Repetitive strain injuries - commonly known as RSI - are a growing problem in our workplaces and schools all across the United States. According to RSI-Therapy.com, repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis affect around 7% of the population. Typically people develop symptoms because of things such as - bad posture while typing, working at a job involving heavy use of computers, and working in other professions that involve heavy use of the hands - such as hairdressing and music.
The worst part about these injuries is that once you’ve starting developing them, they can be very difficult to heal. Repetitive strain injury solutions are not easy to find. I myself am a long time sufferer, and my symptoms were at their worst during my college years,. A long time of bad posture and computer overuse lead to RSI symptoms so bad I could barely type for more than 15 minutes at a time. Sleeping was a chore, because unless my hands and wrists were perfectly straight, they were often in excruciating pain. Thanks to few changes in habits, as well as some of the tools I used, I’ve managed to get to a level where I barely feel any wrist or hand pain. This article goes over a few quick tips to prevent and lessen pain from RSI symptoms.
Note that none of this is a replacement for a doctor’s advice or diagnosis, and if you are suffering from repetitive strain injuries it’s best to seek professional help first. This article is based mostly on personal experience and I welcome any advice or corrections.
The Right Tools
More than anything else, changing the computer equipment and accessories I used was the biggest factor in helping my RSI. Doctor visits didn’t help as much as expected, because they just told me to rest more and get a wrist brace (wrist braces are actually a horrible idea for a lot of RSI sufferers - more on this later). Exercise, while useful, wasn’t something I was ready for because it was so painful.
As soon as I started using ergonomic keyboards and trackballs the pain went away significantly. To this day I still use the same trackball because it’s so comfortable and much easier to use than a mouse. Typing with a traditional keyboard and mouse isn’t the best for your posture. Using a mouse especially puts a lot of strain on your wrists - and bad typing habits, such as not keeping your wrists straight and in a natural position, can do a lot of harm.
The two computer accessories I recommend for treating repetitive strain injuries are - the Kensington Expert Mouse and the Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard. Both are quite expensive - around 70 USD for the Mouse, and 40-50 USD for the keyboard - but are absolutely worth it if you’re looking for ways to prevent or manage RSI symptoms. While everyone’s situation is different, I’d personally like to again stress that nothing else worked for me. It was only when I invested in these two accessories that I started to see some progress, and from there I could focus on other things that would help my recovery. They may be costly, but your health - and especially the health of your hands, which most of us rely on for our work - is nothing to be cheap about.
The Right Posture
Having a good posture is every bit as important. Having ergonomic tools makes this much easier, but with a little effort you can do the same with standard keyboards and mice. In general, it’s always best to try to keep your back straight, as bad spinal posture can affect other parts of the body. Also important is keeping your wrists straight, and making sure they are not leaning on, or touching anything. Be careful about your wrists touching the edge of the desk especially - this was the source of many of my problems, until I smartened up - but also be careful about the keyboard and other objects. Having your wrists touching something adds pressure to them and makes it more likely they’ll become inflamed. On that note, be careful about using wrist rests. For some they can be helpful, but for others, even soft wrist rests can actually worsen problems. . That was certainly the case for me, and I’ve long since stopped using them.
There’s a lot more to know about repetitive strain injuries, and if you suspect you’re suffering from them I urge you to read other sources and get professional help as needed. But in my case - and many others - you can prevent and lessen symptoms with a few good tools and common sense tips.
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