Author Topic: Ergonomically speaking...  (Read 6054 times)

petekelly

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Ergonomically speaking...
« on: November 20, 2008, 09:14:26 AM »
I know this isn't the most fascinating topic, but I'II guess it affects a lot of people here, so
here goes...

For about 8 years now, I've been working on my computers usually 6 to 9 hours a day (pretty much
every day) and I've developed pretty bad RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) in my right wrist and right
shoulder. This was due to using the mouse (I don't have any problems with keyboard use). It was
significantly debilitating, so I started to look at solutions that could address the problem.
After a fair bit of research I settled on this here rodent:





It's a Microsoft (I know :o) Natural Laser Mouse 6000
It's a so-called 'ergonomic' mouse and forces the wrist to rest in a much different manner to a
conventional mouse. At first it felt like a potato, but I've adapted to it pretty quickly.

Info here:
http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/mouseandkeyboard/ProductDetails.aspx?pid=086

I use two computers - one for Internet browsing/writing documents and another just for music. I
recently had the 'brilliant' idea of using a mouse for each of them, but learning to use one with
my left hand to distribute the usage. It feels a bit 'cack-handed' but I'm getting to grips with it
I am naturally left-handed which probably helps. I'm also using mouse mats with wrist gel supports.
It's hard to say at such an early stage, as to how well this may work out, but my right wrist is
starting to ache less already.   

Anyone else with RSI experiences ?

cheers
Pete

 

Bill Binkelman

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Re: Ergonomically speaking...
« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2008, 09:36:20 AM »
I've been doing office work with keyboards non-stop (first with CRTs and then personal computers) since my stint at IBM, starting in 1976. I began experiencing some wrist, shoulder, arm pain in the late '80s. At the same time, I also developed (what is now chronic) upper back and neck pain. A friend told me to give her chiropractor a try for the latter. So I started seeing her chiropractor for the back and neck pain. As we talked over a few appointments, he explained that lots of carpal tunnel damage can be reversed by chiropractic since the source is really not always in the wrist or arm. Anyway, I was skeptical, but since he started treating me, no problems at all, even when I was working full-time and then going home and working on the magazine 30-40 hours a week.

And no, I don't see him often at all...some years I have only seen him 2 or 3 times. But by keeping me aligned, I have almost no issues at all with keyboard/mouse related pain...and I have TERRIBLE posture when I type/surf and don't follow any of the usual ergonomic guidelines at all (e.g. don't use a drop down tray for my keyboard; it sits on my desk "higher" than it's supposed to be).

I wouldn't be able to function without my chiropractor...and he practices what's called "activated" chiro, which is not bone-cracking but instead uses a small 100 percent painless spring loaded device to make the adjustments.

mgriffin

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Re: Ergonomically speaking...
« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2008, 09:54:30 AM »
I was about to add something that Bill just hinted at...

I've had problems with wrist, shoulder and lower-back pain, all associated with how much time I spend sitting in front of a computer.  I've tried various solutions and found that it's less important which mouse and keyboard I use, and much more important what position I take (sitting straight and aligned, not slumped in my chair, and making sure not to have my shoulder strained or my wrist at an angle). 

Also it really makes a difference to address the strength and flexibility of the areas in question.  Stronger muscles are more likely to withstand this kind of stress without any trouble, and the same goes for flexibility.  You can do yourself a lot more good with strength, flexibility, and proper alignment at work, than you can with an unusual keyboard or mouse... not that there's anything wrong with getting a good mouse and keyboard as well. 
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Scott M2

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Re: Ergonomically speaking...
« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2008, 10:34:52 AM »
I'm a righty but when my right wrist gets sore these days I move my mousepad to the left of my keyboard for a month or two and that gives my right wrist time to recover. I've gotten pretty used to it. This is only for the dayjob, as my current setup at home is less spacious/flexible and I couldn't work too well with photoshop or such with my left.

petekelly

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Re: Ergonomically speaking...
« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2008, 01:11:24 PM »
I'm fortunate in that I only have problems with my right wrist and shoulder, not neck or back.
In my case, I don't think it's about muscle strength / flexibility - it's more about sheer
repetition. Naturally, 'correct' posture is a contributing factor.

The unique thing about this mouse, is that it forces a handshake-like position, which I find to be
more comfortable, and perhaps more significantly, learning to using both hands for the mice will
lighten the repetitve load.

Scott, did it take you long to use your left-hand 'fluently' ? I'm finding it's coming on quicker
than I would have thought.

cheers
Pete

jkn

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Re: Ergonomically speaking...
« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2008, 01:19:43 PM »
I've had hand/wrist/forearm problems since I was about 19... (I'm 38 now...) - too much playing the piano then - and I have small wrists which might or might not be involved.    I then fell into a career behind a computer as an IT analyst (databases/programming/whatever...)  - so - that didn't help.    

It got so bad last fall that I went in for an NCV test (they shock you in your arms/hands... a lot) - which tests for nerve damage and carpal tunnel.  I didn't have carpal tunnel (though I'm "pre-carpal tunnel" like pretty much everyone else my age).    It got so bad again this year that my family doc sent me to a neurologist.    He examined me and on my first visit said "well, medical science just doesn't have all the answers" - so I had a feeling this wasn't going to be conclusive...   he had me get an MRI of my neck to rule out "big" problems - which I didn't have any (except the normal for my age arthritis and compression in my spine).   He said I could get an EMG test (which involves sticking a lot of wires into your muscles...), but that he didn't feel he'd find anything conclusive.  So why do it?    

