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Input Devices Science

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Unrelated to Typing? 241

hug_the_penguin writes "Betanews is reporting about a Harvard medical school report that suggests Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is unrelated to typing at all. Suggested causes may be genetic disposition, body weight, fractured bones or even pregnancy." From the article: "Now, don't go out typing to your heart's content. Researchers still warned that improper computer use could cause different types of repetitive stress injuries, of which carpal tunnel is incorrectly described as one."
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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Unrelated to Typing?

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  • by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Friday December 16, 2005 @11:11AM (#14271648)

    Those science geeks over at Harvard need to devote their time to studying a much more debilitating form of RSI...namely, Nintendonitis [wikipedia.org] (also known as Nintendo Thumb [wordspy.com]) ^_^
  • Hmm... (Score:5, Informative)

    by MaestroSartori ( 146297 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @11:14AM (#14271662) Homepage
    I'd always been told it was pressure on the carpal tunnel that caused it, not finger movements. So typing with your wrists pressed against the corner of a desk (or in the case more familiar to me, playing bass guitar with the right wrist pressed against the top edge of the instrument) would cause it, not typing with a nice wrist rest or with hands held high, piano-style, above the desk...
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by IAmTheDave ( 746256 ) <basenamedave-sd@@@yahoo...com> on Friday December 16, 2005 @11:20AM (#14271701) Homepage Journal
      I'd always been told it was pressure on the carpal tunnel that caused it, not finger movements.

      Exactly, but what people should not take away from this article is that improper use of the keyboard still can be a contributing factor to carpal tunnel along with other RSIs. As a matter of a fact, my forearms feel more stress from working with the mouse than the keyboard - probably because I've trained in piano for years and thus actually keep my hands pretty properly placed above the keyboard.

      That said, programming for 7+ years has definately taken its toll on my arms/wrists/hands. Carpal tunnel or other RSIs, proper typing is a must.

      • Well, I have found that typing is the least of my worries regarding carpal tunnel syndrome. I have had a few minor bouts with it, but nothing major fortunately.

        I have found that use of a mouse is far more of a problem because it involves much more wrist movement than typing. Switching to a trackball is one of the things I did that made the biggest difference (and has allowed me to continue working with computers professionally).

        Oh, and a find ergonomic keyboards extremely annoying and of marginal help in
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by squoozer ( 730327 )

      I'm sure this will be mentioned by others I find that the mouse, rather than the keyboard, is the thing that really brings on RSI. I've asked around it seems quite a few people have come to the same conclusion but I've not really heard it mentioned in the press.

      • Re:Hmm... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @11:59AM (#14271983)
        === I'm sure this will be mentioned by others I find that the mouse, rather than the keyboard, is the thing that really brings on RSI. I've asked around it seems quite a few people have come to the same conclusion but I've not really heard it mentioned in the press. ===
        Stongly agree. And although aging was probably a factor too, I find it interesting that I never experienced wrist pain when I was typing on electric typewriters or old-style IBM/DEC computer keyboards that were set up to mimic typewriters, but as soon as I started using mice and flat-style keyboards (often installed in locations where a standard typewriter-ergonomic setup was not possible) I also started having wrist pains.

        Personally I found that using the touch pad rather than mouse alleviates 80% of the pain, but that is different for each person.


        • Re:Hmm... (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          A few years ago I had very painful carpal tunnel,and bought an ergonomic keyboard. It helped. After a while the CT returned, and I bought a trackball. It really helped. A few months ago my CT struck again and I was forced to use a wrist brace. The benefit of the wrist brace is that it stops you from bending your wrist, and driving it into your working surface. It helped.
          During all this time I have been going to the gym and doing weights, but recently ( 6 weeks ago ) I started a new program which focuses on
          • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

            by squoozer ( 730327 )

            Interesting that you should say that (shame you probably won't see this reply too) because when I started getting wrist pain I also put it down to poor muscle tone in the lower arm and started working out. I started by simply using a grip strengthener which really helped and then moved onto more of a full obdy work out. My wrist pain was relieved in about 6 weeks and has never come back (well it did when I stopped exercising for a while but went again almost as soon as I started up again).

