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Prevent Repetitive Strain Injury With My Anti-RSI Setup

Updated on December 19, 2013

How Do I Prevent RSI And Avoid Injury?

I have written a number of articles about my experiences with RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) and my attempts to both heal and prevent RSI injuries from happening again.

This article is about my current setup at my work desk and is an example of how to set up your computer with ergonomic factors in mind.

To the left is a picture of my desk as it stands at the moment, with keyboard, wrist rest, monitor on a stand and two strange looking mice (of the electronic variety, not rodents...)

I will go through each of these areas in this article.

I hope that someone, somewhere may be helped in some way!

Disclaimer: This article and any ideas or recommendations contained in it, is not a substitute for medical advice.

If you are in pain and think that it may be a Repetitive Strain Injury, then seek professional medical help.

What Is Repetitive Strain Injury?

What Is RSI?

Repetitive Strain Injury (or RSI) is an acronym for a collection of symptoms/problems where pain and discomfort is felt as a result of similar physical actions being repeated on a frequent, regular basis.

It may also be known as "Repetitive Stress Injury" or "Repetitive Motion Injury".

It can be associated with almost any repeated action, and is common among office workers who spend much of their time in front of a computer screen.

The discomfort may be felt anywhere in the body, but is typically felt in the extremities such as the fingers, hands, wrists, shoulders and neck.

The degree of discomfort can also vary from hand cramps, to a general feeling of weakness in the the forearms, to all over body "aches".

In extreme cases, inflammation inside the wrist can put pressure on the median nerve resulting in numbness in some of the fingers.

This numbness can be one of the signs of carpal tunnel syndrome, although it should be noted that there can be many different symptoms.

There can also be other conditions, such as tendinitis, which can give similar effects.

When in doubt, consult a qualified medical professional!

Monitor On Stand
Monitor On Stand

Chair and Monitor

Right Angles Please!

Here is my flat wide screen monitor on a stand.

You can't see my chair here, but you should be able to see how high up I have it set.

This is because I am fairly tall and the top of the monitor should be level with your eyes when sitting straight.

You may, or may not need to have a monitor stand, but you still need to follow the basic rule above.

This is one reason why laptops may be great for travelling, but are terrible for you: by their nature, they make you hunch your shoulders and bend your neck as you look down on your screen. -Ouch!

Monitor Stands On Amazon

Here's some options for monitor stands:

Kensington SmartFit Monitor Stand for up to 21” screens - Gray (K60087F)
Kensington SmartFit Monitor Stand for up to 21” screens - Gray (K60087F)

I'm not sure I have this exact model, but I use a Kensington stand which is height adjustable.

It is simple, cheap and ...it just works.

 
Computer Workstation Variables
Computer Workstation Variables

More Right Angles

You need the correct posture

I have posted elsewhere about the importance of posture, but you really do need to get it right (angled).

Your head, neck and back should be straight.

From the top of your body to your feet, your elbows, hips and knees should be bent at right angles and your feet should be flat on the floor.

This photo, courtesy of Wikimedia commons, is an example of how things should look from the side

Keyboard and Wrist Rest
Keyboard and Wrist Rest

Keyboard Setup

Type Properly!

Here's a closer look at my keyboard set up.

I have an ordinary PC keyboard with a very important piece of equipment: a wrist rest.

This is so simple and cheap that it really should be on everyone's desk.

It is important to keep your wrists supported while typing, without them being compressed or under pressure from holding your arms too heavily against the rest.

Your wrists should "glide" across the surface during typing and then rest on the rest (excuse the pun) when you stop.

Without a wrist rest, the tendency is for your hands to be bent backwards in an unnatural position.

This creates unnecessary strain on your wrists and can lead to pain in both hands and forearms.

- I know: this was my normal state of being for a long while!

Mouse Wrist Rests

BigGirlBlue added a note in the comments section (see below) that she has a problem with using her mouse, the issue being that her wrist seems to rest on the desk, or even push down onto it.

Well, I had a similar issue to that and found that the answer was to use a mouse wrist rest (you can see them in my photo above).

This is just like a keyboard wrist rest, but smaller for use with a mouse.

It should support your wrist so that it doesn't drop towards the table.

