Computers have become an indispensable part of life for most of us, whether we like it or not. While their benefits in terms of efficiency and convenience are undeniable, so is their impact on humanity almost as great as the discovery of fire and wheel.
But like everything else in this world, they come with their own set of problems too. And no, I am not talking about Computer Crashes 🙂
I am instead referring to their far more serious impact on our health, and in particular to RSI – Repetitive Stress Injury.
Ok agreed, RSI didn’t really begin with computers. After all, it was known as Writer’s Cramp before. But leaving the technicalities aside, computer use definitely seems to have made it more common.
Walk into any IT company, and I challenge you to find even one employee NOT suffering from RSI. And it’s not limited to software engineers either. Anyone who uses computers upwards of 4 hours a day, is bound to get it sooner or later.
As a sufferer myself, I can tell you that it’s not just painful, but can also be disabling. At my worst, I could not even open doors. Even now, I cannot even wear a watch for longer than an hour and it has cost me quite a small fortune in terms of lost watches. 🙁
Jokes aside, there are quite a few things you can do to prevent RSI and if you already suffer from it, to control it.
1. Good Posture
I sure wish I had listened to my teachers in school when they insisted on us maintaining good posture, it would definitely have saved a lot of trouble. Bad Posture is one of the leading causes of RSI, so straighten up your back, and hold your neck high, and while you are at it, get rid of the LazyBoy.
Yeah, I know I sound totally boorish now but a little bit of exercise will go a long way in preventing you a lot of pain (and not just from RSI either). Go for stretching and strengthening exercises. My recommendation is Yoga and Pilates.
3. Take Breaks
The one great thing about having RSI is that I can take a break every 30 minutes and my boss can’t complain. 😉 Of course, your boss may not be as accommodating, in which case your break might just have to consist of drinking a glass of water or looking out of the window for a couple of minutes. But even that goes a long way in preventing RSI. For the workaholics, get yourself a Pause software such as Workrave (it’s free too) to remind you to take breaks.
4. Ergonomically Designed Hardware
Invest in the right equipment. Specially designed equipment such as the Dvorak Keyboard, vertical mouse, joystick use, stylus pens etc. reduce the stress on your muscles, thus preventing tissue damage that leads to RSI. If you need to type a lot, consider investing in a Speech Recognition Software.
5. Macro Software
Macro software can help you automate a number of small tasks such as expanding abbreviations as you type, opening applications in specified order etc. A number of free and easy to use macro softwares’ are available over the Internet. My favorite one is AutoHotkeys for its sheer flexibility and of course a small but useful equipment designed for it called the Enterpad.
In closing, remember that RSI is extremely inconvenient, limiting, painful and above all incurable. So follow these simple rules, and be safe.