            I wonder if it w

      • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by CastrTroy ( 595695 )
        I have switched over to a trackball for this very reason. I find it much easier on my wrist. Because the trackball is always in the same spot, it's much easier to keep it in the right spot, so that i'm not reaching for it, or have it in some other awkward position.
      • I agree on the mouse. At work, I've switched to a keyboard with an integrated trackpad and ditched my mouse. At home, I still use a mouse, but it is the Apple mouse that came with my PowerMac, instead of the Logitech I had used for years. My wrists have been much much much better since these two changes.

        I'm not sure why the Apple mouse seems to make such a difference. My speculation is that because it is basically one big button, there is much more freedom of hand position while using it, and so it is

    • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Informative)

      by MadAhab ( 40080 )
      I've always found this to be true. Anyone wonder why pre-electronic typists don't seem to have reported RSI? Because they needed more force to strike the keys, and held their hands above the keyboard. No question, the continuous pressure on the underside of the wrist is the culprit.

      And the mouse is the worst, because I always end up resting my wrist on the table.
      • Re:Hmm... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by lawpoop ( 604919 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @12:24PM (#14272181) Homepage Journal
        Because back then people called it 'arthritis', and when you couldn't type anymore, they found someone else to do it?

        Nowadays, every office worker has to be on the computer *all the time*. Typing isn't just a "Secretary, type this memo up" half-hour deal anymore. It's a 9-5 thing for everyone in the office. If you can't type anymore, you might lose your job.
    • Personal experience suggests that posture also has something to do with it. I type with my keyboard positioned almost at lap-level and tilted forward. (The risers on keyboards tend to tilt them backward.) This keeps me from "bulking up" the muscles in my wrists in an upward-bent position. Although I am somewhat predisposed for carpal tunnel syndrom because of the geometry of my wrists, typing in a way that does not train the muscles in my wrists to press against the nerve has done a world of good in prevent
    • Just last week after nerve conduction and myograph tests, I was officially diagnosed with severe carpal tunnel syndrome, moderate cubital tunnel syndrome (compression of the ulnar nerves in the elbows) and cervical radiculopathy (damage to the roots of the nerves leaving the spine towards the arms). So at least I'm not nuts or a hypchondriac.

      I had never heard of this cubital tunnel syndrome before and I found this interesting article [museweb.com] on the subject of the disorder as it relates to guitarists. I pretty muc
    • damn... I thought it was all the one-handed typing
    • Ah, that explains why a mouse hurts me but a trackball doesn't. And after being drilled by the piano teacher to keep my wrists up for years typing isn't a problem. Thanks.
  • "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger"

    I mean, doesn't typing just increase flexibility and muscle strength in the wrist?
    • Nietzsche also said that God is dead. And, my personal favorite, "When you stare into the abyss, sometimes the abyss stares back." It's pretty well established that somewhere in his lifetime, Nietzsche started going crazy. What people have never been able to determine is how far into his writing career it was that it happened. Neat guy to read, but you can see the undertow of madness in his writings.
      • "Oh, you people of sound understandings," I replied, smiling, "are ever ready to exclaim, 'Extravagance, and madness, and intoxication!' You moral men are so calm and so subdued! You abhor the drunken man, and detest the extravagant; you pass by, like the Levite, and thank God, like the Pharisee, that you are not like one of them. I have been more than once intoxicated, my passions have always bordered on extravagance: I am not ashamed to confess it; for I have learned, by my own experience, that all extrao
    • You're misquoting.

      It goes (*ahem*): "That which does not kill me really hurts like a bitch."

      Totally consistent with my experience, I'd say.


    • "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger"

      Well, you're feeling happy [demotivators.com]
    • "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger"

      FWIW, Nietzsche's point is somewhat missed in translation. He's paraphrasing an old saying "that which doesn't kill, hardens". It just generally means that surviving adversity leaves you better equipped to survive further adversity. Nothing to do with physical "strength".

      I mean, doesn't typing just increase flexibility and muscle strength in the wrist?

      Typing consists of small, weak muscle movements through a very tiny range of motion. Flexibility comes from pus

  • Not really news... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaHat ( 247651 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @11:15AM (#14271671) Homepage
    ... or at least not to me.

