By C.K. MacLeod
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Is your wrist starting to ache and your fingers starting to tingle? If so, you could be experiencing early signs of repetitive strain injury.
You’re not alone. I’ve gotten away with the same computer practices I’ve used for years, without a bodily complaint. Until now. Thankfully, it’s not too late to develop new computer-healthy habits.
In dealing with RSI, it’s important to do whatever you can to interrupt or reduce the actions that are causing you discomfort. Cycling through a variety of strategies on a daily basis can help. Here’s what I’ve tried:
- left-hand mousing (I typically mouse with my right hand—and yes, the first left-hand day was rough)
- a new kind of mouse (to change my hand position)
- a new way of mousing (on my pant leg—a lower hand position can ease strain)
- a new keyboard, with a different configuration than my old one
- keyboard shortcuts (to reduce mousing)
- macros (to automate editing and proofreading tasks)
- speech-recognition software (to reduce keyboarding and mousing)
- writing in markdown (to prevent mousing for formatting operations)
- frequent breaks (with the assistance of Workrave, a free RSI prevention app)
- roller derby wrist guards (to temporarily immobilize my wrist and prevent further strain—yes, I play roller derby, and surprise! I sustain more injuries from my computer) — use with caution because, as my chiropractor pointed out, “mobility is better than immobility”
- old-school technology (to reduce mousing)
- hand exercises (thanks to J Washburn for this tip)
- physiotherapy (thanks to Ahmed and Mike for sorting me out)
- chiropractic (for a derby injury—but this will be my first stop if I have the misfortune of of sustaining a computer-related back injury)
Disclaimer: I am not an authority on RSI—only a victim of it. But I did query an occupational therapist, a kinesiologist, and a physiotherapist, and they agreed that changing things up is a key to reducing strain. If you have pain in your wrist and fingers, your wisest course of action is to first consult with your physician, physiotherapist or chiropractor.
I suspect that the best way to deal with RSI is to prevent it. What are your RSI prevention strategies?
Image by Feral78