Posts Tagged ‘RSI’

Getting Pain from Computer Use? It Could Be a Sign of Something Serious

2010/10/02 2 comments

I’ve been out of action for a while which explains why I haven’t posted anything for ages to my blog.  The story below explains why:

This is actually a story of something that happened to me (and still is) quite recently which caused me a great deal of pain whenever I tried to type on the keyboard, use a computer mouse, mobile phone, iPad, or even something as trivial as a remote control for the TV.

It started roughly around the end of June of this year when I noticed the side of my thumb on my left hand was feeling a bit numb when it was resting on the keyboard, usually near the space-bar.  After a few days it spread from my thumb to my index finger of the same hand but the numbness was primarily in the fingertip of the index finger rather than the side as it was on my thumb.

Sadly, over the next week it spread to the index and middle finger of my right hand.  Most of the pain here was when I was using the mouse buttons or even if I rested my right hand on top of the mouse and simply did nothing – that was enough to cause pain, which usually started after a few minutes!

In the end, both funds and all fingers (except for the pinkies) were affected and I would encounter numbness, tingling, burning sensation, sensation of skin peeling away when using the computer.  Using the keyboard and mouse was the worst.

(Looking back, my injury was caused by a variety of different devices that I was using at the same time, for far too much time in fact.  We suspect that the biggest culprit was a certain Multi-Touch tablet that came out this year)

Not really understanding what was going on, in an act of desperation I applied Band-Aids to all of my fingertips so that I could continue to type on the computer keyboard.  A bit silly I know.

After spending squillions of dollars on Band-Aids, I decided to man up and go and visit my local GP who referred me on to a Occupational Therapist who, after prodding my fingers with various needles diagnosed a probable case of carpal tunnel syndrome.  CTS is a rather nasty condition where the median nerve in the wrist becomes squished by the narrow space that runs in the "Tunnel" which runs between the bones near the wrist.  CTS can affect all fingers expect pinkies.

Luckily CTS was ruled out after my trip to the neurologist whose electric shock-inducing equipment zapped multitudes of electricity down my arm, wrist and fingers causing my hand to jump thereby proving the brain neuro signals are getting through okay.  Actually, I rather enjoyed my visit to the neurologist 🙂

Anyway, I’ve since spent the following time going to physio getting my wrists aided by ultrasound and learning how to do some really excellent exercises to strengthen my forearm, wrist, hand and fingers.  Now when I start to feel pain in my fingers, hands, wrists or for arms,  I know exactly which exercises best to relieve the pain.  It really helps to to take notice of how you sit at the computer as I discovered recently.  Over the years I’ve gotten into the habit of having a terrible typing posture.  

The exercises in addition to some rather spiffy ergonomic computer equipment has greatly helped in my recovery.  🙂 I’m actually dictating this article via the new Dragon Naturally Speaking 11 Professional software which I highly recommend.  Just make sure you have a really good high-quality microphone with noise cancelling ability like the brilliant Sennheiser BW900.  If you are working in a quiet room then the NC ability is probably not needed. In the case of microphones, it seems you really do get what you pay for. Try to get something for act least $200 AU or more and avoid anything from Logitech since their microphones have a bandwidth of something similar to a severely constipated nun.

Sennheiser BW 900 promotional video

If you are recovering from something similar to me, I highly recommend the items below:

Basically the vast majority of so called “ergonomic accessories” you buy in your local retailer is just crud without any medical approval or input, it pays to do some research:


Goldtouch Adjustable Ergonomic Keyboard.

This keyboard is brilliant!  It can be flat and together like a regular keyboard, or split open to reduce ulnar deviation, or raised and split for the best of both worlds.





Handshoemouse Ergonomic Mouse

EMG measurement set upJust because something is not square does not mean its ergonomic!  The mechanics are too complex to go into here (and I’m no expert anyway), but I love this mouse.  Check out their web site.









Wellnomics WorkPace

(Anti-RSI/OOS) Take a break software, exercise reminders, activity monitoring.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 Professional

The "voice recognition” software that seems to have been around since the dawn of computers.  If you won’t be using any serious macro-ing, then you probably won’t need the Professional version.


In Conclusion

Unless you are actually experiencing pain or are recovering, my personal opinion is much like we all have been told how to sit with the right posture but most (including me did not).  Devices such as these do seem to be better than your typical run of the mill variety but it might be the case that in much the same way most of us ignore the recommendations for good posture, most may ignore the suggestions for better equipment.

Especially if you are not suffering from an injury – you just might not appreciate what they have to offer and may be difficult to justify the expense perhaps.

Again, if you are unsure about ANYTHING see your doctor!

Take care.

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