    Years ago I went to the Dr about some pain in my hands and wrists and he determined it was carpel tunnel.

    Funny thing though... I don't have issues with typing... in fact, I'd had it for longer than I'd had a computer... and it really only exhibited itself when clutching something, like a pen, mouse or other controller.

    Shame... I had it before it became all the rage.
    • ... to me either.

      I have the worst typing posture I possibly can. Laid on comfy chairs with a laptop in my lap, on the couch, etc...

      I don't use a desk ever.

      However, I am constantly changing my position. Sitting up one moment, laid back another. I just changed the way my legs were crossed, which changed the position of my powerbook.

      I've done it this way for 5 years now, and most likely more than most people use a keyboard (other than the slashdot crowd.) Before that I had horrible typing skills so I was
  • There goes that lawsuit. Let's see...now that I can't sue over that, maybe I can sue them for my getting fat on the Krispy Kreme's they provide for us every Friday.
    • You could possibly sue because Krispy Kremes contain a chemical that produces a faint scent engineered to make the eater desire more. I think the attempt to make donuts addictive is sue-worthy.
  • Well I'm not overweight, pregnant or seem to have genetic predisposition and still have it.
    And as a programmer I spend all day typing.
    • Is it just in your right hand? Then it might not be from typing after all.......
    • I remember when I was a Jazz major, one of my professors alluded to Musicians getting it. Chick Corea (pianist) believed it was a sort of subconcious resentment. That you need to improve your relationship with your instrument (keyboard). When he reestablished his relationship with his instrument, the carpal tunnel went away. Just a theory, but there may be some truth in it. How often does one associate the keyboard with stressful work?
  • I've always questioned the logic behind it. I placed it as an assumed contributor because it's something that people do in a fixed manner with their hands. I have been an avid computer user for the last 16 years and can say that I have no signs of carpal tunnel. In fact, I've heard of very few cases of it in people around me in the same field who spend upwards of 8-10 hours a day on the computer. I have seen it, however, in people who have a disposition towards weak bones, etc. You know, the guys you w
    • 1. It's usual not carpal tunnel, its generally something else.
      2. It's happened to me before; a ligament problem in both wrists. Cysts developed, and they had to be drained. I also wore a wrist brace for a short period.
      3. It depends on really, really, really, really bad ergonomics. Perhaps some people are more sensitive than me, but I find that even keeping my wrists in a moderately 'correct' position resolves the problem continously.

      At one point, when I was at college, my computer desk was less than ideal.
  • Who Can I Sue? 1. Employer 2. Makers of Computers 3. Producers of Operating Systems which require typing / mouse 4. Slashdot
  • I tend to agree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @11:21AM (#14271705)
    I'm right handed, and the carpal tunnel in my left hand is MUCH less than the right hand, and I notice that it hurts much worse when I've been mousing a lot, rather than when I've been typing a lot. I know that a lot of writing with a pen or pencil will cause a big flareup, too.
    • Re:I tend to agree (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mikesmind ( 689651 )
      There's a discussion about this over at VarLinux [varlinux.org] where weight training is said to be the answer. It makes sense!
    • Re:I tend to agree (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Malc ( 1751 )
      I think mice are a menace, and I suspect it's more to do with our overall posture when using them. Have you ever thought of making yourself learn to use the mouse left-handed? I'm right-handed but learnt to use it left-handed. It has some benefits, like allowing you to type or write or numerous other things (get your mind out of the gutter!) without letting go of the mouse. I find I sometimes (once a year perhaps) develop a pain in my neck that extends down in to my back. At that point I switch the mou
      • I go right handed at work, and left handed at home. It helps when you can switch hands. I also use trackballs. They are much easier. It's more like using a keyboard. You don't have to move your entire arm, just to move the cursor on the screen.
      • I've always said that mice were evil. The decline of civilization can be traced to introduction of the mouse and the GUI. Why, back in my day, we had a character prompt, and that's the way we liked it!
    • I've never had Carpal Tunnel, but I used to have a cyst in my right wrist, which would cause pain if I overused it. It seems to be better with a trackball than a mouse, but sometimes anything is painful. So I just found an old junker mouse lying around (had to find one that was not right-hand specific as was the fad for a while) and have it connected and placed to the left of the keyboard while my trackball (which is a right-hander) is to the right.

