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Computers and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Studied 365

pioneer writes "An article on MSNBC.com reports that a Danish study has found that computer use is not a significant risk factor for carpal tunnel syndrome. Not sure about you, but I spent a lot of time learning dvorak and kinesis to prevent just that... the 'inevitable' onslaught of RSI/carpal tunnel/etc."
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Computers and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Studied

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  • by jabbadabbadoo ( 599681 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:15AM (#6180880)
    ...the wrist can hurt for many reason.
  • by sweeney37 ( 325921 ) * <<mikesweeney> <at> <gmail.com>> on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:15AM (#6180882) Homepage Journal
    But what about that other activity that is associated with a man, and his wrist. Is it a significant risk factor?

    I'm asking....for a friend.

  • Arr Laddy! (Score:5, Funny)

    by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:16AM (#6180896)
    Tell this to me Captin Jello! I got the Hook to replace my hand loss from Carpal Tunnel. And I lost an Eye from it too. Arr!
  • Not Ineveitable (Score:5, Interesting)

    by msheppard ( 150231 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:17AM (#6180900) Homepage Journal
    My opinion is that the younger you started the less likely you are to have problems. I've been at a keyboard since before 10yrs old, and now, over 30, I don't have any problems at all, either eye sight or wrist/hand related. No special keyboards, no left/right hand mouse switching.

    • Re:Not Ineveitable (Score:5, Informative)

      by Troed ( 102527 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:25AM (#6180983) Homepage Journal
      I started using computers with a mouse when I was 12, and I've had extreme problems. I'm now using a mouse with my left hand (I'm right-handed) at home, a trackball (centered in front of the keyboard) at work. I also use a natural keyboard at work and a normal at home. If I sit extended periods of time I get a tingling/freezing feeling in my index fingers (yeah, I'm not touch typing fully) and I regulary have neck pains and pains in my upper arms.

      I seriously question this study - I've seen numerous fellow employees at various companies who have dealt with their RSI problems in different ways. (Here's one tip for managers: raise the temperature! Sitting in a cold draft only worsens things).
      • Re:Not Ineveitable (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:50AM (#6181206)
        Actually, the more likely cause is the fact that most people lean on their elbows. This cause inflamation of the ulner nerve, which results in tingling in the fingers, usually starting with the pinky fingers. This can be solved quite easily by wearing elbow pads for a period of a week to 3 weeks, and taking a Super B Complex vitamin daily.

        Same symptoms as Carpal Tunnel, different reason.
      • I had to switch to a trackball because a mouse and its clicks ruined two of my fingers.

        To minimize any further injury I do not play video games or other repetitive type programs.

        But these days if I write quite a bit (am a professional technical author) I can get it after about two or three weeks of solid writing.

        If the study looked at Europeans, of course it would make sense. Europeans actually have to work at the computer to get any type of injury! ;) Seriously though Europeans tend not to use the com
      • Re:Not Ineveitable (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Transient0 ( 175617 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:53AM (#6181227) Homepage
        > I seriously question this study - I've seen
        > numerous fellow employees at various companies
        > who have dealt with their RSI problems in
        > different ways.

        I have to agree. I happen to currently work at a centre for adaptive technology people with disabilities. A pretty significant portion of our clientele are people with Repetitive Strain Injury and of those I'd estimate about 90 percent are coders or professional writers. I haven't made a graph or calculated p-values for this, but from what I remember of my undergrad stats course, I would say that that is a pretty damn significant correlation.

        There are several varieties of RSI of which CTS is only one and not the most common. I notice that the article never mention the larger family of RSIs. I wonder if this is intentional. Perhaps keyboard use does not significantly increase risk for CTS but does for other RSIs and this is a matter of selective reporting by the researchers.

        I'm concerned that this might just be a half assed study, but that it might end up being quoted to prevent a lot of people who definitely deserve work hazard or disability compensation from receiving it.
        • Re:Not Ineveitable (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ImpTech ( 549794 )
          > ...from what I remember of my undergrad stats course, I would say that that is a pretty damn significant correlation.

          From what I remember from my stats course, correlation does not imply causality.

          Sorry, I couldn't resist that. Truthfully, I find this study hard to believe too.
        • Re:Not Ineveitable (Score:5, Interesting)

          by malia8888 ( 646496 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @10:38AM (#6181619)
          Transient0 lightly touched on what could be a key point in this study. He said, "I'm concerned this might be just a half assed study, but that it might end up being quoted to prevent a lot of people who definitely deserve work hazard or disability compentsation from receiving it."

          From the article, The research, appearing in this weekâ(TM)s Journal of the American Medical Association, was conducted by the Department of Occupational Medicine, Herning Hospital, Herning, Denmark, with financing from the Danish Medical Research Council and the Danish Ministry of Employment, National Work Environment Authority.

          Perhaps our Danish Slashdotters could fill us in about the organizations who funded this study. It very well could have been funded by government or insurance interests who have money to save by not having to pay for work related injuries.

          I would look it up in Google and do the research for myself. I would also expound upon my research results at length; however, my eyes are sore from this monitor glare and my wrists are killing me.

