When you think of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), what comes to mind? For those of us who spend hours every day at the computer, it’s most likely carpel tunnel syndrome. While RSIs can come from any repetitive activity – from working on an assembly line to playing tennis – when it comes to carpel tunnel, we usually think the culprit has to do with a tiny little electronic device – the computer mouse.
However, in the case of RSIs, the mouse may be getting a bad rap. So, if we know repetitive and/or excessive computer use can cause an RSI, and the mouse isn’t the primary thing to blame, what else could it be? The answer is typing. Here is what you need to know about typing and RSIs, and what you can do about it.
What is an RSI?
RSIs are a category of injuries that are an outcome of performing ongoing, repetitive tasks that involve vibrations, forceful exertions, mechanical compression, or sustained/awkward positions. RSIs include carpal tunnel syndrome, edema, cubital tunnel syndrome, tennis and golfer’s elbow, and radial tunnel syndrome. RSIs can occur from operating a jackhammer, painting a house, playing tennis – and typing at a keyboard.
Next time you sit down at your computer, workstation, or laptop, focus on where your hands are. Are your motions repetitive? Chances are they are. That’s because there is a proper way to type. Anyone who took typing in high school knows the proper placement – A S D F / J K L “semi.” From there, our wrists stay still (they should hover a little) and our fingers should do all the work. When typing technique is bad, for instance, laying our wrists on the keyboard or keeping our hands at odd angles, damage can occur. By the time we start to notice the shooting pain and numbness, it’s too late for prevention, and you are now in the treatment phase of a full-on RSI.
A User-friendly Workspace
There are two things you need to remember when typing at your computer. The first is that your workspace must be ergonomically appropriate for you. If you are working from home, really examine where you are working (or gaming). Is it laying on a couch, or lounging on a recliner? How about at the office? Is your cubicle too cramped for you to get comfortable? It’s important to make sure you are optimally placed when typing. Seek out ergonomic chairs that fit to you. If you don’t have an ergonomically designed chair, outfit the chair you have to be at the right height, with proper padding and one that is conducive to reducing back and neck strain. Consider also a standing desk, which allows you to stand naturally and shift your body so don’t remain stationary in a chair. Be sure your workstation is properly set up, with keyboard positioned above your thighs to allow your forearms to be parallel to the ground. Your shoulders should be loose and not hunched up near your ears. Your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle to your desk and keyboard. Finally, don’t forget your mouse! If you use a mouse and not a touchpad, ensure your mouse is well within reach. Those who keep their mouse lower than their computer or laptop often suffer from shoulder RSI.
Technique is Key(stroke!)
After your workspace is right for you, the next thing you need to focus is on is your typing technique. First, keep your wrists straight. Doing so will put less strain on the tendons and nerves in your wrist. Next, for those hard-to-reach keys, avoid straining your fingers, move your whole hand, and use light touches. Finally, let your hands float over the keyboard, being conscientious of keeping them moving and flexible. Remember, this isn’t your old manual typewriter – there is no need to pound the keys.
Repetitive Strain Injury Treatment in Pembroke Pines and Lauderdale Lakes, Florida
No one deserves to live in pain. At Total Orthopaedic Care, we provide superior orthopedic care for all types of injuries, including RSIs.
Visit us today, and find out how we can improve your symptoms quickly and effectively. To make an appointment, call us at (954) 735-3535. You can also fill out our online appointment request form.