New Ergonomic Products Page

rollermouseproI have released a new page on the site which contains a list of  ergonomic products it’s also available from the main menu on this site.

The page is not so much intended as a page of products that I endorse. It is more a collection of the latest products in the field of ergonomic computer input as well as some key older products. It may contain ergonomic products which I find to be useful, potentially useful, or completely bizarre, and will where appropriate have my comments on the product and if available, a link to a review that I have done on the item. I will clearly state whether I have/have not used the product.

The page will be updated/added to as new products appear on the market.

If you are a manufacturer that would like to have their product listed or reviewed by Ergomatters please contact us.

New website design

The changes keep happening this month. Hot on the heels of the release of our new RSI FAQ page, we have decided to change the site with a new revamped look and feel. Hopefully you all like it. Its a great advantage being married to someone who does web development for a living and who doesn’t have RSI!

New RSI Frequenty Asked Questions (FAQ) Page

rsi_faq_mdI am happy to announce the release of my latest update to this site, a Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) Frequently Ask Questions (FAQ) page along with answers! This is basically a download of information from my head as to my understanding of RSI, along with relevant links and information, and is without doubt the largest information release I’ve done on this site. Hopefully you will find this useful. Please feel free to comment and share.

Trigger finger release

I have recently had a surgical procedure to release a bad trigger finger condition on the middle finger of my right hand which I previously discussed in my post titled ‘Trigger Finger and RSI?‘. The problem is also accurately summarised with diagrams on this page about trigger finger.

Trigger finger is where a finger in a gripping position appears to lock in place. When you pull the finger open, it unlocks with a click (or in my case a loud ‘clunk’ which made anyone around me squirm!), hence the name trigger finger. The condition is caused by a nodule growth on the tendon which gets stuck on the pulley (sheath) system that is there to guide/hold the tendon in place. Doctors have minimal knowledge about why this nodule forms. Nodules on tendons can come and go on their own, but this one has been bad and persistent.

The build up to the operation had certainly been playing on my mind for several months. Unsurprisingly the mental prospect of the surgery was the worst part since the operation itself was only 15min in duration and was carried out under local anaesthetic (although I avoided the temptation to watch it!).

The procedure itself involved cutting open the sheath(pulley) that was causing the tendon restriction to occur, which freed the movement of the tendon (and nodule). The surgical entry point was  on the palm of the hand just below the finger, and the incision itself was only about 1 inch long.

Recovery time has been fast. I am now nearly 3 weeks post op, the stitches are out , and the skin on the scar has fully healed over. I still have joint stiffness, and a bit of swelling which causes my finger to stiffen up in the bent position, but I expect this to gradually subside over time, especially after I keep stretching it like I have been instructed to do by the physiotherapists.

It is too early to do a complete assessment of the experience, but I can say that it’s great not having an annoying triggering finger condition any longer!

I wish there was a simple solution like this to my RSI condition!

UPDATE : 1 month post op

It’s now been about 1 month post operation, and I thought I’d update this post. Although the scar on the plam of the hand is healed over, however I still have a lot of  sensitivity about the entrance wound, as well as a lump under the wound. Not sure at this point if the lump is scar tissue or the nodule. The triggering has gone, but I still have a lot of stiffness in the joint, and the finger still likes to stick in the bent position (I have to physically bend it straight with my other hand). Hopefully this is just a result of the swelling and that this will go away on time. I am using the finger, but it can be sore depending on the task at hand.

Update: 2 1/2 months post op

The finger is getting  better all the time. It doesn’t stiffen up as frequently as before, but it still can stiffen quite badly and there is no cause I can determine for this. I recently had a follow up with the surgeon, and was advised that post op stiffness is common, and recovery can be as much as 18 months for some individuals – they don’t tell you that before the op! He suggested massaging the joint to reduce the swelling. The scar has totally healed up now, and is a whole lot less sensitive than it was a few weeks ago.