      Sometimes when the pain was very bad I typed with just my
  • by Zwets ( 645911 )
    I find that, for me at least, stress is the biggest factor. Whenever things aren't going well at work, I get wrist pains. But I've done hobby coding for years at home without any problems.
  • They've been saying this for at least two years. Yes, typing can cause all kinds of RSI and there are several other disorders from typing which are commonly misdiagnosed as CTS, but actual carpal tunnel syndrome didn't have to do with typing.

    Now the other thing which has always amused me is that it's only touch typists who get RSIs from typing. Those of us with a more erratic style move through a wide enough range of motion that we don't do damage to our joints. Apparently I was smarter than I thought, sl

  • ...one of the reasons listed isn't going to affect anyone 'round here me thinks.

  • Now we have all these misleading labels on keyboards. Those labels cause me mental stress, which as we all know is very debilitating. I smell lawsuit! Repetitive Warning Label Stress Syndrome
  • by Lord Bitman ( 95493 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @11:26AM (#14271749) Homepage
    I have seen people who "know how to type", as opposed to just knowing where the keys are from years of experience. The horrible contortions I see the human hand perform in order to always stay near the home keys is sickening.

    Maybe I just have large hands, but I can't stand keeping them in that cramped and static position. My hands move as much as my fingers when I type. Just resting my hands on the home keys places them in an uncomfortable clubbed-paw shape which I can easily imagine causes severe damage to whatever organs rest within.

    That's my theory, anyway.

    (*of course I wish I could think fast enough that typing faster would really matter that much. I suppose I could get that sentence out faster if I knew how, but the majority of my day is spent thinking about what to write when I eventually write it.)

    Typing about typing is fun to type. Type type type type type type type...
    • Which is why I use one of this ergonomic split keyboards from Microsoft. My hands sit more naturally further apart and at an angle. With this keyboard, my hands sit in the home position, but my hands are pointing in the same direction as my forearms with no wierd twists that are required for a straight keyboard. As a self-taught typist, the keyboard was hard to use at first, but after a few I was typing faster and more accurately.
      • Those don't work for me. I don't know if it's just me, but when I place my hands on a regular keyboard, the position they are in is the natural position. Maybe I spend too much time on a keyboard when I was still growing, and my hands are stuck that way. Anyway, an "ergonomic" keyboard causes me more more pain than the old fashioned ones.
    • Actually, proper typing isn't so hard if you just practice. I always thought it was horrible to try and get my fingers to move in such strange directions, but after taking a typing class in highschool, it became quite natural. I would actually compare it to playing classical, jazz or fingerstyle guitar. The first time you try to play some chords, it is so unnatural that it takes 30 seconds just to get all the right stings pressed/open/muted, but after playing that chord for a few weeks, you can form it i
    • Don't use The Man's home positions. Here - use mine instead:

      leftShift A E F space
      space O - ] return

      so much the patent on that one...

      I don't know if this came from learning on a C-64 keyboard or not, but it works plenty fast for me, and lets me keep my hands in a piano-wrist-up position. Plus easy-access to the shift-numbers for progamming in Perl.
    • If you want to stay on the home keys more often, consider switching to Dvorak. Whatever else you can say about it good or bad, it is an empicical truth that Dvorak typers get to stay on the home row far, far more than QWERTY typers. In fact, until I switched I didn't really use the home row myself; with Dvorak, the home row is simply the most natural way to type, instead of an artificial imposition.
    • Home keys? What are those? I remember using some sort of automated typing tutor years ago and giving up on it after I figured out how to type more efficiently without following any such. (I too have big hands which probably makes the difference.)
  • by Thrymm ( 662097 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @11:27AM (#14271753)
    After years of using the computer extensively with work, and especially with after hours gaming, MMORPGs and FPS in general, I can tell my right hand has changed and become weaker over time. Not sure if thats the beginning signals for CTS, but I know it wasnt from typing.
  • by canuck57 ( 662392 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @11:29AM (#14271766)

    "Betanews is reporting about a Harvard medical school report that suggests Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is unrelated to typing at all.

