söndag 17 januari 2010

You are not immune from Repetitive Strain Injury

By Paul Goddard

I get a large number of people asking me which mouse will help relieve the pain of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) when using a computer. I only wish I could help them.

RSI or Repetitive Strain Injury is an all encompassing term that covers a multitude of symptoms and conditions, but isn't a diagnosis in itself. It's more of a general term like "sports injury" which could mean a bump on the head or sprained ankle.

Most ailments will be greeted with default advice of take 2 paracetemol and stay in bed, regardless of what it is. It's a method for finding out whether your own defence system will deal with the problem and fix the ailment or whether further action is required. It is not uncommon for some doctors to recommend you to stop repeating the activity that is causing the repetitive strain injury as a cure.

However for the majority of us, this would involve a complete change of career that doesn't involve the use of a computer. As this is impractical for most people, you are left with two practical options; avoid getting the injury in the first place, or develop a method of managing it so can continue using computers.

Avoidance is a really good plan. Anyone who has suffered an RSI can tell you how miserable it can be and how shockingly serious its impact is on your working life.

The following steps are my suggestions for working on a computer without suffering.

1. Adjust your whole workstation and environment to suit you.

2. If your equipment is not positioned correctly and you can not adjust it - it is not ergonomic and you will suffer as a result.

3. Purchase in a good adjustable chair that maintains your posture. It might seem expensive at first but is less costly than back treatment and much less painful.

4. Get your desk to the right height for you - not what your chair will allow. You can do this by inserting small blocks of wood under the feet or saw a bit off its too high (if you share a workspace a height adjustable desk makes life much easier for all)

5. Get a fully adjustable keyboard like the Goldtouch. In fact get a Goldtouch, nothing else comes close. You can read up on why on the internet, just google "Goldtouch keyboard"

6. Get another mouse or even better get two, and keep the one you have. Keep switching between them so that you minimise the repetition. Get different ones, a trackball might feel a bit strange at first but you will get used to it. Vertical mice help a great deal to reduce twisting or pronation in the wrist

7. Get a document holder that can sit over and behind your keyboard. There are lots to choose from, the Microdesk will fit over the Goldtouch and gives lots of space for papers. The key feature is that you want to keep all your work in a straight line head up position

8. Adjust your monitor to the right height and distance. Monitor arms are ideal and easy to use with flat screen monitors. They also free up space on your desk. If you need to use a laptop make sure you have a stand to get the screen to the right height and always use an external keyboard and mouse

9. Always use RSIGuard Software. This is an absolute essential. Don't think it can't happen to you. RSIGuard is a very simple software package that will show you how your behaviour is hurting you.

10. Act Now! Your body will tolerate maltreatment for a long time but once it gives up - you are in big trouble, and the road to recovery is painful and slow.

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