      • Do you exercise? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by SPYvSPY ( 166790 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @10:04AM (#6181316) Homepage
        It seems to me that a lot of people complaining about RSI are in crap shape to begin with. Obviously, if you rarely stretch your body and use it in an atheletic capacity, (or if you are an athelete, but you don't properly stretch) it will start catching up to you. In my experience, everyone should stretch as much as one full hour per day, and they should begin with an even more intense regimen to establish good baseline flexibility. It is *amazing* how many aches and pains are due to stiff muscles in your back and legs. For the record, I've never had any RSI, and I've been using computers for an average of 6+ hours a day for twenty years. When I see someone complaining about RSI (which most people in their mid-thirties eventually do in my office), I view them as equivalent to lard-ass, McDonald's eaters that complain about having back pain. Hello?! Do something about your *real* problem (being inflexible (or fat)) before you get some surgery on your hand.
        • Re:Do you exercise? (Score:2, Informative)

          by Troed ( 102527 )
          Yeah, I'm fit, and I do/have done both sports, athletics and weight lifting. I don't touch McDonalds nor Coca Cola ..
        • 6+ hours a day? I probably wouldn't have any problems if I only worked 6 hours a day. Why don't you try putting in 10 hours of mouse intensive CAD/schematic entry, and then I'll be more inclined to listen to you talk out your lazy ass.
        • erm , does sleeping count as stretching ? the only exercise i get involves a lot of wrist usage too.
        • by jmichaelg ( 148257 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @12:59PM (#6183165) Journal
          Gee, your post sounds like how I used to sound and your profile certainly explains why I got RSI. I only was running 3 miles every other day and lifting weights. I had been coding for 25 years with nary a problem so I figured the RSI crowd was a bunch of wankers. Until one period where I typed straight for 14 hours/day for 3 weeks. That particular type of work with no breaks while the compiler did its thing or I stared at a screen trying to understand where the bug was lurking led me directly to RSI. The running and weight work were for naught when compared to not holding my wrists properly while I typed.

          Yeah, you sound just like I used to sound till I experienced RSI first hand. Funny how experience will change your viewpoint.

    • Re:Not Ineveitable (Score:5, Insightful)

      by andy1307 ( 656570 ) * on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:40AM (#6181130)
      Its been less than 10 years since a large number of people have started using computers everyday. It's too early to predict the long term health effects. Someone i know had real bad back pains because of her posture when she used a computer. 20 years from now, a significant percentage of us could suffer from things like back aches and bad eyesight...It's just too early to say.
      • 20 years from now, a significant percentage of us could suffer from things like back aches and bad eyesight.

        Very likely. But the backaches will be much more a function of lack of exercize and being overweight than because of computer use. Eyesight is another matter. There are ways to mitigate damage resulting from continuous monitor use but, whatever one does, there is an undoubted effect.

    • I started using a keyboard when I was 8-ish, and am now 23, and the only times when I ever have a problem with keyboards is if I'm playing an fps game and I haven't set up the keys properly and have to twist my hand to press several keys at the same time. Otherwise, I use computers all day long and never get any wrist problems.

    • Re:Not Ineveitable (Score:3, Informative)

      by Surak ( 18578 ) *
      There's actually a lot of factors that contribute to carpal tunnel. I'm the same as you, I have no problems and have never used special keyboards or R/L hand mouse switching. A programmer friend of mine has to wear the wrist braces because his CTS is so bad, and he also started when he was young.

      Some things include factors such as your own work habits. For instance, do you take breaks from the keyboard and mouse? I take a break every couple of hours to stretch my legs, otherwise I start to get that cra
    • Re:Not Ineveitable (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mshumphr ( 105220 )
      I don't think starting age is involved, actually. To me, it appears to be a strength of the hands thing. I have some of the symptoms of carpal tunnel and have fought off repeated stress injury. Four fingers tingled from the impact of hitting keys too much. I know a guy who has extremely severe carpal tunnel, to the point that he needed surgery back in high school.. He and I both started using computers before we were ten years old, and we are both around 25 now. We also have similarly structured hands
    • Re:Not Ineveitable (Score:2, Insightful)

      by musicmaker ( 30469 )
      I would have to disagree with this also. I started programming when I was nine, and started to have trouble with my wrists when I hit 21 (also about two years after I learned how to touch type). I have since switched to an ergonomic keyboard which has cleared up the problem completely.

      In Europe there are pretty strict regulations about the environment around VDU workers (people sitting at a computer). I have to wonder if many people's problem is not their environment. I have seen far too many people lo
    • This is like saying the younger you start smoking the more likely you are to have problems. One of the key words in RSI is R - repetitive, the more you do something the worse it gets.
  • by Surak ( 18578 ) * <surak@mail[ ]cks.com ['blo' in gap]> on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:17AM (#6180905) Homepage Journal
    I've been using computers for heavily decades and I've never had any real effects from it all. Ow! Now only if that tingling in my hands would go away...