The idea is that your hand/wrist should glide across the surface.

Note: You may need to "train" yourself to relax when you're in front of the computer to stop your wrists getting squashed by the rest itself.

Below is a selection of wrist rests from Amazon.

As you can see, some have a little mat to go with them and others don't.

Personally, I've not found much use for the mat in these days of laser mice, but that may depend on what kind of surface you have on your desk.

3M Gel Wrist Rest for Mouse, Soothing Gel Comfort with Durable, Easy to Clean Leatherette Cover, Antimicrobial Product Protection, 6.9", Black (WR305LE)
3M Gel Wrist Rest for Mouse, Soothing Gel Comfort with Durable, Easy to Clean Leatherette Cover, Antimicrobial Product Protection, 6.9", Black (WR305LE)

Another gel wrist rest, but without the mat.

I prefer this style to the one with the mat, but it's all about personal preference!

 
Fellowes Gel Crystal Mousepad/Wrist Rest, Blue (91141)
Fellowes Gel Crystal Mousepad/Wrist Rest, Blue (91141)

Similar to the first item on the list, but in a lovely bright blue.

 
Innovera Gel Mouse, Wrist Rest, Blue (51432)
Innovera Gel Mouse, Wrist Rest, Blue (51432)

A more toned down blue, if the one above is too bright for you!

 
Ergonomic Mice
Ergonomic Mice

Of Mice And Men

Double Take

Have a closer look at the photo again.

Look at the two mice on either side...

No your eyes do not deceive you, those mice appear to be on their sides!

I have posted on my blog about various alternatives to mice which I have tried.

If you would like to read more about them then try these links:

The last link above is about my current mouse, as seen in the photo and you can learn more about this mouse below...

Amazon Spotlight Evoluent Vertical Mouse

This mouse may look weird, but it's got it where is counts.

It holds your hand in a much more natural position than a "normal" mouse.

Check out their website at Evoluent.com for the official details.

Don't forget to check out my Vertical Mouse Review and Evoluent Vertical Mouse Driver: How To Use It articles right here on Squidoo!

Evoluent VerticalMouse 4 "Regular Size" Right Hand (model # VM4R) - USB Wired
Evoluent VerticalMouse 4 "Regular Size" Right Hand (model # VM4R) - USB Wired

This mouse has done more than any other to help me with the discomfort in my hands, fingers and arms.

It's so much more comfortable than a regular mouse and is also better than a trackball, IMO.

If I go back to using a normal mouse on someone else's desk, I find that my hand and arm get sore very quickly.

-With the Evoluent mouse, it just doesn't happen (I get more bother from my keyboard if I do a lot of typing).

I actually have two of these: one left-handed and one right-handed.

This way I can swap between each hand too.

I'm basically left-handed but also fairly ambidextrous, so that works for me.

My colleagues say that my desk looks like a scene from "Flight of the Navigator"!!

All in all, I would highly recommend this mouse to anyone who suffers with pain/discomfort in their hands or wrists from using a normal mouse.

It may seem expensive when compared to a normal mouse, but I think it is so worth it!

 

Gripmaster Pro Hand Exerciser

Ok, this isn't strictly speaking part of my current set-up, but I do use it every day that I am at work.

It's a small item (small enough to put in your pocket) that you can squeeze in different ways to improve the strength in your hands and fingers.

It's advertised "for musicians" and "for sports", but I have found it works just as well for RSI!

You can find out more about these devices here

Gripmaster Hand Exerciser Red, Medium Tension (7-Pounds per Finger)
Gripmaster Hand Exerciser Red, Medium Tension (7-Pounds per Finger)

This is the one I use: not too hard, not too easy either.

 
Gripmaster Hand Exerciser Green, XX-Light Tension (1.5-Pounds per Finger)
Gripmaster Hand Exerciser Green, XX-Light Tension (1.5-Pounds per Finger)

If your hands are already painful or stiff, then maybe it would be better to go with the extra-light tension option?

 
PRO Hand and Finger Exerciser, Extra-Heavy Tension (11 lbs per Finger)
PRO Hand and Finger Exerciser, Extra-Heavy Tension (11 lbs per Finger)

This is the extra-heavy version.

Probably more for weight lifters than for RSI sufferers, but who am I to question you?