Update: 6 months post op

It’s certainly taken it’s time, but the finger is showing very little stiffness now. I can extend it fully contract it fully, grip things tightly, and have no sign of that horrible triggering any more. I can officially say the op was a success. It does go to show that there is a 3-6 month recovery term for this operation. Good luck with the operation if you are someone who is considering having it done and just factor in a few months for the recovery.

Rate this post! 1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (12 votes, average: 4.33 out of 5)
Loading...

Move Well and Avoid Injury DVD : Review

DVD : Move Well Avoid Injury : What everyone needs to know about the body (by Barbara Conable and Amy Likar, Andover Productions, 2009)

movewell_frontcoverI may not be a medical professional, but I am able to tell when I encounter descriptions of body motion that just make plain sense, and this DVD contains some enlightening information. In a collection of well narrated chapters complete with diagrammatic video illustration, the evidence is laid bare of our common tendencies to keep our bodies out of balance, causing pain through muscle tensions that, in turn, keep our bodies in bad posture. This is due in part to us having mapped the body in a particular way, eg in relation to position, when in reality the position is entirely different.

This DVD is broken into multiple sections covering the many aspects of posture imbalance, and covers areas from the head to the feet and just about everywhere in between. Posture is translated by the authors as ‘Body Maps’ which are essentially memories in your mind of where you think your individual body parts are and how you use them. The DVD highlights how you may have had a flawed map (understanding) of your various body parts in your mind from a very young age. This may have led you to actually move according to those flaws and results in the straining of some parts of your body which can lead to pain. As the narrator tells us, “We move in the way in which we think we are constructed …”, either consciously or unconsciously. Wrong body maps can be responsible for many bad posture related problems, from walking to sitting, to using a computer.

Subjects covered in the DVD include –

  • Body maps – identifying flaws in the human body map and how to recognise those errors
  • Balance – identifying correct balance with core posture, and identifying posture related pain
  • Kinesthesia – learning free and fluid movement to correct body imbalances
  • Arms – covering shoulders, elbows,  wrists and hands
  • Legs – covering hips, pelvis, knees and feet
  • Breathing – covering lungs, skeletal/muscular system, diaphragm
  • Mapping the whole body
  • Correcting the map
  • Inclusive attention

The areas I can relate to most pertain to the shoulders, arms, wrists and hands. These are covered in detail and are very applicable to the RSI sufferer. The main posture/skeletal issues with RSI type injuries are listed, adding to the viewer’s knowledge and understanding through plain and straightforward explanations along with clear diagrams and video.

From previous experience, I knew that over-supination of the wrists was a bad thing, but now I know about the natural axis of rotation of the forearm and how it ties in with a neutral position wrist, as well as why supination causes so many injuries.

The company website rather generously shows sample videos of some chapters which are well worth checking out, and will give you a sneak peak of the DVD content and style as well as some key body map information!

I also found the section on breathing very interesting. It’s probably the first time I’ve been able to picture the role of the diaphragm in breathing, and I certainly had my lungs mapped as being a bit lower than they actually are. The related section on the ribcage was also revealing to me having just recently strained my sternum connective tissue whilst gardening. It  also reinforces the benefits of some breathing practices including Yogic breathing (Pranayama).

The DVD run time is a substantial 2hrs,  and certainly lends itself to being watched in stages. There is the temptation to skip straight to the section you are most interested in, however it should be watched as a whole to get the complete picture and overall message firmly ingrained in your mind. I expect that multiple viewings would be best to fully absorb the detail.

All in all this DVD is an excellent resource for just about everyone. It is not solely aimed at one specific group of people eg RSI sufferers, but covers the whole body, and should be a useful education tool for everyone, including ergonomists, physiotherapists, fitness instructors, yoga teachers etc, as well as many others including in the medical profession.

If you have posture related pain it’s likely that it’s down to your bad body map and it’s certainly time to re-educate yourself!

Rate this post! 1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (6 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Loading...

Microsoft “Natal” technology – the dawn of a new age in ergonomics?

In an interesting development, Microsoft has publicly shown at 2009 E3 a next generation games system controller labelled ‘Natal‘ that is free of buttons and joysticks; the controller is essentially you. It relies on a sophisticated camera detection system to monitor the user’s motion and translate this motion into games controls. It also has a voice recognition engine. In an article on the BBC news site entitled ‘Microsoft previews new controller‘ a video shows a demonstration.