  • Dutch study? (Score:5, Informative)

    by stefanvt ( 75684 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:18AM (#6180911)
    Actually the article says it's a Danish study ...
    • Cheese or raspberry? I prefer cheese myself. Mmm...Awrey's Cheese Danishes... :)
    • Okay. Either I misread it the first time over, or the editor in charge already changed it (I hope the latter, otherwise eye sight problems might have been induced by severe monitor use)

      But to reply on the matter at hand (no pun intended), any sort of work which forces you into the same type of repetitive movements or the same position for hours on end, has serious health repercussions. If this study 'proves' (for as far as you can do that in a statistical study) that computer keyboard use isn't the primary
  • As I write this... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jerk City Troll ( 661616 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:19AM (#6180923) Homepage
    ...both of my wrists are cramping up. The more I type, worse my wrists get. Sadly, I'm a programmer. That doesn't help things. I cannot agree with a study that tries to disassociate repetitive motion with RMI. That's just bologna.
    • by Surak ( 18578 ) *
      The cramping of wrists actually has nothing to do with CTS. CTS != RSI, but CTS is ONE kind of RSI, as someone else pointed out. You could have an RSI, but not necessarily CTS.


      • ..nothing to do with CTS. CTS != RSI, but CTS is ONE kind of RSI..

        Shit I must need another cup of coffee, for a split second I was thinking "Why is this guy talking about RS232 signals?"
  • I just figured (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jonjohnson ( 568941 )

    that since I've been using computers since 1st grade (I'm now out in the world working), that it was a load of crap.

    Also, my eyesight hasn't gotten worse, it's better.

    Oh well, I wonder how long until that study comes out.

  • by Comatose-M ( 448331 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:20AM (#6180937) Homepage
    But I know for a fact that a 10 hour playstation session can cause me to develop some awful pain in my fingers.

    Is Nintendo thumb an accepted medical term yet?
  • As far as I can tell carpal tunnel syndrome occurs mostly in people with desk jobs that involve computers, not industrial work, which was mentioned as a possible cause in the study. If it's not keyboard use then what is it?
    • I developed problems when learning to inline-skate. When I'd lose my balance, I'd throw myself forward so I could 'controllably' plant onto my hands and break my fall. Guess what? RSI-type wrist pain. Doctor said "Don't skate, or don't fall".

      It's not what you do repetitively, it's how you do it. It's about repetitive stress. Keyboard (or whatever) in a comfortable manner that doesn't unduly stress your body and no pain will result.
    • As far as I can tell carpal tunnel syndrome occurs mostly in people with desk jobs that involve computers, not industrial work,

      that is a very bad statement...

      Go to a foundry and talk to the guys that use the hand grinders all day... extended vibration while holding a grinder will give you carpal tunnel faster than any desk jockey can dream up a new icon.

      Factory work and foundry work will give you this and many MANY more problems lickedy-split!

      office workers and programmers have it really fricking ea
  • CTS != RSI (Score:5, Informative)

    by squarooticus ( 5092 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:20AM (#6180948) Homepage
    If the article header is accurate, then Pioneer should be informed that carpal tunnel syndrome is only an INSTANCE of RSI, and the two are not equal. It is, in fact, still possible that every single other type of RSI has computer use as a significant risk factor and not contradict this study.
    • If the article header is accurate, then Pioneer should be informed that carpal tunnel syndrome is only an INSTANCE of RSI, and the two are not equal.

      Good point. I'm amazed how poorly people (including most reporters) grasp the distinction between the larger issue of RSI and the specific problem of carpal tunnel syndrome. I've been battling RSI myself for a year, and continue to be asked (by the same people!) if I'm going to need surgery for carpal tunnel, etc.
  • by BreadMan ( 178060 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:22AM (#6180965)
    Says the article:

    According to the (U.S.) National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a 2001 study conducted by the Mayo Clinic also found that heavy computer use â" up to seven hours a day â" did not increase the userâ(TM)s risk of developing the injury.

    I don't know about you, but my computer usage averages about 10 hours a day. However, I don't know if I actually type for 7 hours out of the ten, after factoring in meetings and other productivity boosters.

    I worry more about my eyes than wrists. I may not be typing 100 wpm constantly, but I am looking at my monitors even when not typing.
  • I'll still have better visual skills [slashdot.org] than those without it!

    Pretty fair trade, I think. So there! heh.

  • Then how... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Eythian ( 552130 )

    If this is the case, I wonder how it came to be that computer use was associated with RSI/carpal tunnel.

    I had always heard (can anyone verify this?) that it was mouse use, in particular with scroll-wheels, that was the main offender.

  • Kinesis? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Tickenest ( 544722 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:27AM (#6181003) Homepage Journal
    but I spent a lot of time learning dvorak and kinesis to prevent just that

    Maybe if he'd put some more time into telekinesis he'd still have a useful skill.
  • True (Score:5, Interesting)

    by macemoneta ( 154740 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:27AM (#6181006) Homepage
    Computer use is no more a cause for repetitive stress injuries than any other activity. The difference is that people don't seem to stop for a while when their bodies tell them to.

    I've been keyboarding long days for 26+ years now (and "mousing" since 1984). When I start to feel a little cramped, I stop for a few minutes. No carpel tunnel injuries.

    Likewise, my vision hasn't changed over the same period, for the same reason. Eyes get tired? Stop. Look around (at a distant object). Close them for a minute.

    Repetitive stress injuries are self-inflicted wounds. The psychology behind the activity would be more interesting to read about, but I haven't seen any articles on that subject.
  • Personal experience (Score:2, Interesting)

    by 1000101 ( 584896 )
    Just like most of you, I've been typing on computers for years. I've never experienced any sort of Carpal Tunnel due to typing. This doesn't mean I'm immune however. Last year I painted the interior of my entire house and suffered severe wrist pain and numbness. My wife is a Physical Therapist and diagnosed me with Carpal Tunnel. For me anyway, computer keyboards are harmless.
  • mouse is a problem (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BenjyD ( 316700 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:29AM (#6181017)
    From the article:

    The researchers said they did find an association between use of a mouse for more than 20 hours a week and a slightly elevated risk of a possible problem but no statistically significant association with keyboard use.

