Typing is a common and necessary requirement for a variety of positions across all industries. However, despite it being seemingly innocuous, long hours at the keyboard can contribute to the development of a repetitive strain injury (RSI). RSI is a general term used to describe the pain felt in muscles, nerves and tendons caused by repetitive movement and overuse. It mostly affects the upper body, such as the forearms, elbows, wrists and hands, as well as the neck and shoulders. RSIs can cause aching, pulsing or tingling pain and weakness. Left untreated, these injuries may become debilitating.
While the symptoms can last for years, there are quick, simple solutions that you can implement to reduce your risk of developing an RSI.
- When you type, make sure your wrists are parallel with your forearms to ensure that there is no added strain.
- Adjust the height and angle of the keyboard until it is level with your hands. The position should not require you to angle your wrists.
- Try to keep your wrist at a level position when you are moving the mouse, similar to where it rests while you type.
- Rely more on keyboard shortcuts to execute commands such as “copy,” “paste” and “undo.”
- Use the arrow keys on your keyboard’s number pad to move the pointer around the screen rather than the mouse.
- Take a five-minute break every 30 minutes to stretch and relax.
- Practice good posture—do not slouch. This may require you to adjust your chair until your feet are flat on the ground.
- Eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly—at least two and a half hours per week.
Real-life Case Study
Brian is an accountant for a small firm just outside of Milwaukee, and, each day, for at least eight hours, he is busily taking notes and typing up reports. In November, Brian noticed a low, pulsing pain in his wrists and forearms. He ignored it for a few weeks, thinking that aspirin would take care of it, but it just got worse.
So, in early January, Brian went to see his doctor. After discussing his symptoms, the doctor diagnosed him with an RSI. The doctor prescribed a series of stretches to help the affected muscles and tendons, and suggested that Brian make several simple adjustments to his workstation.
The next day, Brian made the recommended adjustments to his workstation. He reoriented his keyboard so that his wrists and forearms were level when he typed, readjusted his chair so he was sitting up straight and took regular breaks to stretch.
After several months of following his doctor’s recommendations, Brian’s pain is now gone.