The reason that developments like this are exciting is that the games business, being a cutting edge, technologically advanced industry, usually pushes the boundaries of software and hardware development for the sake of market share.

Technology like this for, say, computer controls would ordinarily evolve a lot slower if there were a lesser need for it aside  from gaming. However, once developed, you can see how it could easily transform into some kind of gesture control for computer operating systems and applications. Who knows, you may even get a workout whilst doing a spreadsheet in the future!  Will a workout mat eventually replace the old desk?  Maybe we can eliminate the need for going to a gym!  Do employers only hire fit people in the future?

We are certainly at a crossroads with computers, where the basic mouse has been around too long and has created too many overuse injuries. It is more than time that we took computer input to a new level of evolution, and this may be the glimpse of what’s to come.

Whether this technology can save us from RSI related injuries is unknown, but it may help wean us off using a mouse. It may also lead to opportunities in computer use for people with all kinds of different disabilities, and not just RSI.

Is this the dawn of a new age in computer ergonomics, or is it just a gimmick ?

Rate this post! 1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Loading...

Bio Feedback as a tool to combat RSI

Bio Feedback, is a method of measuring an individual’s stresses by monitoring muscle tension, sweat gland behaviour, heart rate etc. It is a non-invasive, non-medical process, designed to raise the awareness of the subject to how their body is reacting to their working environment.

Previously, while living in the US, I was sent for Bio Feedback monitoring, and was ‘hooked up’ to many electrode pads around my neck, shoulders, and arms. These were to be used to measure muscle tension in all the upper body limbs including the neck and shoulder area.  The sensors are connected to a computer which plots out the associated muscle tensions on a monitor, so you have real time visualisation of the various muscle tensions you hold in your upper body when operating computer equipment. You are actually seated in front of a real keyboard and mouse, and asked to type and enter data like you normally would in your daily life.

I was actually quite surprised at how much tension the signals showed, and was constantly told to relax the posture to drop the tension levels – not an easy task!

I had to really try to relax my whole body from my head to neck to shoulders to arms to wrist angle to make even the slightest difference. The difficulty was trying to hold it there whilst typing and using a mouse.

Emphasis was placed on relaxing muscles that control the upper limbs, as well as suggestions on how to become more relaxed in the mind both inside and outside of the office environment.

As with other RSI awareness education therapies, there was no magic bullet for me with Bio Feedback, but it certainly helped to raise my awareness of how tense my upper body limbs (including shoulders) became while operating computer equipment, and that really is an important part of the RSI education process.

Rate this post! 1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...

Brace yourself! – wrist braces and RSI

Wrist BraceI’ve been through a fair share of wrist braces in my time with RSI. Wrist braces are often the first item you will obtain after seeing a physical therapist about an RSI condition. They can be a lot of help to a RSI sufferer, but have to be used correctly, comfortably, and should not be used if they worsen your RSI symptoms.

There are a lot of braces out there, and what works for one person may not work for everyone. Braces are usually made out of neoprene or elasticated material coupled with a metal or hard plastic support to immobilise the wrist.

The primary use of the wrist brace should not be forgotten ie to rest wrist joints and forearm muscles that drive the wrist motion (forearm extensors, flexors), and reduce the pain associated from overuse injuries. While this may sound like a good thing, quite often if you wear a brace while using a computer, you will end up using other muscles in a strenuous way to do the same work, and can cause other injuries because of this.

There is no such thing as an ideal wrist brace, it really depends on what they are trying to do.

In the course of your RSI journey you way well encounter many different styles of wrist braces.