    I didn't get mine by typing, I got it from the mouse. Having clicked for so long I finally got sharp pains and the symptoms. And does it hurt.

    So I switched to my left hand for the mouse, continue to type and it is slowly getting better.

    Might I suggest to researchers to really do some pure no BS research. What they might find is the ergonomics of many of todays offices and computers are the problem. Some I/T people work in closets. And that "touch pad" on my portable, more than once I have thought about taking an electric drill to it to destroy it.

    Computers need to fit people, not the other way around.

    • I didn't get [repetitive strain injury] by typing, I got it from the mouse.

      Uh, huh, as if we believe that :-)
    • I got mine from a public toilet seat.
    • Touchpad $*!#@ (Score:2, Insightful)

      by BennyB2k4 ( 799512 )
      [And that "touch pad" on my portable, more than once I have thought about taking an electric drill to it to destroy it.]

      Many times I've caught myself using the touchpad with my wrist bent backwards as far as it goes and middle finger straight down sliding around. I look down and think, "What the hell am I doing".

      I would think "awareness" is one of the biggest preventers of RPI. You just have to train yourself to think before you type. Usually it only takes 2 or 3 seconds to get into a better position.
  • by AndyBassTbn ( 789174 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @11:30AM (#14271777) Homepage
    Over this last summer, the ridiculous amount of typing I was doing caused by ring finger and pinky to go numb. Thinking it was Carpal Tunnel, I went to the doctor, who confirmed to me that Carpal Tunnel is not usually caused by typing.

    What she did tell me, however, was that I likely had Ulnar Tunnel Syndrome [aaos.org]. Though this is also not caused by typing, it was the resting of my elbow on the desk which applied pressure on the Ulnar Nerve, causing numbness and pain.

    Couple this with my career as a professional trombonist, and I had trouble.

    The moral of the story is simple - it is not so much how much you type (or perform), it is the position of your hand and arm whilst doing it. Keeping a natural, "open" posture is ultimately the best way to prevent these problems.
    • I had the same problem, and my dumbass doctors couldn't figure it out. I was trying everything and lowering the arm rests on my chair at work helped after about a week.
  • I wonder if it's possible to get RSI from too much one handed typing? The First question would be which wrist gets RSI first?

    We should apply for funding to set up a study. No, wait. What am I thinking. We just need to organize a /. poll.

  • Many computer users are geeks.
    Geeks don't have girlfriends. ...
  • by scheming daemons ( 101928 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @11:34AM (#14271800)
    I suffer from this all the time. The guy I ride to work with has the uncanny habit of slowing down to less than 20 miles per hour when he enters a tunnel, even though the speed limit is 55 both outside and inside the tunnel.

    I want to kill him when he does this, but it's not my fault... for you see, I have:

    Carpool Tunnel Syndrome

    oh... you're talking about something else?

  • My study shows that there's a 90% certainty that a college that is receiving major donations from American Corporations (that are paying large disability amounts to affected workers) are encouraging young college students to do these sort of studies. ie: If you look for something hard enough, you will find enough circumstantial evidence to make it seem true.
    Everyone who reads Slashdot probably types a great deal and perhaps plays computer or console games. Anyone here not ever lose track of the time and typ
  • Speaking as somebody who just this passed Wednesday had a doctor's appointment related to repetitive stress from typing..

    The report is most likely technichally correct. What many people call carpel tunnel is actually various ligament overuse disorders (which are typing related), rather than nerve compression. One main way to tell, is that nearly all the wrist/forearm/elbow pain, 'itchiness' etc, is related to ligament issues, the nerve compression (which is carpel tunnel disorder) part causes numbness, 'fal
  • This is news? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Zathrus ( 232140 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @11:37AM (#14271830) Homepage
    What's new here? Everything that the betanews report states has long been known in the medical community -- particularly the bit about pregnancy. My wife is currently in her second pregnancy, and she never had any carpal tunnel problems before. But she does now -- if she's at a keyboard too long or crochets too much then her wrist starts to hurt. Her doctor says it's fairly common for pregnant women to suffer carpal tunnel due to increased swelling and the loosening of joints during pregnancy. And all she can do is wear a wrist brace and take tylenol -- there are no anti-inflamatories approved for use while pregnant.