 

Want to know more about ergonomics? - My Blog Posts

Here are some links to the RSI series from my blog Timbo On Tech.

Leave a comment if you visit!

RSI Diary

How I Cope Week To Week

This will be a little experiment.

It's all very well and good getting advice on what may or may not help you, but what happens in the daily grind of using computers for hours on end?

Over the next few weeks, I am going to post updates on "where I am" in respect to the aches and pains.

Hopefully, I may encourage someone, somewhere!

RSI Diary - Friday 7th December

A little bit achy in the arms today, but not as much as at the beginning of the week.

Had a verruca on my foot for the past few weeks.

You wouldn't think that it would affect anything else, but I have had to be conscious of sitting properly with my dodgy foot.

When it comes to RSI, posture is everything!

RSI Diary - 10th December 2012

Hands Feeling OK!

Monday morning.

Spent some time playing Xbox games yesterday: Lego Star Wars with the family; XCom by myself.

Probably 3 - 4 hours worth of time on the controller all told, but the good news is that my hands feel fine this morning.

I'm sure that using the Gripmaster hand exerciser from Prohands.net is helping with this.

Of course, 2.5 hours into my working day on the PC keyboard and they are already feeling not quite the same, but it's still better than it used to be!

RSI Diary - 12th December 2012

New PC!

Well, I've been given a new PC at work.

It's all working surprisingly ok for the moment.

It's Windows 7, so I can use Start > Search to launch programs instead of Find and Run Robot now.

Only problem is that my copy of AsUType is telling me that the registration key isn't valid, so I'll have to do without spelling and word completion in all my programs.

I've emailed support, so we'll see how we get on ...and how my hands re-adjust to the extra typing in the meantime!

RSI Diary - 13th December 2012

Swift Response

The folks from AsUType got back to me within 24 hours with a new registration code.

This means I can get back to using shortcuts when I type. Hoorah!

My hands feel better already!

RSI Diary - 18th December 2012

Hands were a bit achy yesterday, but I had a half day and I think I was typing too fast to try to get everything done.

Bit better today, but will keep to a more steady pace to make sure!

RSI Diary - 21st December 2012

Looking forward to Christmas

It's been an up and down week, but mostly ok for my hands.

Lots of reading to do for work today, so should help settle them down a bit.

Looking forward to the Christmas break after today as they'll get plenty of rest then!

RSI Diary - 2nd January 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone!

Well, I've had a nice Christmas break with very little computer use at all, so my hands are well rested.

I'm back at work and have a reasonably quiet day with plenty of reading to do, as well as catching up on all those emails.

Emails = lots of clicks and some typing, but reading means less of either of those.

Hopefully, this and the shorter 3-day week means I can ease myself back into it.

...although of course, I haven't been doing my hand exercises over the holiday...

RSI Diary - 9th January 2013

Oops!

Spent lots of time typing far too quickly yesterday, so I'm achey, achey.

Bad habits are so easy to slip back into on the first week back at work:

Part of the trouble stems from wanting to get to the end of my sentence when writing an e-mail and then the Workrave timer prompt comes up.

...I then start typing quicker to stop the micro break kicking in before I can finish the sentence!

Stupid! Stupid!

Note to self: remember your health is more important than finishing emails!

Type slowly, and if the breaks happen in the middle, then so be it!

RSI Diary - 14th January 2013

Hmmm...

I was exercising my hands with my ProHands Gripmaster grip strengthener just now.

I'm now reflecting on how different fingers seem to be stronger or weaker on different days.

- My 3rd and 4th fingers on my right hand were much more difficult to squeeze than the same fingers on my left hand.

Could this be anything to do with playing Batman Arkham City last night?

Maybe, but I finally completed the very last physical challenge: what a game!!

RSI Diary - 25th January 2013

Stupid bottles!

Ok, here is my tale of woe for this week!

I ran out of screen wash in my car on the way home on Tuesday, so I had to go get some on Wednesday.

All well and good, but then I couldn't get the stupid bottle open because the lid was screwed on so tightly.

So in the course of nearly mashing the bottle to get it open, I neatly mashed my wrist.

It's been aching ever since and took a couple of days to recover while slowing down my typing/mousing, at work.

