fitness Miscellaneous RSI Tips

Yoga as a tool to combat RSI

YogaDuring my RSI awareness presentations I refer to the need for people at risk of RSI as well as those who already experience its effects to adopt physical activities. Yoga is one of those activities that I suggest. Why yoga?

In a nutshell, it combines a fairly physical activity encompassing muscle and tendon stretches from your head to your toes, with core conditioning and balance practices. This is coupled with controlled breathing techniques to allow the participant to focus their mind on the present moment. As well as the physical practice, yoga teaches techniques to promote deep relaxation and the ability to clear everyday thoughts from the mind with meditation. This powerful combination really can address a lot of the factors that lead to conditions like RSI (primarily driven by the overused micro-movements of muscles and tendons coupled with bad ergonomics and stressful working conditions).

Ergonomics RSI Tips

Forearm extensor muscles, wrist position and RSI

When you position your hands at a keyboard as discussed in an earlier article referring to ‘typing with clawed hands’, bad positioning of the wrist can lead to overuse injuries caused by strain in your forearm extensor muscles.

clawed_hands_rsi_sm.jpgThe common position for hands hovering above a keyboard is as shown on the right, which I refer to as the ‘claw’. This position elevates the tension in the aforementioned extensor muscles, causing them to become fatigued over prolonged periods of time. Typing whilst the hand/wrists are in this position (another common posture mistake) will further

Career Ergonomics RSI Tips

RSI – What to do? (Part 3 – RSI Dealing With A Long Term Condition)

The following article is a follow-on from RSI – What to do? (Part 1 – RSI Initial Symptoms) and RSI – What to do? (Part 2 – RSI Dealing With Progressive Symptoms) .

OK, so you are experiencing a long term RSI condition, ie it has gradually worsened for more than 2 years. You are in continual pain at work and find it difficult to do your job. You have perhaps gone through consultations with ergonomists, doctors, physiotherapists and just about anybody who’ll listen, but still you find no relief. You struggle to remember what it felt like not to associate pain with computer use. You may be wearing an arm brace (and probably have a large collection of them by now), and you probably have a sizeable collection of strange ergonomic mice at your computer that don’t seem to help. Your employer keeps expecting the same work output from you and you stress about how you can get through it. You get by by doing what you can, but generally come home each night from work and feel anxious about the situation and the searing pain down your arms. You wonder what you can do, and how you are supposed to live a normal life – you can’t remember what normal life was like before this injury!

So what are the options then? Well I remember a great bit of advice from my father

Ergonomics RSI Tips

RSI – What to do? (Part 2 – RSI Dealing With Progressive Symptoms)

This is a follow on article from Part 1 which dealt with managing Initial RSI Symptoms.

The following is relevant if you have been experiencing RSI symptoms for a few months and they are now persistent in nature.

wrist_pain.jpgThe rate of success in dealing with RSI symptoms is proportional to the speed that a sufferer can diagnose the causes of those symptoms, and their understanding of the corrective actions required to avoid further injury.

The onset time for RSI injuries can be fairly rapid (in my own case I went from having initial symptoms to intermediate symptoms within 3 to 4 months. It is therefore vital that sufferers glean RSI knowledge as fast as possible, try to understand the causes of their symptoms, and make the necessary adjustments to their working practices.

So the scenario for this article is of a worker who has had RSI symptoms for a few months, and is experiencing any of the following –

Ergonomics Input Devices Miscellaneous RSI Tips

How ‘Clicked Off’ Are You About Your Mouse? – mouse clicking alternatives and RSI

The act of a human clicking a mouse to control a computer has been around since the inception of window based GUI (Graphical User Interface) systems. Before GUI based systems were around, keyboards were the prominent way of user interaction with a computer. Mouse based systems were a leap forward in terms of computer usability, and have allowed a multitude of different graphical applications to be built around them.

The biggest problem with the invention of the mouse, and for that matter all current GUI based computer systems, is that they force a user to do a very repetitive motion that had up until their invention not been done before, ie the repetitive small movement of the index fingers to send a ‘click’ to the computer to say ‘do this’. Sometimes this repetitive task can be very intensive (depending on the application being used). This has over the last 15 years or so led to a large increase in cases of Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI).