    The rest of the info is also well known. A poor hand posture can exacerbate the problem, but it's unlikely to cause it outright.
  • Um, I thought the whole point was that inflammation of the carpal tunnel caused pressure on the nerve. If use isn't causing the inflammation, then what is?

    Can anyone track down the actual report? Are they saying that other repetitive stress injuries are misdiagnosed as carpal tunnel, or are they saying that the carpal tunnel is corretly diagnosed but attributed to the wrong things?

  • I've been sitting in front of PCs since 1978 - when I was 9. I have no problems with my wrists at all. Though I will agree that sitting at _certain_ workstations my wrist will ache; however, they'll ache from the wrist to the elbow - not just the wrist. I'll either adjust the working conditions or I'll move to another workstation minutes later and no ache at all. It's about the ergonomics of the workstation.

    Of course, since I've been typing at a terminal since I was a child, maybe my body kind of 'grew
    • " I've been sitting in front of PCs since 1978"

      You might want to get up and stretch once a decade or so ;)

      "Could it be akin to a child who starts smoking at 9 and lives to 99 smoking every day of his life and dies peacefully in his sleep of old age; whereas, someone else starts smoking at 30 and dies of lung cancer by age 45 caused by smoking."

      No. There is no acclimation for smoking, it's other factors (such as genetics, diet, chance, etc) that affect whether or not a smoker gets cancer, along with
  • I'm just going from personal experience, so this has no basis in medicine. But when I compute or play video games or whatnot there are two things that really get my wrist hurting.

    One, if I play a 6-button arcade fighting game like street fighter and I use my wrist to bring my whole hand up and down on the buttons. I'm basically swinging my wrist back and forth very rapidly. I should be just moving my fingers around.

    Two, I learned not to do this, but improper mousing. When you use a computer mouse you should
  • In my personal experience, it's always been games or gaming that caused my joint problems.

    Joystick use during ladder events, or just lots of gaming.

    Once I backed off and quit for several days each week, it went away. (Used to have shooting pains going up the underside of both arms from wrist to armpit, plus crackly joints.)

    Of course, I have previous damage from blue collar jobs too. I bet there's a lot of low-paid manual labor people that have more problems with it than you could ever get from using compu
  • Is carpal tunnel not related to typing the way global warming is not related to greenhouse gases? I'm skeptical.
  • I used to get pains in my elbows and wrists from typing. Improving my office environment mitigated it but not completely. Then I started getting more exercise and I haven't had a problem since. Even running seems to help. The human body isn't supposed sit around on its arse all day. The office environment is terrible for us and we have to make up for that: either change our jobs, or make an effort to get some exercise.
  • Hand surgeons... (Score:5, Informative)

    by CupBeEmpty ( 720791 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @12:05PM (#14272027)
    So I deal with hand surgeons on a very regular basis (and these are top of the line international teaching surgeons to boot) and the concencus I get from them is that the act of typing itself is not necessarily what is causing the inflammation on the nerve. For example:

    • Take your hands and hold them out in front of you with your elbows touching your ribcage and forearms extended directly out, parallel to the floor, palms down and also parallel to the floor.
    • Now move your your hands together so your thumbs touch.
    • Now move your hands (thumbs still touching) toward your chest.

    If you did all of that correctly you would see how the angle of your wrists becomes and less natural. Now imagine typing with your standard (or worse.. laptop) keyoard close to your chest. The unnatural angle does not bode well for your wrist.

    Basically 75% (rough number) of people that come into these docs complaining of chronic wrist pain don't even need splints. They are advised to get a trackball (much easier on the wrists), type with the keyboard farther away, and have the top of the monitor at eye level, and sometimes to get an ergonomic keyboard. Most people report that their symptoms are gone within 2-4 weeks if they keep up their new setup. I know a lot of /.'ers are pretty down on things like ergonomic keyboards and consider them little more than overpriced gimmicks but the truth is they are a far cry less expensive than carpal tunnel surgery and relatively effective.

