WebRef Update: Featured Article: Health Lessons for Computer Professionals | 2 | WebReference

WebRef Update: Featured Article: Health Lessons for Computer Professionals | 2

Health Lessons for Computer Professionals


RSI is a catch-all condition category, including the fairly well- known Carpal Tunnel syndrome (affecting the median nerve in the wrist), as well as a variety of other related afflictions including Tendinitis, Bursitis, Tenosynovitis, DeQuervain's Syndrome, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Trigger Finger/Thumb, Myofascial Pain Syndrome, and several other conditions. You'll also sometimes see RSI referred to as CTD, or "Cumulative Trauma Disorder."

Prevention is key; it's much easier to defeat RSI before the fact, than repair the damage afterwards. There are some simple things you can do right away. First off, examine your typing technique. According to the Harvard RSI Action page, &ltwww.rsi.deas.harvard.edu/&gt, "one of the most common mistakes people make is to contort their hands to perform key combinations, such as a shifted letter...Control and meta [keys] present the same problem." Make sure that you're using both hands to type these characters.

Examine the angle of your wrists and arms, and the position in which you're sitting. If your wrists are resting on your desk or a wrist pad, you're probably putting undue pressure on them, as well as holding your arms in an awkward position. You should be sitting straight, with relaxed shoulders. For more details, the Harvard RSI Action page features additional information and descriptive (if somewhat scribbled) diagrams.

Take frequent breaks. During these breaks, and especially before you start working, try gently stretching your arms, hands and wrists. These stretches need not be elaborate, nor do you need any sort of extra equipment to perform them. You can find some suggestions for easy stretches to do at home or in the workplace at the Global Ideas Bank. &ltwww.globalideasbank.org/BI/BI-105.HTML&gt

Some people find relief by using ergonomically-shaped or alternative keyboards. You can find more information about these at the Typing Injury FAQ page &ltwww.tifaq.com/&gt. Another frequently suggested alternative for those with RSI is voice recognition software. Voice recognition has made great progress in recent years, and is finally starting to become a viable option for many people. We published an overview of some of the software available last fall in this newsletter. &ltwebreference.com/new/991108.html#review&gt For all the hype surrounding voice recognition, however, you'll definitely want to try before you buy. You'll also want to be aware that some people are finding that the slow, deliberate and clipped manner of speaking that some software requires can also create strain - of your vocal cords. &ltpcworld.com/consumer/article/0,5120,16766,00.html&gt

Exercise & Nutrition

Of course, any discussion of health issues would be lacking without at least mentioning the need for regular exercise and good nutrition. These certainly aren't issues that are specific to computer professionals and are too large to tackle in any depth here. All the same, they're obviously important to your well-being, and can have a direct bearing on the sleep and strain topics we've already looked at. Exercise can help you need less sleep, and to sleep more deeply and effectively. Strengthening and stretching your muscles and joints can help safeguard against some of the damages of RSI, as well as alleviating some of the pain you may already have. You programmers out there - you'd like your applications to run flawlessly, and as fast as possible; why not direct some of that focus back at yourself, and tweak your diet as well as your code for "optimal results"?

For those looking for dieting and exercise information with a geeky bent, the Hacker's Diet has been a popular choice of health conscious programmers for years. Created by John Walker (also one of the founders of AutoDesk), the Hacker's Diet "treats dieting and weight control from an engineering and management standpoint, and provides the tools and an understanding of why they work and how to use them that permit the reader to gain control of their own weight." &ltwww.fourmilab.ch/hackdiet/&gt

Wrap Up

Bottom line? We all should probably sleep more, eat better and work less. You already knew that, of course, but it's always good for you (and me!) to get a reminder now and then. Not yet mentioned, but equally important, is to take some time away from your computer and away from your desk, to get out and just live a little. Keep your sense of perspective about the importance of your projects to the world at large and in your own life - don't wake up out of a sleep-deprived state 10 years from now with nothing to show for your time except a flabby waist and a series of pointless all-nighters at failed startups. We all owe ourselves more than that.

Additional Links:

Sleep Foundation 2000 omnibus "Sleep in America" report: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/NSAW/poll.html

Driving While Sleepy Factsheet: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/activities/daaafacts.html

Additional RSI Information: page http://www.engr.unl.edu/ee/eeshop/rsi.html

About the author:

Eric Cook is an assistant editor at WebReference.com, and could probably use a nap. You can contact Eric at: ecook@internet.com.

Previous: More Sleep

This article originally appeared in the June 15, 2000 edition of the WebReference Update Newsletter.


Comments are welcome
Written by Eric Cook and

Revised: June 16, 2000

URL: http://webreference.com/new/health2.html