My general rules concerning wrist braces are –

  1. You shouldn’t jump in and buy a wrist brace without first seeking advice from a physiotherapist or doctor.
  2. Ideally, it should be used to rest (heal) the wrist and the overused (painful) muscles that drive the wrist extension and flexion, and not worn when using a keyboard or mouse.
  3. Exceptions to the rule are perhaps specific braces intended to stop excessive flexion of the wrist if you are prone to this. It’s a far better idea to be able to spot this flexion yourself and change it, but if you have difficulty doing this then a brace may be required. Alternatively have someone stand and watch over you with a big stick, you will learn faster then!
  4. Braces used to rest the wrist should not be too tight, just a snug fit. Over tightening can lead to restricted blood flow to the hand and wrists.
  5. Consider wearing a wrist brace at night in bed to avoid sleeping with your arms/wrists/hands in bent positions. It is critical that you don’t have a tight brace when doing this so as not to restrict blood flow.
  6. Don’t use them unless you have to. Its better to know your pain, when it happens and try to make adjustments to your  work practice etc to reduce the causes than it is to just ‘bandage up’ your injured wrists into a brace.
  7. Neoprene braces can be hot, sweaty, smelly and itchy to wear even for short periods of time. Better to look for ventilated elastic material ones.
  8. Wrist braces are not a good  universal fit for everyone, so you may have to make some adjustments to it to make it comfortable, including cutting bits out of it or adding some customised padding.
  9. Wear them at work and they do flag to your employer and colleagues that you have a RSI problem!

Remember though, wrist braces are not a solution to RSI, they are really only there to rest an injury and ease pain. To address your injury it is far better to try to make adjustments to your work to stop the motion that is causing you to have the pain. In other words, you should monitor your wrist, hand motions at a keyboard etc, and make adjustments to your bad working practices, including posture changes. You should also introduce more regular breaks away from your computer along with a good stretching routine and some physical activity.

Rate this post! 1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (9 votes, average: 4.56 out of 5)
Loading...

Too young to be taught about RSI?

There is a  revealing quote from Dan Odell (Microsoft‘s in-house ergonomist), in an article titled ‘Elementary Ergonomics’ from ‘T.H.E journal.com’ by Jennifer Grayson . He states that –

“There is a growing awareness of how much of an impact there is on students. A lot of the ergonomists I work with at different companies have been noticing that students are graduating from college and coming into the workforce already with chronic repetitive strain-injury problems. It seems at least from the anecdotal stuff that it’s important to start focusing more on the student population.”

This could unfortunately be the start of the RSI epidemic wave that I have long been expecting. The younger generation coming through universities and colleges of further education are the ones that have been exposed to ‘technology’ since they were born and have grown up accustomed to a hi-tech life full of computers, mobile phones, gaming systems and other ‘daily use’ gadgets in complete ignorance of the danger that they pose. They are the generation that have grown up with an ever expanding level of text messaging.

What this generation does not appreciate are the dangers associated with RSI type conditions and their implications for future employment (and earnings) prospects. I also wonder whether employers realise the risks of employing people with these conditions, especially into computer intensive jobs. It may not be too far in the future before employers start to check for these conditions during a pre hiring medical examination, although it may be hard to diagnose without honesty from the potential employee.

What is obvious to me is that ergonomic and RSI health awareness training currently aimed solely at employed adults has to be brought into schools, colleges and universities also to educate the future employees before they succumb to a debilitating RSI condition when they start their employed adult life.

Rate this post! 1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...

Breaking the RSI Pain Cycle

Breaking the RSI Pain CycleThe RSI pain cycle is the cycle of pain that a RSI sufferer can be locked into with their condition. The first diagram on the right (click image to enlarge) should allow a sufferer to understand the underlying mechanisms of the RSI pain cycle and realise that there may not be one single ‘magic bullet’ to address the RSI pain.

The RSI pain cycle once ‘locked’ into is a hard one to break free from. The common mistake is to address only one or two factors. If the sufferer is at an early stage of RSI, and is fortunate then one change eg ergonomic setup may be enough to break free, but any medium/long term sufferer who is trapped in this cycle should consider addressing most/all of the underlying trigger causes to allow the transition to an RSI free life. The second diagram (click image to enlarge) shows the key areas to address to break the cycle.Breaking The RSI Pain Cycle

You can also download the 2 diagrams in Breaking The RSI Pain Cycle (pdf)

Rate this post! 1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (3 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
Loading...