    As a microbiologist I can also tell you that pretty much any disease/disorder/etc. is influenced by things like genetics, age, weight, hormone levels, etc. etc. Saying that carpal tunnel isn't affected by poor body angle and repetetive motions (like typing) is like saying that skin cancer isn't caused by bathing yourself in UV radiation all day and that it is only attributable to genetics, and body type. The other problem with this report (which we also have not seen yet) is that it is a correlation study in the negative. They are saying that they cannot find a correlation so therefore it must not exist. That is even worse that the positive correlation studies where two trends coincide so they conclude causation. My view is that typing does aggravate carpal tunnel but so does genetics that make you susceptible to inflammation.

    • I don't think you necessarily need an ergonomic keyboard, changing your seating position and how you type can make a big difference. I've been typing for years and years for hours on end and never had a problem. After college I got my first real job and after a few months I started getting symptoms similar to CT. I also noticed that the way my desk, keyboard and mouse were setup caused slight discomfort when I typed and used the mouse. I rearranged my desk to something a little more comfortable and the pain
    • I agree, typing posture seems to be one of the important things. I was always taught: sit straight, elbows directly under shoulders, forearms just below horizontal so your wrists are just lower than your elbows, the back of your hand should be level with the top of your forearm so your wrist isn't at an angle to your forearm, fingers should dangle down to touch the keys. If we let our wrists fall towards the desk, the typing teacher would give a smack and "Wrists up!".

      Modern office desks have you sitting t

    • My Osteopath said something last time I saw him about how he's had two (osteopathic) journal articles published, and that after the third one you're considered an expert (he was talking more to the 3rd year osteopathic student who was observing than myself).

      Anyways, the conversation was on how one of my legs was shorter than the other, and that it was shorter because the bones in my right lower leg were all tweaked out of place. One of his articles was on how the bones in the carpal tunnel or forearm get d
  • One of the secretaries in my office just had a child two months ago. She's having a lot of pain in her wrists that was somehow induced by the pregnancy. Ironically, I just found out about this yesterday afternoon, when she popped into the office to pick up her paycheck.

    I'm curious as to what percentage of carpal tunnel sufferors are women.

  • Not keyboards (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MaggieL ( 10193 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @12:11PM (#14272079)
    I don't think keyboard use is the source of most of this...it's much more due to pointing devices. Switching from mouse to trackball has been very helpful to me.
  • by catdevnull ( 531283 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @12:15PM (#14272113)
    I was concerned that my computer job was giving me the pain I was having in my hands and unable to even hold silverware, etc. It turned out to be the pressure on my carpal tunnel area from my bicycle handles.

    I started walking to work instead and the problem went away. I was surprised after all of the attention that typing gets for causing carpal tunnel. Glad to hear those Harvard people are figuring it out.

  • Kienbock's disease is much worse and believed to be caused by repeptitive micro-trauma (aka typing). An orthopedic doctor thought that I might have it, but I was very lucky, and it ended up just being an occult (hidden) ganglion cyst. Basically a bone in your wrist dies from lack of blood supply, and it hurts to turn doorknobs, pickup small objects, and do... well just about anything. So, use proper hand position when typing, and don't overdo it!

    http://tinyurl.com/4aanx [tinyurl.com]
  • by MatD ( 895409 )
    I call bullshit on this.
    In the course of my job, I sometimes spend all day coding, and sometimes I spend all day in meetings, etc. After spending all day coding in emacs, I can definitely feel the strain in my wrists. They'll be sore for the rest of the evening and sometimes into the next day. While I thankfully haven't had a real problem with RSI (I've known people that are almost crippled by it), I do worry that it is only a matter of time before the inflamation builds to the point that it will inter
  • Suggested causes may be genetic disposition, body weight, fractured bones or even pregnancy.
    But that just begs the question: what causes pregnancy?

    A different study conducted by Yale medical school suggests that sex may not, after all, be the cause of pregnancy. In a sample consisting of young Yale undergraduates who were pregnant, over half said they had not been having sex with their boyfriends.