And the moral of the story? -I've no idea, but at least all my anti-RSI stuff made it slightly less gruesome!

RSI Diary - 1st February 2013

Hoorah!

Good news!

My hands hardly ache at all this week.

I've continued with my hand exercises and done my work and everybody's happy.

Hoorah!

RSI Diary - 20th Feb 2013

Hand are a little bit achy again this week, but I'm not quite sure why.

Wasn't too well on Monday and ended up going home but I think that was just a bug!

Oh well, lots of evenings out this week, so I won't be messing with computers in my spare time!

RSI Diary - 6th March 2013

I've been having a fairly good run recently, but over the past few days I have been noticing some aches and pains just starting to drift back into play.

These have been focused more around my arms (left elbow, in particular), shoulders and upper back.

I am therefore trying to think about my posture actively once more.

However, I realised today that I haven't been doing my upper body exercise for several weeks ....well alright then, since Christmas!

I guess I need to get out of the post-Christmas, winter lull and get back to it.

Remember, spring is on its way!

RSI Diary - 10th April 2013

Done it again!

Had a week off for Easter and came back to work nice and relaxed and ready to roll.

So relaxed in fact, that I forgot to bring my vertical mouse home with me so I could work with it today while my car is serviced. Doh!

Oh well, back to using my old trackball instead!

Have you found this article useful?

Do you use any of the tips or technology in this article?

Did they work (or not work) for you?

Then let me know!

Comments Please! - Did it help you?

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    • Tim Bader profile image
      Author

      Tim Bader 3 years ago from Surrey, UK

      @CalobrenaOmai: Yes, eye strain can be a pain ('scuse the pun) and can lead to other problems, as you tend to tense up when your eyes are tense.

      That's a good point about taking breaks.

      ...Of course, it could also be sign that you need glasses or your prescription needs changing...

      Thanks for dropping by.

    • profile image

      CalobrenaOmai 3 years ago

      I remember being a topic of conversation and concern in my keyboarding classes. It surfaced some years later when I began work on my Associates Degree. The only strains that I experience from time to time is eye strain when I forget to take periodic breaks. Thanks for sharing this article with us. Awesome work.

    • Tim Bader profile image
      Author

      Tim Bader 3 years ago from Surrey, UK

      @DreyaB: Ah, I'm sorry! :(

      Of course, it's all connected, so you can easily get both.

      One of the strange things I found when changing mouse was that my shoulder got worse for a while before getting better and I think in my case, the problem in my wrist was "radiating" up my arm.

      Once the wrist got sorted out, I rarely get pain in my shoulders anymore, unless someone lowers my chair at work (we have a somewhat over-enthusiastic cleaner).

      As you say, good management does the trick!

    • DreyaB profile image

      DreyaB 3 years ago from France

      @Tim Bader: Thanks for the extra info Tim. Unfortunately, I can get both wrist and shoulder issues so I have to try to be careful! It's good management that is the help for me in the end and a good PC style setup seems to have been the way forward. May consider the different mouse in the future though. Many thanks. :0)

    • Tim Bader profile image
      Author

      Tim Bader 3 years ago from Surrey, UK

      @justinemonica: Glad you found it helpful.

      Thanks for reading.

    • Tim Bader profile image
      Author

      Tim Bader 3 years ago from Surrey, UK

      @DreyaB: Hi DreyaB,

      Glad to know my article was encouraging, but sorry that you suffer too!

      I think choosing ergonomic equipment is very tricky for a lot of people, because everyone is so different and said equipment can be expensive compared to "standard" equivalents.

      I have come across others who have not got on with vertical mice, but the majority seem to find the relief immediate.

      Personally, it took 2-4 weeks to get used to the new position but now that I am used to it, only a short session with a classic style mouse has me aching very quickly.

      I think the vertical mouse is best for people who get pain in their wrist and forearm - IMO if your pain is more based around the shoulder, then it may not help because you still have to move the whole mouse around the desk/mat.

      If that's the case, then you may find a trackpad or tablet better to use because it utilises more fine movements with the fingers.