    So mouse usage is a problem, but the keyboard isn't. Guess I should stop playing Battlefield 1942 at work then.
  • by wfmcwalter ( 124904 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:29AM (#6181018) Homepage
    M-x show-mappings

    C-M-g pain
    C-M-G agony
    C-M-T paralysis

    Look at the inventors of *emacs: Stallman - CTS. Gosling - CTS. Zawinsky - weird. Wing - bald.

    In the absence of "emacs peddles", the confirmed emacs user is doomed (dooomed).

    (in next week's exciting episode: "Perl and your spermcount - the shocking truth").
  • by willith ( 218835 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:30AM (#6181038) Homepage
    Typing doesn't cause carpal tunnel, or any other RSI. Improper wrist positioning will do it, though. "Traditional" touch-typing on a QWERTY keyboard (fingers on the home row, ASDF JKL;) crimps up your wrists and is just bloody unnatural.

    I've been typing since I was five--I'm twenty-five now. I type at ~100WPM. Because I'm self-taught, I don't use the traditional touch-type method. When I type, my hands are at about a 45 degree angle to the keyboard; if I had a "home row", it would be something like QSDC MKLP. I hit whichever key with whichever finger is closest. My wrists stay straight and uncrimped.

    I type multiple hours per day, every day, and I don't suffer fatigue, carpal tunnel, RSI, or any of that other business. My touch-typing coworkers walk around with braces on each wrist, and gingerly ease themselves down in front of split-key ergo keyboards and start wincing when they have to type for more than a few minutes.

    Keyboarding doesn't cause RSI. Traditional, wrist-crimping touch-typing causes RSI.
    • Amen brother! I know what you're talking about ... I'm 28 and have been typing extensively since I was about 12. Most days I type all 8 hrs long then go home and do so even more. I've never had any signs of carpal tunnel, and even if my wrists did ache a little I know to take a quick break...
    • Interesting, I'm also a self-taught typist, and my hands are at a slight angle when I'm typing too. My "home rows" are about the same as yours. I used to wonder if I'd do better if I learnt to type "properly", but now I'm not so sure.
    • Wow.. I describe my typing style to friends exactly the way you describe yours. I didn't think anyone else in the world typed this way ^_^

      I use computers a good 10 hours a day (work for IBM, play at home, work from home, etc..), and yet I've never had one whit of a problem with my wrists/arms/fingers/hands.

      We need to spread the word ;^)
    • by maw ( 25860 )
      Ah, kindred typist :) I've never had any problems due to typing either. However, be careful about excessive mousing - I did have pains in my right hand from excessive mousing. Taking off a long weekend away from computers helped, as did buying a mousepad with a wrist support.
  • While still in college (10+yrs ago) I developed CTS in both wrists while working on a landscaping crew. I've found it doesn't slow me down at the keyboard now-a-days ... I'm a fulltime programmer

  • Do what? (Score:2, Informative)

    by vbprisoner ( 676611 )
    Try telling this to the people (about 6) I know who have had supportive treatments and/or operations.

    It has occured to me that all these people are females in their 40's or 50's, who are generally receptionists, keying in data whilst on the phone.

    I've had a mild case & switching to one of the specialist keyboards has helped. I use a Fingerworks [fingerworks.com] TouchStream ST - excellent but it takes some getting used to, is a right old pain if you work in the UK and need to use the £ sign (character
  • by rkent ( 73434 ) <rkent&post,harvard,edu> on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:33AM (#6181058)
    With all due respect to my computer-using brethren, I can entirely understand this and have long suspected the same.

    Carpal-Tunnel and RSI were originally diagnosed in women who worked at "sweatshop" textile factories in the early part of the industrial revolution. Sewing is WAY harder on your hands than typing, and so it probably ran rampant in that environment. But there was almost no treatment; women were by and large told to "suck it up" and stop complaining, because it was "just" pain afterall, it's not like they broke anything.

    It wasn't until millions of white men started working with keyboards and a VERY SMALL percentage of them got RSI, that it became worthy of national attention. And so now, if you get diagnosed with RSI, you can get disability pay, early retirement, or at least many ergonomic adjustments to facilitate your recovery... IF you're white.

    One of the groups who suffer RSI at a much higher rate than computer users: meat packers. Today's meat packing plants run 2-3 times faster, sometimes more, than their historical counterparts, and some cutters have to slice through 60-80 pounds of meat over 100 times an hour. I promise, this will burn out your wrists WAY faster than writing an ActiveX module. But most meat plant workers are Hispanic, and/or non-English speakers. They get $9 an hour, minimal benefits, and, like women in textile factories of old, are usually told to shut up and quit if they don't like it when their wrists are in searing pain.

    So, by and large CT/RSI is an affluent white excuse to complain about jobs we aren't "satisfied" with. The people who are truly suffering from these conditions are largely ignored and always have been.
    • There is no question that meat packing is a far more dangerous occupation than is keyboard work (and likewise more dangerous is sweatshop textile work). Not a lot of computer programmers suffer amputated limbs from what they do at work, nor even autoimmune reactions from constant cuts. And RSI is much worse in meat packing (and fish processing still more so).

