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RSI – Don’t use a wrist support!

I think I have an Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) problem coming on – the wrist of my ‘mousing hand’ has a nagging pain most of the time, and it immediately gets worse when I start using the mouse or typing. It’s a problem, because my work basically involves typing and surfing the net (could be worse ;-)), and I spend easily 8-12 hours a day on my computer.

So, I went surfing (ahem) to find out more, and found out some surprising things from a reliable source, Cornell University: on mousing, and on typing posture.

• First of all – don’t use a wrist support, especially the soft gel ones!
“research has shown that using a wrist rest doubles the pressure inside the carpal tunnel” ( Professor Alan Hedge, Cornell University)
At least, if you do use one, put the heel of your hand on it, not your wrist. The reason for this is simple: try laying your arm flat on a table, you’ll notice a curve up at the wrist

therefore – you don’t want to be putting pressure at exactly the point where your body is designed to avoid pressure! This is addressed in an alternative wrist pad by Ergoguys
• Also, move your mouse from your elbow, not by flicking your wrist. Resting the heel of your hand on the wrist support pad is not going to help this though.
• Your ideal posture should not be a straight back, but actually leaning slightly backwards. The wrist should be lower than the elbow, and the keyboard lower than the wrists. So a keyboard that slants upwards is not good – notice how the keyboard in the picture slants downwards.

For this a decent chair is important, the problem is they are expensive, I find that the standard cheap office chair does not have good height control – but I’ve tried putting a cushion on mine to lift me up a bit higher. And a box to put my feet on, otherwise they dangle a bit (short legs!) which is not good either.
• I’m also trying to use my mouse with my left hand to give the right a rest. It’s a bit fiddly, but doable.
• Finally, take regular breaks. One useful way to do this is to have a software that reminds you, and forces you to stop by temporarily blocking your computer – I have installed Workrave (free OpenSource) which is nice because it gives you exercises to do, and has cute sheep :-) The problem is, it doesn’t always seem to always remind me – maybe because I use Vista (unfortunately). There are other similar ones out there too.

There are more things, but these stood out to me. So, take care of your body – do something to improve your habits today! :-)