Repetitive Strain Injury…

One of my teachers from college is suffering from a Repetitive Strain Injury courtesy having worked on the PC, on her PHD thesis, for around 10-12 hours a day. It’s the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which is a little scary cause there’s no cure for it. Take a look at the Wikipedia list for prevention, here.
Over the last month or so, I’ve been rather overworked, and had a minor burnout, following which I took the last weekend off (though I did listen to Digital Media podcasts from the MIT CMS throughout Sunday, just for fun…not really work, though there are those who disagree).

I’ve installed Workrave, which is turning out to be quite useful. It reminds me to take time off (from 15 seconds to 5 minutes), and suggests some exercises that I can do for prevention of RSI. For the five minutes break, once you choose to take it, it blocks input to your PC, though you can postpone the break. It also keeps a tab on how much time you’ve spent not using the keyboard or the mouse…Let’s see how long I use it, though. Suggests Wikipedia: Make sure to heed the reminders. If you do not, you may regret it later. A few exercises at YouTube.

Repetitive strain injuries could be a serious problem in the coming years unless people shift to voice inputs (bandwidth will probably have something to do with it, and the cost of, perhaps, a voice or a video SMS).

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  1. Voice inputs suck. At least for me, typing is just much faster than verbalizing; especially on the command line.

    Plus it would be just plain annoying to hear someone who’s not computer-savvy give out voice commands: “Maximize window. No, no, not that one. The other one, damnit!”

    I’ve tried Workrave, and it’s very good. But once I go into a Flow state, it’s too intrusive. Once I’ve started *really* working, I can’t handle distractions.

  2. Nikhil: I have worked long hours on the PC for nearly 15 years now. Since I do a lot of research and consulting, the hours have only grown with time. Add leisure-time surfing, blogging, and a PhD to the mix, and what do we have? Reading glasses and a tennis elbow in my dominant arm!

    I keep the tennis elbow well in control with continued weight training. Cold packs also help if the pain is too much but I have not had to use them. In general, a body in fitness-imbalance (some muscles overworked, some never used) suffers more pains and aches..

    As with all else in life, being ill-disciplined will mean long-term, undesirable outcomes. The PhD is not the cause of the tennis elbow, just the last straw. As both my PhD research and life tell me, health problems do not precipitate all of a sudden. They gradually develop and good preventative habits – whether elbow rests or Workrave – will help in the long run, but only with a dollop of self-motivation :-/

  3. hey,

    I have had the same problem (repititive strain injury) for over 3 years now and what it has now come to is that I need to wear my wrist support thingy even outside of computers-related environs. such as while travelling (lifting heavy stuff) playing music (as in keyboards/guitar, etc!) and other such.

    I agree with Shefaly – it’s something that I ignored over time and it just gradually built up to teh situation it is in now. a more disciplined preventative approach would prolly (einstein!) have worked out better.

    just wanted to share my situation too…

  4. Take it seriously! RSI can be disabling. So when you’re in the “zone” with programming or whatever, you still need to take breaks. Imagine not being able to work at all on the computer, ever again! Those hours of “zone” work will punish you for the rest of your life, and there is no real 100% cure. Imagine not being able to tie your shoes, brush your teeth, or even flip burgers at McDonald’s. Take it seriously!!!

    -Nearly disabled RSI Sufferer

  5. Taking regular breaks is the key to fight rsi. Besides ergonomic keyboard and mouse can also help greatly in minimising RSI pain.

    I am having RSI symptoms since last 3 months.But I am unable to find any competent physiotherapist to treat RSI in Delhi.
    Since you are also from delhi, any help or advice in this regard is appreciated.

  6. Hi Rohit,
    Kindly don’t go in for any ergonomic keyboard or mouse as they are not really ergonomic.

    I am planning to come to Delhi for a Press Conference and provide computer users with safety guidelines.

    See my video in / typing guru
    for more information.

    Happy typing !!!
    Arun Kumar
    World’s No.1 PC typing Expert
    Founder of Computer Injury Awareness and Prevention Society.,
    Limca Book Record holder

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