      But that's a somewhat incomplete observation. While there is certainly racism, sexism, and class bias underlying what gets medical focus, especiall
  • Wanking jokes aside, are RSI problems specifically associated with touch typing? I know how to type without looking at the keyboard, but I've never managed to get through the initial pain barrier until it becomes natural. I don't find it affects my productivity, except when I post to Slashdot. The problems I need to solve when programming are difficult enough that typing speed isn't a bottleneck.
  • Could it be that ten-finger-typing as it was invented for typewriters is dangerous? I mean, RSI is caused by repetitive small movements, and 10-finger typing was invented to keep movement small. Combined with the little way keys on a typical keyboard travel compared to keys on a typewriter, I see a possible connection. Now, if you type like me (all fingers in use, travel pattern could be used as random generator for cryptography), movements are far larger. As for the mouse: play a shooter now and then, it w

  • Repetitive Stress Injury is what I have. You get it from doing the same thing for extended periods of time like keyboarding. It has varying symptoms (for me, it's sore knuckles). Carpal Tunnel is a specific malady which may or may not be related to repetitive stress. Some RSI symptoms are very similar to some Carpal Tunnel symptoms.
  • by Verteiron ( 224042 ) * on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:39AM (#6181121) Homepage
    I've been typing since I was about 6... at age 20 or so I began to experience symptoms of a RSI, tingling fingers, burning pain in the wrist, etc etc. So I took some steps. I got an ergonomic keyboard for home, and those gel pads that supposedly help you keep your wrists up. The tingling got worse and worse over the next few weeks. What seemed to hurt the worst was actually resting my wrist on the pad while typing. So I stopped. I began typing by keeping my hands in the air at all times, keeping the backs of my hands level with my forearms, and letting my fingers fall down to the keyboard rather than reaching out toward it. It looked weird, but it was the only way I could type without wincing.

    The pain was gone within 2 weeks. The last the of tingling faded away (except in the pinky of my right hand, which seems to be related to mouse use) a month or so later. As long as I keep up this spidery-looking typing style, my hands don't hurt.

    Might be worth a try to those of you experiencing pain.
    • I began typing by keeping my hands in the air at all times, keeping the backs of my hands level with my forearms, and letting my fingers fall down to the keyboard rather than reaching out toward it.

      In other words, you started typing in exactly the pose recommended by your 8th grade typing book.

    • That would be because it is a wrist rest. You are supposed to rest your wrists on it when you stop typing.

      As other posters have mentioned, the correct typing position is with your wrists straight, your hands hovering over the keyboard, and your fingers dangling down (relaxed) to press the keys. The intent of the wrist rest is that when you stop typing, you do not rest your wrists on the desk and bend them backwards as your fingers rest on the raised keyboard.

      Used correctly, a wrist rest can help relieve

  • by giminy ( 94188 )
    I've been typing every day for years and I never got caaaaaaaaaaaaaah
  • DVORAK is crap? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thatguywhoiam ( 524290 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:42AM (#6181154)
    The submitter learned a Dvorak keyboard to combat RSI? What's with that?

    Somebody correct me if I'm wrong (I can certainly count on that around here...) but I thought it was pretty widely accepted that the Dvorak keyboard being faster or better is a myth. [urbanlegends.com]


    Alright, a quick Google reveals that this is not commonly accepted. [angelfire.com] The defense is pretty shaky thought ("the Navy wouldn't do that.")

    Anyways, repetitive movements are what cause the (quetionable) RSI condition, and I don't see how changing the keyboard layout would help, short of something more radical like one of those Logitech/MS 'natural' keyboards... and I don't believe Dvorak is inherently any faster than Qwerty; when comparing two people who know both very well, the typing speeds are probably the same.

    You'd do much better to lower your keyboard to take the strain off your wrists. Most people keep their keyboards too high.

    • Re:DVORAK is crap? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by pioneer ( 71789 )
      Somebody correct me if I'm wrong (I can certainly count on that around here...) but I thought it was pretty widely accepted that the Dvorak keyboard being faster or better is a myth.

      Dvorak is not crap. When people watch me type they usually comment that my fingers hardly move. I watch people type on a qwerty and their fingers are all over the place for most words. Dvorak is optimized for the english language and most words can be typed on the home row. (~1600 to be specific).

      About the military (lack of)
  • When I first joined the Society for Risk Analysis, I was warned to watch out for industry-funded research, since it often failed the straight-face test. ("Can you honestly say that with a straight face?") Knowing quite a few people with carpal tunnel syndrome, I have some difficulty believing this report. Who funded the research?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    There is a big difference between CTS and RSI. Unfortunately, most people do not get that. CTS is relatively rare, extremely painful, and is very difficult to get rid of once you have it. CTS can sometimes be fixed by wrist surgery. The basic deal with CTS is that your carpal tunnel is too small for the goods running through it once they swell. You are in deep shyte if you get diagnosed with CTS

    RSI is basically tendinitis. There are a million causes for it and it is hard to track down. If you get i

  • Home row (Score:3, Interesting)

    by eGabriel ( 5707 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:50AM (#6181211) Homepage
    This asdf jkl; thing really cramps my style, to put it punnily. Since I was a wee lad, I have been typing in my own style, without any major trouble. A few times along the line I have tried to type in the traditional way, and since I mentally know where the keys are by now, can adjust well enough to type that way at a modest rate. I find, though, that my hands become cramped very quickly then, especially on my Happy Hacking keyboard, but even on my large IBM Model M.