      Hope you find what you need and thanks for reading. :)

    • profile image

      justinemonica 3 years ago

      I have to use computer a lot to time.. and facing this problem. Very informative and helping for me. Thanks

    • DreyaB profile image

      DreyaB 3 years ago from France

      I'm an RSI sufferer too, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that my desk layout is extremely similar to yours - the only difference being the mouse. A friend of mine who's an amputee was provided with a vertical mouse but she couldn't get on with it - so I never thought of getting one for myself. I may just have to bear it in mind for the future. Great page and good to know I'm going a similar way to another RSI colleague. :0)

    • Tim Bader profile image
      Author

      Tim Bader 3 years ago from Surrey, UK

      @MarleMac: I agree, relaxation is so important - and may be difficult to achieve for people with stressful lives/jobs, but as you said, there are ways to get around that.

      Thanks for sharing.

    • RHKnight profile image

      RHKnight 4 years ago

      This is excellent information source for us computer-age folks. I have been making changes at home and work to reduce wrist, back, neck and shoulder strain. I have come away with a couple new ideas that I had not learned before, thanks for that.

    • MarleMac profile image

      MarleMac 3 years ago from South Africa

      This is a great lens, Tim!

      As a Natural Health Practitioner I give this type of advice to a lot of people and have dealt with strain issues of my own as well as I worked in the computer industry before becoming a practitioner (actually became one because of my problems!) and I still use it a lot for writing and design.

      One of the biggest things you have to sort out to allow your shoulders, arms and wrists to heal after an injury such as this, is to help the muscles in your neck and shoulders to relax to take pressure off the vertabrae that are pinching the nerves there, so a good neck and shoulder massage by a professional will do wonders! You've just inspired me to do a lens on this side of things! Thanks!

    • profile image

      changrcoacher 4 years ago

      Excellent information and resources for folks that spend much time online. We must counteract how we damage our bodies! Thanks...

    • Tim Bader profile image
      Author

      Tim Bader 4 years ago from Surrey, UK

      @Rosanna Grace: You're welcome!

      I hope you find a suitable replacement, both for the keyboard and mouse.

    • Rosanna Grace profile image

      Rosanna Grace 4 years ago

      Thanks for this article. You've reminded me that it is well and truly time for me to ditch my ergonomic keyboard. I find it too wide and cumbersome and makes the distance between keyboard and mouse too great. I'm interested in that vertical mouse and will look into it further.

    • Tim Bader profile image
      Author

      Tim Bader 4 years ago from Surrey, UK

      @Cynthia Haltom: Ouch! I always wince whenever people put laptops on their laps, as it is one of the worst possible positions for ergonomics.

      - But don't take my word for it, try it out no a desk and I'm sure you will see a difference!

      Thanks for reading

    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 4 years ago from Diamondhead

      I use a laptop on my lap. But on a desk I'm sure this would work well.

    • Tim Bader profile image
      Author

      Tim Bader 4 years ago from Surrey, UK

      @Fiorenza: @peterduck I'm very sorry to hear that - I've not heard anyone else have a problem with it, but I'm glad you have found an alternative.

      Thanks for dropping by.

    • Fiorenza profile image

      Fiorenza 4 years ago from UK

      The Evolvent mouse actually made my problem worse sadly. I use a wireless hand grip mouse now which sadly isn't made anymore but you use it with your arms in a natural resting position. That and an ergonomic office chair and a springy footstool are my essential work items.

    • profile image

      MissMalaprop 4 years ago

      I've got some off-and-on problems with it myself. I've been using an ergonomic mouse for a few years now (not the type you use, it looks almost like a joystick but doesn't move like a joystick does - made by 3M I think), and I recently got Dragon Dictate so I can hopefully start typing less and talking to my computer more instead!

    • Tim Bader profile image
      Author

      Tim Bader 4 years ago from Surrey, UK

      @miaponzo: I'm not a great fan of reflexology myself, but glad you found this article helpful.

      Thanks for reading!

    • profile image

      miaponzo 4 years ago

      Great helpful information here.. and you might also want to add something about reflexology ... you could try using that for your injury too, because it is amazing!

    • Tim Bader profile image
      Author

      Tim Bader 4 years ago from Surrey, UK

      @Aunt-Mollie: Unusual to be looking up at your monitor, but if it works for you, then it's good!

