Saturday, March 01, 2008

Oops! RSI

Oops! RSI


RLCA said...

Sean - out of interest, do you mostly use laptops or desktops? I've long held the belief that increasing use of laptops is going to lead to a generation of disabled techies.

Anonymous said...

I developed major wrist problems, and especially in using the mouse. My hand would shake and I could hardly control the mouse. Sometimes I could hardly get onto the right keys, too. Plus pain...

I ended up getting a Wacom pen + tablet. Within a week, the problem had subsided quite a bit. It's still lurking there below the surface, but I can work. It's been many years, maybe seven or eight.

I also had to change my sitting height and flatten out my keyboard - it turns out that bending your wrists upwards while typing is really bad for them in the long run. So you need to adjust height, posture, keyboard angle, etc., to minimize bending the wrists upwards. Of course, those tabs underneath the keyboard make you bend your wrists farther the wrong way, so I always retract them.

Also, when using a mouse, which I have to to sometimes, try to use it from above as much as possible - again, to reduce the bending upwards - or maybe a vertical one will do. I couldn't use a trackball at all.

A split keyboard helped, but you have to come up with a solution that works with a notebook computer, and the split keyboard can't help there.

Good luck! This can be tough.

Tom Passin

Paddy3118 said...

If you compute in two different areas you might try a trackball at one and a (vertical?) mouse at another. I found the use of a logitech cordless optical trackman trackball at work, (its larger and slopes nicely), together with the microsoft ergonomic keyboard worked well.

I later bought the same setup at home though and am now thinking of using a mouse at home as although things with the ergo keyboard & trackball were always better than without, using the same thing at home & work is less effective.

I have a background action to try and get work to install a desk you stand up to use for further variety in posture - Hass any reader tried these?

Sean said...

Mostly laptops. They are definitely more challengng ergonomically speaking. I connect to a full size keyboard/mouse/monitor as often as I can.

Yes. I have also noticed some improvement thanks to my ergonomic kit and posture. I can work but have to regulate keyboard time and I fear my guitar days may be over.

SwitchBL8 said...

Good luck. RSI's a b*tch. Don't forget to buy a PowerBall, it really helps. And with a rotation-counter, you can even have personal records ;-)

See here for info about them. No, I'm not one of their employees, just a happy user.

Stephan Deibel said...

I've been dealing with RSI also for three+ years, mostly in my right arm. I think it started from using a laptop too much while sitting in any easy chair, at a time when I was also working with power tools. I think in my case it basically nerve injury caused by pinching of nerves by unnaturally balanced/large muscles in areas that get abused by the long-term keyboard use and poor posture. It also took me about 25 years to get here...

I've tried wrist and elbow braces, a weird keyboard, massage, frequent breaks and stretching, exercises to try to balance weak muscles by strengthening them, improving desk and chair ergonomics, moving my mouse to the left, and trying to be constantly aware of posture.

All of these things together help quite a bit -- I went from nearly being disabled to being able to work productively. But the discomfort is always there.

I suspect the only real solution is possibly as much as a year or two away from a keyboard, or an entirely different interface. It takes time for muscles to return to balance and nerves to heal.

My next ideas are to try yoga and relaxation. Not really my cup of tea personality-wise, but I've found that the muscles in my arm and back and pectoral area are very tense and relaxing or massaging them seems to produce a sense of relief from the pain and slight numbness. I'm wondering if maybe part of the issue is tensing up from the pain/discomfort and relaxing can break the cycle in the same way it can with back pain (which I've also had and conquered with stretching and relaxation).

Short of that, I've already started to try to consciously relax my arm and shoulder when at the keyboard, esp. during my short breaks. I think it may be helping.

I should note that I have seen various doctors and they as well as the massage therapist think the trouble is pinched nerves in my arm , shoulder, and back, and not at the carpal tunnel. That would be fixable by surgery, so in a way is easier to deal with than RSI, at least as far as I've come to understand it.

Good luck with it! I hope you overcome it and please do write more if you find any solutions!

Anonymous said...

Sean, you said "I fear my guitar days may be over". Maybe not. I started playing guitar again after a long layoff. This is classical guitar, so it's very finger-style intensive. It's the first time I really put in a lot of time playing since my wrist problems made themselves known.

After a month, I was just about shot - wrist problems came back big time, and I couldn't keep on playing.

I took what I had learned from dealing with my wrists already, and analyzed every aspect of the way I hold the guitar and use my hands. I made some changes on posture, holding the instrument, hand positions, etc.

Now I can play again. As with working on the computer, I have some pain or discomfort from time to time, but it hasn't been getting into a runaway condition. I also make sure not to play too long at one session, but that's good practice anyway.

So there's hope! Let your wrists calm down, figure out what works for them, and work that into your playing methods.

Now if I could figure out how to make this all work while using a laptop... sigh...

Tom Passin

Jiri said...

Sean, I've been typing/programming even longer than you and started having computer/posture related pain earlier this year. Tried all sorts of things, but here is what solved it:
This guy knows what he is doing. The exercises don't initally appear to be related to the problem, but they are... Cheers,

Anonymous said...

FYI, I've been using exclusively a laptop since 2000, and spending quite extensive time on the computer since 1985. So I'm coming up on the 25 years as well. But, I find the ThinkPad to be quite comfortable to use, even in fairly adverse conditions. I work almost exclusively from coffee shops and the couch, and almost never at a desk.


John B said...

rlca, I couldn't agree more. I think laptops are the work of Satan when it comes to RSI.

Switch, I just wrote about powerballs yesterday at