    I have seen enough coworkers walking around with wrist braces bearing real enough grimaces to take the problem of wrist pain seriously, and don't think they were making it up. So I have experimented with "ergonomic" keyboards, including the Microsoft Natural. While it is comfortable to "touch type" on the Natural, it is even more comfortable to type my way. I believe it is because the way I type, my hands can always fall back to a relaxed position, elbows wherever they need to be, rather than the uncomfortable T-Rex arms I have when using the home row.

    These researchers conceded that mousing might be at fault, and I have found that the best thing I have done for wrist and shoulder comfort was to get a Happy Hacking and a small trackball. The sole reason being that getting rid of the numeric keyboard put the mousing device a good deal closer to my hand.
  • by takev ( 214836 )
    I use a computer about 80 hours a week, which
    is a lot I know. And a few months ago I got a pain in my left wrist, so I stopped and actualy took some sick leave.

    But even after a week it still was painfull to type, so I tried to find out why and I located the problem to using the ctrl key, which made my hand strain (especialy the ctrl-b and ctrl-f combinations).

    The solution was rather simple, I remamped my ctrl key to the caps-lock key (old keyboards actualy had the ctrl key there). And I disabled the old c
  • Ergonomic issues (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Schezar ( 249629 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:51AM (#6181217) Homepage Journal
    I've noticed that most people I've known who have these problems use low sensitivity settings for their mice, and often move their whole arm and wrist .

    Everyone else I know, however, uses extremely high sensitivity and accelleration settings. (I tweaked the reg keys in Windows to get it as high as I wanted.) I grip the mouse lightly with my fingers, and only they move. My wrist, my arm: both remain stationary. The mouse itself moves no more than a half-inch in any direction no matter what I'm doing (and at 1600px no less).

    I suppose the point I'm trying to make is that these problems are avoidable, and they're caused by poor practices more than anything else.

    In the infinite wisdom of the Polish Doctor from the old joke, "Stop doing that!"
  • by corvi42 ( 235814 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @09:57AM (#6181256) Homepage Journal
    if its not a significant risk, then why did I get nearly debilitating pain in my wrists when I coded all day long with a standard keyboard, but it went away as soon as I switched to an M$ natural keyboard? I'd never had such pain before, and since I've switched, I haven't had it return. I'd say that this pain was "caused" by the use of a lousy keyboard for long periods - but maybe I'm deluding myself.
    • if its not a significant risk, then why did I get nearly debilitating pain in my wrists when I coded all day long with a standard keyboard, but it went away as soon as I switched to an M$ natural keyboard? I'd never had such pain before, and since I've switched, I haven't had it return. I'd say that this pain was "caused" by the use of a lousy keyboard for long periods - but maybe I'm deluding myself.

      The answer is in your question. You changed the nature of the stress on your wrists. Maybe, by using the

  • by Anonymous Coward
    A long time ago in a land far, far away, I used to be a forest worker... you know, a lumberjack. I know people who *really* got carpel tunnel from swinging axes all day removing bush and I personally got carpel tunnel trimming trees (which involves hoisting a 30lb running chainsaw completely above my head) and brush. I *know* what real carpel tunnel feels like as your muscles and tendons rub the mylar insulation away from critical nevers that control your hand and arms. It feels like you just got hit wit
  • Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dasmegabyte ( 267018 ) <das@OHNOWHATSTHISdasmegabyte.org> on Thursday June 12, 2003 @10:01AM (#6181293) Homepage Journal
    I wonder if this is one of those cancer-in-rats things. Feed a rat some insane dosage of something and surprise surprise, that rat gets cancer. Then somebody finally does a study with normal exposure (e.g. typing MAYBE 10k-20k characters per diem) and finds that it doesn't hurt you.

    But what about those of use who use keyboards a LOT -- and use cramped, uncomfortable keyboards like those on laptops and palmtops a LOT. I mean, I am typing pretty much nonstop for about 16 hours a day. I have huge hands (with a size 12 ring finger) -- and sometimes, they just hurt. The 500k+ impacts per day on this click tactile keyboard can't be doing me any good. Am I the cancer rat? Can I safely ignore this stupid warning label engraved in my otherwise stylish black dell keyboard? Or can I expect the ligaments in my index finger to just tear one day, like a linebacker's ACL? Can you come back from such an injury? CAN I DROP MY LLOYDS' POLICY?!?
  • by Chilles ( 79797 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @10:02AM (#6181298)
    This article confirms what a few of my friends and I have been saying for a while. We all are very active computer users (>10h/day usually, using computers for at least 15 years), and we all only suffer from pain in the wrist when we allow our stress levels to rise to intolerable heights or when we're doing something we really dislike.
    From what I've seen in other people everybody who had severe wrist/arm/shoulder complaints that they were relating to their computer work was either:
    - Working under a lot of stress and/or time pressure for prolonged periods.
    - Not happy with their work or their work situation.
    I think that computer use puts you in a certain heightened risk group for RSI/carpal tunnel but in my opinion you only "get" RSI or carpal tunnel when you are under a lot of stress or generally not in a very relaxed/happy mental state.