So what alternatives to standard mouse ‘clicking’ exist right now for the computer user? (Note: the following is by no means an exhaustive list)

  • keyboard short cuts
  • voice recognition software
  • foot pedal clicking
  • graphics tablet/tablet PC pen “taps”
  • software generated clicks
  • touch screen monitors

Each of the above have their own set of positive as well as negative points. The following is a brief summary

Ergonomics Input Devices RSI Tips

Of Mice and Men – Mice and RSI

I’ve had a rather unpleasant history with mouse use, culminating in the inability to use a bog standard mouse with either hand for more than 2-3 minutes before the onset of severe pain. This reaction has built up over many years of mouse (ab)usage, and I have a certain loathing for the devices now. It has to be said that many of the cheaper mice (normally the ones shipped by certain PC manufacturers) are some of the most unergonomic pieces of equipment available. Computer manufacturers have a lot to answer for having shipped us less than ergonomic mice with their computers for the last 20 years. Quite often an end user does not experience any other type of mouse apart from the one that ships with their computer system. Whilst these mice are designed with aesthetically pleasing features, their ergonomic qualities leave a lot to be desired. This can of course be tolerable if the user seldom uses the computer, but if they do use it a lot then it can ultimately lead to the onset of RSI type symptoms.

Having seen what manufacturers ship with their systems, I would be a proponent of legislation to ensure that the basic minimum mouse is an ergonomic one.

Ergonomics RSI Tips

Keyboard Thumping and RSI

One vivid memory of my injury when employed was watching how fellow workers in certain situations thumped their keyboards. I remember it well, because I used to wince when I saw them do it.

Having been an RSI sufferer for the best part of a decade, and having come from an identical background to my colleagues (and no doubt had been prone to thumping keyboards in my time), I fully realised the implications of the use of excessive force as people interacted with their keyboards.

Keyboard thumping (the act of hitting the keyboard keys with exaggerated force or heavy pounding) can be barely noticed by the user, but is usually attributable to them being overly frustrated with the computer/piece of software being used or or emotionally involved with an angry ‘flame’ mail etc. During these times it is not unusual for this anger and stress to build up and be vented in this way. There is really no place for emotional frustration and computer use. Your body needs to be ergonomically positioned, relaxed and fluid when interacting with computers in order to minimise the exposure to RSI causing effects, and not demonstrating emotional reactions like the guy below!

The keyboard/computer is ‘paying the price’ for the person’s anger and frustration.

Miscellaneous RSI Tips

Sleeping and RSI

If you suffer from an RSI type condition, it can be aggravated when you least expect it to be ie. during your sleep.

When you actually analyse what position your arms , wrists and hands are in when you wake up, you will more often than not, find them in all kinds of contorted positions. Quite often the wrist can be bent or twisted, causing blood flow restrictions, pinched nerves, and RSI symptoms can be worse when you least expect them to be.

Ergonomics RSI Tips

Lateral wrist deviation angle and RSI

Lateral (Ulnar) wrist deviation

A very common bad ergonomic practice is wrist deviation when using a keyboard. Keyboards have never been the most ergonomically designed devices, and users tend to hold their wrists very central to the keyboard whilst inducing a lateral deviation in their wrist angle.

bad wrist angle keyboard RSILateral (ulnar) deviation can eventually lead to wrist pain, both centrally and at the outer edges of the wrist. This can occur due to nerve pinching and tendon compression which can ultimately lead to RSI like conditions.

The image on the left shows lateral deviation in both wrists. This deviation can be further worsened by the user reaching for keys at the more extreme end of the keyboard, most commonly by little lateral wrist ‘flicks’.

This is a very common ergonomic problem, and can be easily rectified by the user once they know what to look for. The biggest problem being that most
users don’t start paying attention to wrist deviation this until pain develops.

Ergonomics Miscellaneous RSI

Maximum Exposure to RSI

We live in a technology driven world and seem to spend much of our lives using electronic gadgets. These include:

  • computers (mice/keyboards) for our work, gaming, web surfing, emailing, blogging, socialising
  • organisers to plan our lives
  • mobile phones for text messaging, web surfing etc
  • other hand held email devices
  • mp3 players
  • digital cameras
  • laptops
  • game consoles
  • TV remotes and 100’s of channels to hop

What do all these devices have in common?