I’ve had the misfortune of not being able to type for more than a couple of weeks. The doctors said it’s RSI, or Repetitive Strain Injury. Or Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD). Or Work related Upper Limb Disorder (WRULD). Whatever it is, the joint area that connects my right pointy finger with the rest of the hand got all swollen up, and for a time, unbelievably painful, particularly with the smallest bit of movement.
Which meant that I was pretty much getting by with just the left hand for two weeks. So it’s been ice packs and hot packs for me, and a lot of pain killers.
On the plus side, I’m just a little more proficient with navigating with a mouse using my left hand.
It’s actually pretty serious, particularly for people who spend a big chunk of their waking hours in front of a computer. Surfing isn’t much of a problem. It’s really those who type a lot, or play games a lot, or in my case, both. Repetitive Strain Injuries can keep you from performing your job well, or if you’re a gamer, it can keep you away from that MMORPG you’ve been obsessively immersed in for days.
I do a lot of writing for clients (e.g. continually churning out articles and blurbs on a keyboard), on top of maintaining a number of blogs. After three to four hours of non-stop keyboard-work, what do you suppose I do to take a break? Play computer games! Oh the tendons on my hand are just happy to do more button-mashing and mouse-clicking!
You take your hand’s well-being for granted until the pain slowly creeps in. At first, it just feels a little tired. So you go on with your work-play routine anyway. Then you feel the joint stiffness. Swelling starts building up. After a day, the pain sets in- so bad that at this point, you can’t even move your mouse anymore, or type with both hands. The swelling spreads to the surrounding areas. It dies down after a while, but it still takes at least two weeks for you to get yourself back to two-hands-typing form.
Dealing With Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
1. Prevention is key. Don’t wait for RSI to happen to you. Or in my case, don’t let it happen again. Take a few minutes break after an hour of keyboard-mashing. Fifteen minutes every hour or hour-and-a-half should be alright. And use those fifteen minutes to do something else- not by checking Facebook, or Plurk. Really take time to walk away from the keyboard and recreate some other way. Make a sandwich, read a book or plant an herb garden or something.
2. Your state of well-being counts. Which means proper nutrition and lots of exercise. Strengthen those arm muscles to improve circulation and endurance. Drink lots of water. Eat the right kind of food.
3. Invest in more ergonomic keyboards, mice and other interfaces. There are lots of nice keyboards out there designed to keep the wrists in a more functional position while typing, as well as all kinds of gaming interfaces for those who play all day. Adaptive technology enables the consumer to have access to a wide selection of special keyboards, mouse replacements and even pen tablet interfaces and speech recognition software. Might be wise to consider these. Heck, I know I would.
4. Observe a good sitting work posture. Being conscious of your posture at work also plays a role in preventing Repetitive Strain Injury, or RSI (and a lot of other body pains for that matter).
5. When things start to go downhill, consult a licensed medical professional. The tendency of some people is to self-medicate. Unless you’re a medical professional yourself, you shouldn’t go ahead and pop some pills for the pain. Besides, there are a lot of available pain management protocols available for different kinds of Repetitive Strain Injuries, for different kinds of lifestyles. Help your doctor figure out the best one for you.
So there you have it. Hopefully it doesn’t happen to you- coz it’s really such a bitch to have, what with all the pain and discomfort.