    I find that when I voice this opinion in the real world, people tend to be very offended by it... so just for the record, this is not a troll.
  • by cyber_rigger ( 527103 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @10:05AM (#6181326) Homepage Journal
    I find that double clicks and having to go down to the lower left corner to start a program can be hard on your "mouse" wrist. I use the old "olvwm" and find it to be the most ergonomic for me. The worst one ever was Windows 3.1.
  • by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs AT ajs DOT com> on Thursday June 12, 2003 @10:06AM (#6181334) Homepage Journal
    Using a computer is not a significant risk. I think we all knew this. What *is* a significant risk is
    • Typing more than 10 hours per day without significant breaks every 1-2 hours.
    • Typing very repetitive, and/or difficult sequences for hours at a time (think Ctrl-Meta-Backspace-LeftElbow-Delete... in some applications).
    • pressure on wrists while typing (if you rest your wrists on the desk while typing, you need to break that habit!)
    From my own personal experience, here's what you need to do if you start to get warning signs (e.g. tingling wrists, fingers / pain in the elbow / numbness)
    • Take a break. Really, it helps a lot. And if you have a foozeball, air hockey or ping pong table THAT IS NOT A BREAK (do it, just don't count it as a break). Breaks should last 10-15 minutes and you should try to relax your wrists and arms.
    • Watch your posture. This really is key. There are many nerve-related problems that start with hunched shoulders especially. If you experience pain, try taking a break and rotating your shoulders forward and then back, slowly about 5 times each while hanging your arms at your side.
    I really hope this helps. Good luck to all you over-achieving hackers who make OSS possible! ;-)
  • by John_Booty ( 149925 ) <johnbootyNO@SPAMbootyproject.org> on Thursday June 12, 2003 @10:11AM (#6181386) Homepage
    I have this theory, totally unsupported by any study and supported only by my own personal experiences, that proper typing is one of the big causes of carpal tunnel / repetitive stress injuries.

    Think about it- "proper" typing is based around the concept of minimizing your hand/wrist/arm motion. With a limited range of movement, you're doing the same little movements over and over again.

    Myself, I'm a pretty fast typist, but I use sort of a modified hunt-and-peck method. I use about three fingers on each hand and I can basically hunt-and-peck AND touch type. Scary. But anyway, my hands are constantly roaming all over the keyboard like a pianist, almost... I actually feel like this really PREVENTS stress injuries, since I've got a wide range of motion going on.

    This is in addition to other, proper ergonomic measures such as arm rests on the chair, wrist rest in fron of the keyboard, etc... of course.
  • I work on a computer at least 10 hours a day almost every day and I've never had problems except one time I went on a two-week Vacation without a computer. Within a week my wrists started hurting. A couple days after returning home and using my computer I was fine.
  • Flawed Study? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WC as Kato ( 675505 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @10:17AM (#6181438)

    THE FINDING was based on a survey of nearly 7,000 workers... Computer use âoedoes not pose a severe occupational hazard for developing (the) symptoms,â the authors concluded.

    The article doesn't state what was on the survey but I have a suspicion that there is no distinction between a computer user and a person that is mainly a typists. I've been a programmer for many years and although I would be considered a heavy computer user, I would not be a heavy keyboard user. I type parts of the program, think, type some more, take a break, etc. I'm not like a key data entry person. That person would type non-stop for hours. I say that either the study is flawed and/or the article is too short on details.

  • Ok, maybe not carpal tunnel, but other repetetive stress injuries are very much a risk. I don't need a study to tell me that. My own arm/wrist problems coincided with the writing of my Master's thesis. When I took a week-long break from typing, the problem went away.
  • by docbrown42 ( 535974 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @10:25AM (#6181505) Homepage
    That damned little puck-mouse that came with the Mac G3s. I used one for almost 2 years, and because it didn't support my palm correctly, it screwed up my wrist. I know that shortly after they came out, you could buy a cover that gave wrist support, but my previous employer wouldn't buy one, so my wrist has problems.

    Of course, now I use trackballs almost exclusively, so it doesn't matter as much. Optical trackballs are SO nice!

  • The study mentions what I have personally felt for a while... With that numeric keypad tagged onto the keyboard, the mouse ends up being very far away... So I at one point started,sliding my keyboard left (I'm right handed) and found that while I started typing mostly with my left hand, keeping my right on the mouse I started getting cramps in my left so I had to move the keyboard back... but now I have to reach so much farther for my mouse, which will only be bad for my right hand. Why do we still have tho

    • Shamefully responding to my own post...I realized that I forgot to ask if the lefthanded slashdotters use those lefthanded keyboards [dsi-usa.com](numeric and qwerty opposite to what most people are used to) and if they find that these are more comfortable, for the reasons I described in that first post..

  • by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @10:33AM (#6181569) Journal
    Its not computer use specifically thats the problem, its improper posture and position. This has been known since shortly after the problem was recognized.

    I've used computers since I got my commodore 64 a little more than 15 years ago. Never had a problem, until this year.

