Out of action with RSI

So what do you get when you work non-stop 12 to 14 hours every day on your computer, almost continuously for 10 months? You get acute pain on your wrist that completely immobilizes you from working on the computer.

It starts innocently enough on the upper right hand. You mostly disregard the pain as you dismiss it as a strain or a pull from something. You continue typing merrily,mainly because you can and then it hits you like a truck. You can barely move your fingers or change your wrist position without yelping in pain. Welcome to RSI.

It took me a while before I understand what I got. It was pretty serious, because for the first time in many months, I had to basically sit still without interacting with my computer. Then you realize how much you take for granted. A software guy without the ability to use his keyboard is pretty much dead on the water. Similar to a pianist, there is no way to make software music. That was the day the music died.

The next 4 days were pretty much nursing my wrist back to health; a wrist support brace helped a lot in the recovery.

Since then, I have realized the error of my ways and take all the precautions to avoid the same injuries. I replaced my keyboard and mouse with the ergonomic versions (Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 and MS Natural Mouse 6000). Mainly to avoid twisting my wrists into unnatural positions.

MS Keyboard 4000

It appears to help a bit. The downside is that my typing speed went down from 50 WPM to about 20 WPM on the natural keyboard (but I am improving slowly).  However, I would take 20 WPM rather than 0 WPM any day. 🙂

The other thing that helped immensely is Workrave. A little opensource software that sits in your system tray and makes you take breaks every once in a while that helps your body from being forced into an bad posture too long. It is annoying and I do make it “postpone ” the break many times when I work on something with full concentration, but nonetheless, it is helping me quite a bit.

Only time will tell whether these precaustions are enough. But the good part of this episode is that I am now acutely aware of the potential for injury and what it means for my career. So its been an eye-opener for me. It should be one for you too. Be warned.

One Response

  1. David Hostyk says:

    I developed a program for people who have pain when they move their hand. It’s called Integrated Keyboarding and it is available at http://www.inkeyboard.com
    The user can move the mouse and cursor, highlight, scroll, drag, number and delete without moving the hands from the home key position.
    I hope that this is helpful.

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