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Good Computing Ergonomics; How To Relieve or Prevent Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

Updated on November 3, 2013
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Sit Up Straight!

Although we spend the most amount of time in front of a computer sitting down, it does not mean that it is not 'dangerous' to us. In fact, we may accumulate injuries without even knowing it; until it hurts, that is.

With prolonged computer use, a common body part to experience RSI would be the wrist. Common conditions could be tendinitis or carpal tunnel syndrome. This would commonly be due to usage of a computer mouse. Proper posture alone may not be sufficient, so this Hub aims to highlight a few methods to prevent or relieve RSI, namely by:

  1. Maintaining proper posture
  2. Doing some simple exercises
  3. Using keyboard shortcuts
  4. Using ergonomic keyboard/mouse

Do let us know in the comments if anything helps you.

PS: this is NOT a medical Hub; please seek professional medical advice should you have any hints of a medical condition.

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Maitaining Proper Posture

Ever since we're young, we've been told that posture is very important. However, for the modern worker, posture is not the only factor to help relieve or prevent RSI.

The image on the right shows the correct way to position your screen, chair, body and hands.

Favourite RSI Preventive Exercises

Cast your vote for RSI Preventive Exercises

10 Simple Exercises

Exercise 1. Deep Breathing for Overall Relaxation
Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Repeat 6 times.

Exercise 2. Relief of Hand and Finger Tension
Make a tight fist with your hands. Hold for a second and then spread fingers apart as far as you can. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 4 times.

Exercise 3. Relief of Hand and Wrist Tension
Hold hands in front of you. Raise and lower hands to stretch muscles in the forearm. Repeat 6 times.

Exercise 4. Relief of Shoulder Tightness
Raise arms to the sides with elbows straight. Slowly rotate arms in small forward circles. Lower arms. Repeat twice.

Exercise 5. Relief of a Stiff Neck
Turn your head slowly from one side to the other. Hold each turn to the count of three. Repeat motion 5 times in each direction.

Exercise 6. Relief of Arm Tension
Raise your arms over your head, stretching as high as you can. Hold for three seconds. Then bring your arms down. Rest a moment and then repeat 3 times.

Exercise 7. Relief of Shoulder and Back Tension
Raise your hands to shoulders. Keep elbows down. Using arms, push back the shoulders. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 3 times.

Exercise 8. Relief of Lower Back Tension
While sitting, lower your head and slowly roll your body as far forward as you can toward your knees. Hold for 10 seconds. Push yourself up with your leg muscles. Repeat 3 times.
(Caution: Be sure that your chair is stable and does not roll while you are bending).

Exercise 9. Relief of Cramping and Tightness in Legs
While sitting, grasp the shin on one leg and pull toward your chest. Hold for 5 seconds. Then do the other leg. Repeat 3 times.

Exercise 10. Relief of Eye Fatigue
Roll your eyeballs around clockwise three times, then counterclockwise three times.

Using Keyboard Shortcuts

Most of us would use Windows. While using a keyboard and mouse would be the most intuitive method to navigate Windows for most users, if you have a painful wrist from prolonged usage of the mouse, you might not bee too keen on this method of navigation. This is where keyboard shortcuts come in.

There are many keyboard shortcuts built into Windows. Many let you do an action without moving the mouse cursor to a small part of the screen, which should reduce the need to move your painful wrist.

Below is a list of keyboard shortcuts.

Press this/these buttons
To do these actions
F1
Display Help
Ctrl+C (or Ctrl+Insert)
Copy the selected item
Ctrl+X
Cut the selected item
Ctrl+V (or Shift+Insert)
Paste the selected item
Ctrl+Z
Undo an action
Ctrl+Y
Redo an action
Delete (or Ctrl+D)
Delete the selected item and move it to the Recycle Bin
Shift+Delete
Delete the selected item without moving it to the Recycle Bin first
F2
Rename the selected item
Ctrl+Right Arrow
Move the cursor to the beginning of the next word
Ctrl+Left Arrow
Move the cursor to the beginning of the previous word
Ctrl+Down Arrow
Move the cursor to the beginning of the next paragraph
Ctrl+Up Arrow
Move the cursor to the beginning of the previous paragraph
Ctrl+Shift with an arrow key
Select a block of text
Shift with any arrow key
Select more than one item in a window or on the desktop, or select text within a document
Ctrl with any arrow key+Spacebar
Select multiple individual items in a window or on the desktop
Ctrl+A
Select all items in a document or window
F3
Search for a file or folder
Alt+Enter
Display properties for the selected item
Alt+F4
Close the active item, or exit the active program
Alt+Spacebar
Open the shortcut menu for the active window
Ctrl+F4
Close the active document (in programs that allow you to have multiple documents open simultaneously)
Alt+Tab
Switch between open items
Ctrl+Alt+Tab
Use the arrow keys to switch between open items
Ctrl+Mouse scroll wheel
Change the size of icons on the desktop
Windows�logo key�
Cycle through programs on the taskbar by using Aero Flip 3-D
�+Tab
 
Ctrl+Windows�logo key�
Use the arrow keys to cycle through programs on the taskbar by using Aero Flip 3-D
�+Tab
 
Alt+Esc
Cycle through items in the order in which they were opened
F6
Cycle through screen elements in a window or on the desktop
F4
Display the address bar list in�Windows�Explorer
Shift+F10
Display the shortcut menu for the selected item
Ctrl+Esc
Open the Start menu
Alt+underlined letter
Display the corresponding menu
Alt+underlined letter
Perform the menu command (or other underlined command)
F10
Activate the menu bar in the active program
Right Arrow
Open the next menu to the right, or open a submenu
Left Arrow
Open the next menu to the left, or close a submenu
F5 (or Ctrl+R)
Refresh the active window
Alt+Up Arrow
View the folder one level up in�Windows�Explorer
Esc
Cancel the current task
Ctrl+Shift+Esc
Open Task Manager
Shift when you insert a CD
Prevent the CD from automatically playing
Left Alt+Shift
Switch the input language when multiple input languages are enabled
Ctrl+Shift
Switch the keyboard layout when multiple keyboard layouts are enabled
Right or Left Ctrl+Shift
Change the reading direction of text in right-to-left reading languages

Best Ergonomic Peripheral?

Which is better in preventing/alleviating RSI; keyboard or mouse?

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Using Ergonomic Keyboard/Mouse

The most expensive option, but ergonomic keyboard and mouse might just be the last piece of the puzzle in preventing or alleviating your RSI. Most work on these 2 principles:

Keyboards - Ergonomic keyboards have a curved/split design to mimic the way your 2 hands are aligned in front of the computer screen

Mouse - Ergonomic mouse allow your hands to grip them while reducing the unnatural twist. To illustrate this point, raise your hand out to shake someone's hand. This is the 'natural' angle your wrists should be at. Now lower your hand to your mouse WITHOUT twisting your wrist. See how 'unnatural' this is?

Ergonomic computer peripherals might go a long way in helping prevent or alleviate your pain, but they do cost more (for most products, several times more than a comparable non-ergonomic product) and are not exactly easy to find. Here are some I've used that worked well for me:

Trackball-type mouse

Split keyboard

For more choices, please see the links below.

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Simple Ergonomic Wrist Exercises

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