15 Things Programmers Should Do to Prevent Carpal Tunnel and RSI
Programmers may not be carrying 10 pounds of weight on their back everyday but they do experience the same aches and injuries at work like most people. A programmer’s worst enemy is not the complicated lines of code which he has to work on everyday, but it is simply his terrible posture at work. His slouching posture could lead to various wrist injuries and RSI, which will hound him for the rest of his life.
Fortunately, RSI is not a chronic disease and it can be prevented. Here are some basic guidelines you can apply to your lifestyle and at your workplace so you can stop carpal tunnel and prevent repetitive stress injuries.
1. Make sure to catch enough sleep. What does typing have to do with sleeping? Everything. When you type, you use muscles in your arms, elbows, hands and fingers. Although typing is not as rigorous as lifting heavy blocks of cement, the effects on your muscles are the same. Your muscles get tired after awhile, even without you knowing or feeling it.
Sleeping, though simple and easy, is a good way to restore strength in your muscles. It rests and rejuvenates your muscles after a long, hard day at work.
2. Learn keyboard shortcuts and use them often. Most programmers already have this covered but if you only use keyboard shortcuts 15% of the time, learn more quick commands using only your keyboard. It will save you time and will also cut down the possibility of you suffering from wrist injuries.
3. Do exercises that lets you strengthen your back muscles. You don’t need a gym membership to learn basic exercises for your back. Learning muscle exercises for your back will also help you with your posture, No matter how hard you try to sit up straight, you will always find yourself slipping into a slouching position because of weak back muscles.
4. Learn shoulder and back stretches. If you feel your knuckles hurting after long hours of typing, the problem might not be with your hands or fingers. The source of the problem could be at your shoulders, elbows, or back.
5. Replace your cheap, common and outdated computer peripherals with ergonomic tools. If the keyboard, mouse, computer table and other peripherals you have at work are 5 to 10 years old and are already too uncomfortable to use, perhaps it’s time to make the switch for ergonomic computer tools.
An ergonomic keyboard and other ergo accessories will help you increase workplace productivity and help stop carpal tunnel and RSI in their tracks.
6. Use the Dvorak keyboard. The QWERTY keyboard is much more common than the Dvorak keyboard but if you are serious about work and getting things done in a timely and painless manner, learn how to use the Dvorak keyboard. This keyboard was designed to help seasoned typists (that includes people who are in front of their computers almost 24/7) type faster and feel less painful side-effects when using the QWERTY keyboard.
7. Don't drive after a long day in front of the computer. Driving is just like typing, but with more elbow and shoulder movement. If you’ve already spent 8 hours straight in front of a computer, rest for half an hour before driving to work. Alternatively, don’t bring your car to work on certain days and take the commuter bus or train.
8. Learn to type properly and make sure to use the proper fingers on the keyboard. Many programmers are self-taught typists who often type without looking at the keyboard but use the wrong fingers for the wrong keys. Learning proper finger positioning when typing actually helps you become a faster typist, as well.
9. A wrist rest does more harm than good. Wrist rests actually create pinch points, not prevent it. The wrist rest on your keyboard does not work for everyone because it keeps the keys farther from your finger. Typing with a keyboard that has a wrist rest for long periods of time tend to create pinch points instead of preventing it.
10. Learn how to use a mouse with your right or left hand. Basically, learn how to work with both of your hands. If you are ambidextrous, you might find this easier to do but if you’ve used one hand all your life, you will need time to get used to using the mouse with your weaker hand.
11. Get a chair that supports your back. If you have a problem with maintaining proper posture when sitting down or when working, you might need to get a new chair that supports your back. Look for ergonomic chairs when shopping for new furniture for your workplace.
12. Make sure your keyboard is not higher than your waist. Your keyboard and mouse should all be level with your waist or an inch below it.
13. Take periodic breaks. If you’ve been staring at the computer monitor for an hour, make sure to stand up once in awhile, walk around, and do some stretches before sitting down again and finishing your work. Sitting down for far too long will only worsen your wrist pain and other body conditions.
14. Use xwrits if you don't. XWRITS is a tool that takes note of the time you spent in front of the computer and alerts you if it’s time to rest.It’s a lightweight tool that’s easy to download on your Mac or PC and helps you prevent RSI by timing you. Get XWRITS at www.lcdf.org/xwrits
15. Change your environment. Sometimes, body stress is caused by your environment. If your workplace is not conducive and if it required you to spend long hours sitting down or too many hours standing up, try to redecorate your workplace (start with your seats and tables) and make your place brighter by removing dim bulbs, repainting your walls to bright colors like white and yellow, and open your windows and blinds from time to time.
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