  • ssh -D
    ssh -L
    ssh -R

    ... or perhaps maybe I have ssh tunnel syndrome.
  • EMACS PINKY (Score:3, Interesting)

    by putko ( 753330 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @12:52PM (#14272407) Homepage Journal
    Emacs Pinky is real. The seeping generalization that RSI is not due to typing is incorrect.

    If you don't use Emacs, just watch someone who does: his poor left pinky will be continually moving, depressing control keys. After doing that hours a day for months/years, he'll typically get RSI.

    To get around this, it is common for Emacs users to map "Caps Lock" to a control key, so that the poor pinky doesn't have to continually press down in such an unnatural way (it will just have to move a key to the left and go down). But one you've ruined it, you can still get Emacs Pinky.

    A simple way to check the hypothesis would be to just see how many vi users have "Emacs pinky" symptoms. I've never known a vi user with Emacs pinky. Given that "Emacs pinky" has been spontaneously identified and named, I think it is real, or at least worth spending effor to dismiss if you want to argue RSI is not due to typing.
  • People, our bodies are not designed to sit in a single position, doing the exact, same motions over and over. We are not robots, and even robots eventually wear out. Millions of years of evolution (or a gleam in your favorite god's eye) developed us as doing a wide variety of tasks in a large number of flexible positions!

    In 1999, I switched careers from "computer techie", fixing and selling computers, to databases and software engineering.

    Much more rewarding, satisfying, and I get to work at home, with Linu
  • by aeoo ( 568706 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @01:32PM (#14272751) Journal
    I used to have RSI to the point where if I lifted my hands above my head, my smaller digits would instantly become numb. Right now it is mostly (99%) self-healed and gone. Read below for my solution.

    RSI is caused by stress, lack of sleep, and poor diet (lack of sleep is itself also stress). If you try to type faster than is comfortable, and unconsciously pound on the keyboard, you will get it. You are even more likely to get it if you work in a very stressful environment. However, if you type without hurry and only apply enough effort to activate the key and no more, then you won't get it.

    If you have RSI, stop typing faster than is comfortable. Don't reach for your ultimate typing speed. Stop pounding the keyboard -- apply only enough force to activate the key. Eat decent food and sleep 8 hours a day. It would also help to use a wrist exercise equipment, such as a physiotherapy ball/gel, or even some sports grip equipment (often a spring with two handles), to strenghten up your wrist by exercise, but do not overdo it. If you stretch your wrists -- do it gently and do not overstretch (this is important!). And watch your RSI go away. :)

    An important point is not to reintroduce stress through stressful stretching and exercise. So when stretching, don't go crazy and don't push it hard -- go easy on your hands and relax.

    You may slip back into the old pounding the keyboard spazmatically routine, so you have to be careful not to regress into a bad habit once you get rid of it.
    • I've been using workrave [workrave.org] (FOSS) - it has helped me not only recover, but keep my energy level up.

      I have it set to a 30 second break every 15 minutes, and a 10 minute break every 50 minutes. I use the 30 second breaks to stand up and stretch, and the 10 minute breaks to go for a walk and otherwise stretch and breath.

      The breaks can unfortunately be snacking cues, but I try to avoid that.
  • Had carpal tunnel for a while. Then as soon as switched to MS natural keyboard, the pain went away. Figured it was the angle of my hands vs the forearm... with a natural keyboard, it's flat, there's no angle, while with a standard kb, wrists are always laid back at an angle, especially if your elbows are on your desk.

    So thanks Microsoft... your products can literally cure diseases!

  • I'm surprised with all the responses to this thread so far, no one has mentioned the possible benefits of switching keyboard layouts. I had RSI, which I was told was notcarpal tunnel, several years ago, and it lasted a long while, with various levels of discomfort. A colleague came to work with me and needed my computer, and explained how he was used to the Dvorak layout. I switched, and the level of discomfort went down dramatically and has never flared up to the same levels.
  • Seems similar news was reported [slashdot.org] here on Slashdot last June, based on a Danish study.

"Oh my! An `inflammatory attitude' in alt.flame? Never heard of such a thing..." -- Allen Gwinn, allen@sulaco.Sigma.COM