Many people think that any computer-related injury is CarpalTunnelSyndrome
. However, "carpal tunnel" is but one of many types of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI).
Specific types (some from personal experience) include:
- cubital tunnel syndrome -- similar to carpal tunnel syndrome except occurring in the elbows instead of the wrists. Think "cubits."
- medial epicondylitis -- a.k.a. "golfer's elbow"
- wrist tendonitis
- tennis elbow (can also be brought on by playing bass guitar)
So what is RSI? For me, it was:
- an ache that I kept expecting to go away, but it didn't
- doctor's orders restricting me to 2 hours/day of keyboard and mouse use
- experiencing pain or weakness when manipulating things with my hands
- wearing splints and supports, especially while sleeping - for months
- hours and hours of physical therapy, keyboarding classes, and biofeedback training on how to relax my body (described further in CarpalTunnelSyndromeTreatment)
...and for those of you who are parents:
- not being able to pick up and hold my children.
You don't want this. Your employer doesn't want this. If you proactively schedule an ergonomic evaluation without waiting to be injured, you will do everyone a favor.
If you have a persistent ache anywhere in your arms, see a doctor immediately. And not just any doctor; see an RSI specialist.
From one who's been there,
What about a pain in the pinky knuckle? (from the shift key)
It may sound trivial, but I'd see a doctor. I went in because of the pain in my wrist, but was completely unaware about the problems in my elbows, which were far more serious. But if you see any old doctor, you'll probably just be given something to treat the symptoms rather than addressing the causes.
The worst thing about RSI is that it can creep up without any obvious warning signs. Sometimes the ache just doesn't get noticed.
The week I went to the doc and was diagnosed, I was working on a major uni assignment. I had been working on it solid for about four days, with little sleep. Of course my hands ached; so did the rest of me, especially my head. Then, about lunchtime on the fourth day, my hand started to feel like someone was jabbing a knife under the knuckles and was probing around. It was like someone had flicked a switch to turn it on. I was at the doctor's about an hour later; it would have been faster but I wasn't about to drive like that.
(Side note: the four days intensive workload wasn't the cause, merely the trigger. Blame years of using a keyboard since the age of about 5, if you want. I do.)
The sharp pain went away after a few hours, but came back intermittently for a few months, during which I was on anti-inflammatories and physio. Since then, my right hand has always ached; it's just something I'm used to now.
If you even suspect you're getting RSI, go to the doc. If caught early, you can develop good habits, and not have to suffer major lifestyle changes. Leave it, and you can literally end up not being able to work. (Of course, you can develop the good habits early on, if you want.)
The other advice I have is to take a look at your work environment. Are you comfortable in your chair? Can you look at the monitor without tilting your head? Is the keyboard at the right height for your chair? More importantly, will your employer accommodate you in changing anything that's not suitable? If not, change jobs.
I've heard that shifting your position frequently is helpful, according to some recent studies. "Bad posture" is less of an issue if you alter back and forth.
Your wrists hurt, you must be a programmer: http://gmarceau.qc.ca/articles/your-wrists-hurt-you-must-be-a-programmer.html
Some people think RSI is mostly psychosomatic: http://podolsky.everybody.org/rsi/
For extra credit, answer the following: "What does 'psychosomatic' mean?"
According to http://www.answers.com/topic/psychosomatic:
Of or relating to a disorder having physical symptoms but originating from mental or emotional causes.