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Below is information about Repetitive Strain Injuries

I met a person with this complaint last year - he had contracted it due to prolonged use of a computer keyboard. Although his symptoms were improving somewhat, he was still enduring quite painful episodes, and at one stage had been virtually unable to use his right-hand. I've also spoken to a former typist, who although she has not worked for about a dozen years, is still afflicted with very painful hands. She cannot hold a telephone, fill a kettle, etc, and is totally reliant on her husband.

RSI is a very invidious condition in that it creeps up very slowly, although there are warning signs which should not be ignored. These include pains in the fingers and hands, sore wrists, sore arms and shoulders and general fatigue. If these pains are ignored and the person carries on typing and using a mouse, then very serious damage can be done.

You are at danger from RSI if you use a keyboard/mouse for as little as two hours a day. A particularly risky, but very prevalent, practice is the use of padded wrist rests. By effectively immobilising the hands, these prevent the person from being able to utilise the large muscles of the arms and shoulders, and instead force them to put all the strain on the wrists and fingers.

It is also very important that the mouse and keyboard be on the same level and close to each other, so there's no straining. Also the keyboard tray should be either parallel to the floor, or sloping slightly downwards - having an upward sloping keyboard puts unnecessary strain on the wrists, and can lead to what is known as carpal tunnel syndrome.

The humble mouse can actually be very dangerous - from an RSI point of view - because of the clicking and double-clicking action - over time thousands and thousands of clicks can wreak havoc with the finger joints. But a nice piece of software called “mouse tool” has been developed which clicks for you automatically. It takes a bit of getting used to but it is worth the effort. with a bit of practice, and some simple to learn techniques, is possible to virtually eliminate clicking and double-clicking. You can get this as a free download at:

www.mousetool.com

A good book on the subject is: Repetitive Strain Injuries, by Timothy Jameson, a chiropractor. The exercises are particularly helpful. (Keats Publishing, New Caanan, 1998 - ISBN 0-87983-802-7)

Unfortunately, there are also potential problems with Voice Recognition Software and it is possible to strain one's voice - so it cannot be recommended as a solution to RSI.

A good resource for the voice, is the Voice Care Network

A possible solution is to use a pen tablet such as the Wacom Graphire - with suitable software such as PhatWare PenOffice, one can write by hand on the tablet with a special pen and it is turned into text on screen. This is slower than typing, but obviously more natural and so probably healthier for the hands.

A split/adjustable height keyboard is also very handy - mine is a Siemens. Also a "Whale" mouse - one with a larger than normal surface to cradle the hand - both of these are available from:

www.asd.co.uk/

In my experience an expensive chair is not necessary - you can probably pick up something locally for about £100. you just need to ensure you can adjust three things - the height, the tilt and the sea pan. Armrests are not a good idea, but a "lumbar roll," made out of a rolled up towel to support the back is very useful.

Much more information about this topic is available at the following links, and if you type at all, and have any of the above symptoms, particularly pains in the wrists or fingers, then you should take stock of your situation quickly, because RSI is a serious and growing problem. Even if you feel fine it is worth checking out these sites for the ergonomic information they provide, as to proper seating, distance from monitor, keyboard height, and so on.

www.ucsf.edu/sorehand/

www.ergonomics.org.uk/

www.mousewatch.com/faq-en.asp

www.safecomputing.com/

www.asd.co.uk/

Or just put “repetitive strain injury” into a good search engine like Google.


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