Easing long hours in front of your computer (RSI)

The beginning of the very painful journey called repetitive strain injury (RSI) is caused, as the term suggests, by repeated physical movements, or when certain muscles are kept tense for long periods of time, or due to poor posture. It is felt in fingers, toes beginning with a tingling sensation and may result in long term pain in the above mentioned parts of the body.

It used to be that RSI was an occupational hazard for those engaged in specialized tasks, such as instrumental musicians like guitarists and pianists. But now it has started affecting more and more people, thanks to the heavy use of computers and cell phones. Think about it. How much time do you spend tapping away at a keyboard or a keypad? Or sitting hunched in front of a computer screen, with arm extended, working a mouse?

Break time

The best way to keep RSI at the bay is to avoid long hours at your computer. There is specially designed software that keeps track of how long you’ve been at the keyboard. Each time you exceed your set time limit, it will ask you to take a break.

Workrave (www. Workrave.org) and Xwrits (www.lcdf.org/xwrits) are two free options that nudge you to take timely breaks. Among the paid options are www.workpace.com/PRODUCTS_WPPER), which create charts of your activities, reminding you to take a break periodically. It is available for $50.

Reduce keyboard and mouse usage

Others record macros (shortcuts) to specific tasks that you do repetitively, so you don’t have to use the keyboard as much and the repetitive tasks are taken care of by shortcuts. For instance, say you get a lot of reports from colleagues and you need to change the formatting in each document before you can merge them. With this software, you will be able to record each step in this process. So the next time you get a report, you can change the format in one step by run the macro you recorded.

Similarly, there are software that help reduce mouse usage by allowing you to control the mouse from the keyboard (including dragging) For example, ActiveClick (www.activeclick.com) which automatically clicks and drags content for you and makes you stretch.

Get some exercise

Then there’s RSI Guard (www.rsiguard.come) which shows animations of exercises to ease RSI. It costs about $40.

In addition to the above ordinarily the user can take care of installing PC on ergonomic furniture meant for computer and alter postures while working at short intervals and taking breaks at reasonable time intervals.