    This year, I sliced open one of my fingers bad. The bandage I was wearing changed my typing position, and within the 12 or so days I had the bandages on, my wrists started hurting and my fingers tingled. The bandage and wrist pain is gone now, but my fingers still do tingle on occasion.
  • by barryfandango ( 627554 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @10:35AM (#6181585)
    My girlfriend is a registered massage therapist and often fixes me. I can tell you that as a user who is mousing/typing eight hours a day, my forearms (especially the mousing right arm) are not healthy. Instead of the supple, flexible muscle that is supposed to be there, when my gf works on it it's like just under the skin there are lumps of chewing gum with crunchy pieces in them.

    Thanks to her help i'm getting better, however, and can offer this advice:

    - find the working position that is optimal for muscle relaxation. I have two desks put together in an "L" shape with an armless chair, so i can rest my elbows up at the level of the keyboard. What kills your muscles is having them flexed (even gently) for a long period of time.

    - stretch every 30-60 minutes. I do these three forearm stretches and find them very effective:

    1. Hold your arm straight out. Bend your hand forward at the wrist, pulling it with your other hand until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold it for at least 30 seconds (it takes at least this long for muscle fibers to get the hint and release.

    2. do the same thing bending your hand backwards.

    3. this one is more complicated but is really the money stretch: hold your arm straight out in front of you, make a fist with your hand and hold it tight. Rotate your arm to that the thumb-side of your fist is facing outward. Now grab the fist with your other hand and pull it down and outwards, simultaneously bending the wrist and rotating the arm further. If done properly you should feel a nice stretch all through your forearm. Be gentle: it's more important to hold it longer than to push it harder.

    If you're a Canadian living in Ontario or BC, you can go see a Registered Massage Therapist - they do wonders, and can give you advice on stretching and posture. Also Active Release Therapy (or ART,) which is provided by certain RMT's and Chiropractors, is pure gold for more serious problems. I don't know what regulatory bodies exist in the states, but i know that in Canada's unregulated provinces (everywhere but BC and Ontario) a lot of massage workers are either foofie-lala new age aromatherapy types or borderline sex industry workers, as opposed to genuine health care providers - so be careful.
  • by dwvanstone ( 581420 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @10:35AM (#6181589)
    I've lived through an unfortunate bout of tendonitis. I was still experiencing tingling symptoms and arm pains and popping my anti-inflammatories after 8 months when I finally found a physical therapist who successfully pinpointed that I have very tight muscles in my neck (scalenes) and chest (pec minor) that are impinging on my circulation & nerves in my arms. When he works those muscles, I get referred tingles & pain in my arms.

    Through some Alexander technique [alexandertechnique.com] and structural integration [rolfguild.org] work (i.e., rolfing), I'm finally better.

    Whereas my regular doctor blamed computer usage and recommended I take off a few months from work, my PT believes this my symptoms were caused by poor posture over a lifetime - shoulders drooping forward, neck dropping forward. I believe the PT more than my doctor. (I have since changed doctors.)

  • if you do it right (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oogoody ( 302342 ) on Thursday June 12, 2003 @10:48AM (#6181708)
    From reading the posts it sounds like if you
    use the right keyboard, the right pressure,
    take breaks, have the right posture, etc then you'll be ok.

    All those preconditions sounds like there's a
    lot of risk to me. Rock climbing is safe if
    you do X, Y, Z. But if you don't, you are
  • I developed repetitive stress disorder/carpel tunnel disorder while working on my prelims during my PhD training. It came entirely from having to practically live in front of a computer manipulating a mouse hour after hour, day after day. The problem continues today so that I have to be careful about how I use my computer and for how long.

    My wife has also developed similar problems, only her's are more severe than mine...but for her is was not just the mouse/computer interface - it was a combination of

  • Frankly, right now I suspect video games can be a pretty big culprit.

    I think the PS2 dual shock, with their weird, analog-but-shouldn't-be buttons, are particularly bad, since the tactile feedback is so poor.

    Endless games of Tetris Attack / Pokemon Puzzle League prolly don't help though, and that's all Nintendo...
  • I had grown up typing, and playing music. My instruments of choice were clarinet and french horn.

    When I wasn't playing music, I could almost definitely be found on a keyboard (minus some other activities).

    After playing VERY frequently I started to feel pain my senior year in high school in my wrists/fingers/hands. These would be extremely sharp pains that would stop me from using my hands for at least a few minutes before starting up again.

    When I got to college I was on my computer ALL the time (CS Maj
  • RSI (carpal tunnel) is not something that hits you right away, like cigarette smoking it takes years for the symptoms to develop. And like cigarette smoking, there are a lot of people who have a financial interest in courts NOT considering this a safety hazard, in the case of RSI, often an occupational safety hazard. In fact, millions have been spent in lobbying to prevent RSI from being considered an occupation safety hazard. So I take everything I hear with a grain of salt. Frankly, I am rather cynica
  • by Reality_X ( 23422 )
    Well, I'm not sure, but my 9 months of CTS might contradict this finding.

    Let me just start off by saying that you wouldn't want to wish CTS on your worst enemy. It's not a pleasant experience.

    That out of the way, I can say, without a doubt, that typing was the cause of my CTS.

    I was hacking up an Ericsson PABX controller for many many hours for many many days. I wasn't taking breaks, I wasn't stretching, and I was using a mouse and a normal keyboard.

    At first my hands went numb on a Friday. I thought it w

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