. Everything in your body is connected, and if one area gets out of whack, the others will try to compensate and the problems will spread outward.

    For example, if your quads are tight they will pull your upper body forward, making you slouch. Your back has to fight against that, but if those muscles aren't strong enough they'll get fatigued and tense up. Tension in your back/shoulders will affect the nerves and blood flow in
  • I do the following to help recover fromu RSI in my fingers (not wrists):

    1) I use a FingerWorks TouchStream keyboard. Unfortunately, they don't make them anymore and they cost $600+ on eBay.

    2) I run 'xwrits' in the background which reminds me to take a break. I also try to remember to take little short 10+ second breaks in between -- I drop my hands to my sides, relax, and take a few deep breaths.

    3) I wear warm clothes (always long sleeves). Typing with cold fingers is teh suck.

    4) I excercise my shoulders
  • I'm not a doctor, but do be careful about relying too much on armrests. Actually, even just leaning on your elbows too much. Theres a nerve that goes through your elbow called the ulnar nerve which gives feeling to the pinkie and ring fingers; if you compress it too often, then it can actually develop problems at the elbow (exascerbated by stuff like resting your arm on the window while you drive/depending heavily on armrests/leaning on elbow while sitting at tables). A new type of strain injury? It so happ

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