Tips for working with a repetitive stress injury

Intro

For the past several weeks I have been working with and trying to treat a repetitive stress injury in my right wrist. Since this has negatively affected my ability to both write and program, I decided that what I learned would be useful to other writers on this forum. I tried to summarize my main techniques for dealing with the pain, and where possible, link to additional resources. I hope you find this helpful. Taking care of your health is very important to any writer or artist.

1. Your workstation

The first step to preventing an RSI is to have a healthy workstation. Healthy, in this case, means ergonomic. A well-designed station can prevent injuries and protect your health. The chair you sit in as you right should allow you to sit in a manner that protects your posture. That means 90 degrees between your torso and your legs, and also 90° between your thighs and your calves. The armrests should be level with your desk or table surface, to allow your wrists to remain straight when you’re typing on the keyboard.

Obviously, we don’t all have the means or ability to buy new furniture to create an ergonomic Workstation. A proper desk and ergonomic office chair might be the best solution for both comfort and health, but I try to focus on parameters that can be adapted to whatever Furniture you have available.

Remember what I said about keeping your wrists level? In order to keep yourself from typing at an angle that will damage, you can get or make a pad that goes directly before your keyboard to rest your wrists on while you type. Similar mouse pads with gel padding for your wrist can also be purchased. In a pinch, a rolled-up towel works better than nothing.

2. Healthy working habits

Many of us, myself included, spend most of our days using the computer for work, entertainment, and socialization. To prevent an RSI, it’s best to build up a healthy routine in advance, and stick to it. That means all the usual Health stuff like taking breaks, stretching, and hydrating.

After almost 20 years as a programmer, I did eventually get an RSI. The transition to reducing computer time has not been easy for me. In retrospect, I would have saved myself a lot of grief if I made some of these changes months or even years earlier. Since I cannot go back in time, I’m passing this advice on to you.

Take breaks. Drink more water than coffee. Rest and stretch your hands and wrists. If you don’t know any stretching exercises, ask your artist friends. It’s good for writers to have artist friends. Stretching in advance can save you Physiotherapy and painkillers later on.

3. Once you have an RSI

Let’s say you failed to prevent an rsi. What do you do now?

One of the first things I did to fix my workstation after my wrist started troubling me, what’s to switch my mouse and mouse pad from the right side of the keyboard to the left side. This is more easily accomplished with a symmetrical Mouse, but since I had used the solution before, it was easy for me to adjust to using the mouse with my left hand again. When my right wrist, my dominant hand, hurts too badly to type, I can still use the mouse with my left hand. This opens up Avenues of work, such as editing, rereading, and playtesting.

I would like to advise you to go to a doctor. However, I know that this is not so easily accomplished for everyone. Seek whatever medical help you have access to. If you study or work at a university, the university may have resources for repetitive stress injuries. You may be able to buy ergonomics supplies or dictation software for a reduced price. Similarly, check your workplace’s policies when it comes to purchasing ergonomic aids for employees. I wish I could give more specific advice, but these things tend to vary from country to country and from employer to employer.

Treat pain with painkillers and heat or ice packs. My local pharmacy let me purchase a pack that can be used as either an ice or heat pack. It’s very useful. There are also over-the-counter stations that you can use, primarily as creams for your hands and wrists. Treat these as you would any over-the-counter medication. Consult a doctor if possible, and pharmacist, always. Pharmacists know more about side effects and medication interactions than anyone.

Remember that most of the writing work you do is not typing. It is possible to work even when you can’t type.

4. Dictation software

I am actually dictating this forum post on an online dictation software that uses the Chrome browser. There are various free dictation software. Windows 10 comes with one pre-installed. I myself have not had a good experience with it. Over the past several weeks, I have tested several different dictation software. None of them have been perfect. Some are more suited to editing than others. Online software is convenient but rarely allows you to customize dictation. This is especially Troublesome to writers because you cannot train the software to recognize custom names and made-up words.

The best-rated dictation software requires a license. Because I am new to dictation, I have not tested these software. There are other users on this forum who can provide a more well-informed recommendation. However, I will link some of the software I tested, and a helpful youTube video about the built-in windows dictation software. It’s worth remembering that for best results you should be dictating using a headset and not a standing microphone. Since I don’t own a headset, I have not yet tested this. I will report back once I have.

5. Final words

I’m not actually an expert on repetitive stress injuries or tendonitis. I’m just someone who has been struggling with this for several weeks. I’m certain that there are other posters on these forums who have their own insights to contribute. Please, do so.

Since my wrists started troubling me, I have made several adjustments to my routine. The first one was to take a long break. Now, I’m faced with the need to create a whole new working routine. The first attempt I made at this has not been as successful as I might hope. On the other hand, I have already made inroads in adjusting to the new work methodology. For example, I’m no longer self-conscious of talking to myself when I dictate. I hope to finish my new methodology over time and be able to resume a steady writing schedule.

Best of luck to end coping with tendonitis as I am. For the rest of you, take care of your hands and wrists. Bad cases of tendonitis can go to surgery. No one wants that for you.

I hope this post can be helpful.

Links

33 Likes

This is nice of you to share. I’ll add that, if you’re already experiencing pain, you might need to stop to allow yourself to recover. The longer you push past, the longer you’ll need to recover–like a sprained ankle. Also, I find the chair (or the way it works w the desk) helps. And I write with a brace on both arms even and especially when I’m not hurting. To keep me from cranking my wrist at odd angles. Last thing: I use a divided keyboard, split down the middle, because I have wide shoulders. A traditional keyboard forces me to bend my elbows inwards at a rough angle.

11 Likes

Thanks for sharing all these informations. It sounds useful to know. Especially the work station part. You might also wanna add doing some phisical activities whenever possible I usually do football with my friends. It allow me to take my mind off things. And whenever i come back writing i’m all relaxed.

6 Likes

I would like to add alternative input devices (pen mouses, game controllers, there’s also keyboards with this weird mouse roll thingy) for variation to movement (if financially possible), muscle strength exercises for affected muscles, and, if you know what you’re doing (because it can do more harm than good if you do it wrong), elastic bandages for support. And definitely, if at all possible, give the arm time to rest as soon as possible if it starts hurting.

3 Likes

thanks for the information.