He told me to come back and see him when I can't bear it any longer.

Things I changed over the years that helped...

1)   Stopped practicing piano when I was 19...  at that time I had two piano teachers and was practicing hours and hours a day, played in the college jazz band on piano (I played jazz trumpet in high school... as if anyone here cares!  ha!), and was playing keys in a band.      My band at that point ended - and my next band I picked up bass instead of keys - I love bass - it felt so amazingly good in my hands - and was a good shift in muscle usage.     I dropped my piano teachers, etc...  

2)   Got my first real job - and low and behold - a couple years later I'm an IT guy.   Totally a falling into it - I had the talent for data - kind of like with my music.   So years later after a lot of time in front of a computer my problems started getting worse again.

3)   Mice...  regular mice kill me after prolonged usage - it took me a long time to realize it.   About 8 years ago I switched to a large trackball - a Kensington Expert Mouse.    I will say that those mice with a trackball only for your thumb - holy cow those are evil!

4)   I stopped playing computer based games.   I found that consoles are much more ergonomically friendly.   My xbox controller was great - and now with the Wii... woo hooo... great fun.

5)  I listened to our ergo expert at work...  she rearranged my desk - my chair - got me sitting better.    Last year I asked for a keyboard tray and got it and that's helped tremendously.

6)  I can no longer hold a telephone up to my ear for more than about 1 minute.   Work bought me a headset last year - and I bought a bluetooth set for my cell phone.   I won't talk to people for longer than about a minute if I don't have a headset handy - otherwise I'm in pain for hours.

7)  I wear wrist gaurd things at night.   They have a metal splint in them - velcro together.   It was a bit of an inconvenience at first - but what was happening is I'd sleep with my hands all bent and in weird positions... the wrist gaurds keep the pressure off.  

8)  I've accepted this isn't going to go away and quit complaining about it very often.    (I still whine sometimes... ha!)   But what can you do?    My doctors told me the best advice - if it hurts, stop doing it.    Sounds silly - but look for the things that wear you out and start shifting those things around until they don't hurt.

9)  Exercise!   Wow - that's such a biggie.    

10)  Stretch!   Wow - that's also such a biggie.

  
John Koch-Northrup .: jkn [AT] johei.com .: owner / artist .: http://relaxedmachinery.com .: http://twitter.com/jkn .: http://flickr.com/johei

APK

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Re: Ergonomically speaking...
« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2008, 02:17:43 PM »
I've had some problems. And like John, also with prolonged piano playing.

I've lowered the mouse where I work (and raised my seat) and found it works well. You have to get the arm straight out rather than with the wrist at an angle when mousing. Did the same for my main midi keyboard for playing softsynths. Lowered it. Now its not bad at all.

Piano is still a problem, but I play it anyway and the pain goes away after a while. Its different from the mouse, so its not a compounded thing.

I don't think type of mouse is the final solution, its more the position of you relative to the mouse.
I used to use a track ball mouse that I velcroed sideways to a small shelf unit because it felt better at that angle.
But I use a regular mouse in the usual way now. Its that wrist angle you have to watch.

I shake my hand out occasionally too. Seems to help.
I also drink a lot of wine .. it definitely helps  ;)
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jkn

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Re: Ergonomically speaking...
« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2008, 02:55:58 PM »
Interestingly - my neurologist loves that I play piano and still can play without too much pain from the arthritis.   He encouraged me to keep playing (in moderation) as it's great exercise for my hands. 
John Koch-Northrup .: jkn [AT] johei.com .: owner / artist .: http://relaxedmachinery.com .: http://twitter.com/jkn .: http://flickr.com/johei

Scott M2

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Re: Ergonomically speaking...
« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2008, 11:32:44 AM »

Scott, did it take you long to use your left-hand 'fluently' ? I'm finding it's coming on quicker
than I would have thought.

cheers
Pete


Hi Pete - No, surprisingly it didn't take too long at all - though some people freak out a little when then use my computer.
At home & at work I try to remember to remove my hand from the mouse when I'm not actually using it and that also takes away
some of the irritation to the bone on the outside of my wrist.

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Re: Ergonomically speaking...
« Reply #9 on: November 21, 2008, 01:59:37 PM »
I will say that those mice with a trackball only for your thumb - holy cow those are evil!

I have to agree with you there, I had one of those my first year in grad school. After a few months of using it for several hours a day I would get shooting pains in my shoulder. It took about five years for the pains to completely go away after I stopped using it. That's really been about the only problems I have had, I still use a regular mouse and  don't really have any problems.
Take care.

- Loren Nerell

jim brenholts

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Re: Ergonomically speaking...
« Reply #10 on: November 21, 2008, 04:11:45 PM »
i use a computer for 3 - 4 hours a day and i write a lot as well. i had carpal tunnel surgery on both wrists in mar/apr of 06 (not at the same time) and have had no problems since than. the nerve and disc problems in my back were caused by different circumstances.
all the best and God bless
jim
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