      Thanks for dropping by.

    • profile image

      Aunt-Mollie 4 years ago

      So many people get RSI from working on computers. Like you, I do much better with my monitor on a stand. In fact, I use a very high stand so I'm always looking up. This works for me.

    • SpannerMontanna profile image

      Neil Spencer 4 years ago from uk

      What a great lens this is and a very interesting read ;-)

    • Tim Bader profile image
      Author

      Tim Bader 5 years ago from Surrey, UK

      @JenwithMisty: Thank you very much!

      I'm glad you found it helpful: let us know if you make any changes!

    • JenwithMisty profile image

      Jen withFlash 5 years ago

      Beautiful lens! Thanks for all the great information!! I will have to check out my work area when I get to work today.

    • srsddn lm profile image

      srsddn lm 5 years ago

      Very useful tips.

    • Tim Bader profile image
      Author

      Tim Bader 5 years ago from Surrey, UK

      @Jazroockfree: Thank you and thanks for visiting

    • profile image

      Jazroockfree 5 years ago

      Nice lens!Thanks for sharing and information

    • Tim Bader profile image
      Author

      Tim Bader 5 years ago from Surrey, UK

      @RuthieDenise: Thanks for your comment.

      I hope the surgery has made things better for you.

    • RuthieDenise profile image

      RuthieDenise 5 years ago

      hi this is good info. I just had carpel tunnel surgery so I can attest to how important this is.

    • Tim Bader profile image
      Author

      Tim Bader 5 years ago from Surrey, UK

      @PromptWriter: Thanks for posting about your setup.

      It shows that a little bit of ingenuity (and duck tape!) can go a long way.

      With regard to your problem with your wrist, I had a similar problem with mine when I moved to using the vertical mouse (oddly, I had no problem with this with "normal" mice).

      I found the solution was to get a mouse wrist rest.

      I've now updated my lens with some examples of these that you might find helpful.

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 5 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      I have my laptop on a stand when I am at my desk. My husband cut up and taped pipe insulation to my keyboard holder so I could have some padding. My main issue at the moment seems to be my mouse. For some some reason when I use it I not only rest my wrist on the desk I will actually press my wrist into the desk. I have to consciously remind myself to not do it but am not successful at it.

    • writeonbro lm profile image

      writeonbro lm 5 years ago

      This is just one of the hazards of being a prolific blogger.

    • Tim Bader profile image
      Author

      Tim Bader 5 years ago from Surrey, UK

      @Linda BookLady: Thanks for leaving a comment.

      I've heard mixed reports of ergonomic keyboards: some people seem to love them and others hate them, although I can't really comment myself as I've never used one.

      I have tried using the dictation program built into Windows 7, and I was surprised how good it was for a free program.

      How does your sister find Dragon Naturally Speaking?

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      I used an ergonomic keyboard for many years which saved me from RSI, I believe... but my sister had it... and now uses Dragon Naturally Speaking.

    • Tim Bader profile image
      Author

      Tim Bader 5 years ago from Surrey, UK

      @MiaMusement: Nice to meet you too.

      Thanks for leaving a comment

    • Tim Bader profile image
      Author

      Tim Bader 5 years ago from Surrey, UK

      @missmary1960: Thanks.

      I hope you found it helpful

    • pavlo-badovskyi profile image

      pavlo-badovskyi 5 years ago

      informative and interesting lense!

    • missmary1960 profile image

      missmary1960 5 years ago

      Wow, so interesting, I have so many issues due to being at the desk many hours for over 20 years. Great lens!!!!

    • mojoCNYartist profile image

      Dan 5 years ago from CNY

      First I had ever heard of this.

    • profile image

      webmavern 5 years ago

      Thanks for the info and tips, I had never seen a vertical mouse before!

    • profile image

      MiaMusement 5 years ago

      Excellent info here... nice to meet you, Tim!

    • Tim Bader profile image
      Author

      Tim Bader 5 years ago from Surrey, UK

      @SusanDeppner: You're welcome!

      I'm so pleased that you found it useful.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 5 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I love the vertical mouse idea! Wow, when I hold the mouse and turn my arm so that it's vertical, I feel the stress disappear. My poor forearms thank you so much for that and these other great tips.