5 tips to prevent Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

I have worked with hundreds of people with symptoms of the early or more advanced stages of RSI or upper limb disorder and before we start looking at special equipment – ergonomic keyboards, mice etc., we always go back to the basics and check the most obvious things.

 

  1. Posture
    Normally RSI problems start with poor posture – sitting too high, too low, slouching etc.  You don’t need an ergonomist or physiotherapist to give you the feedback that you need.  Any colleague or partner should be able to do that.Basically you should be sitting with everything at right angles; your upper arm should be vertical and your lower arm horizontal – with your chair and desk heights adjusted to match.  Your feet need to be flat on the floor, or if not flat then flat on a suitable footrest.

    The correct ergonomic position to prevent RSI

    Preventing RSI

    Your back should be straight and supported on your chair.  If however you have a lower back problem you may be more comfortable sitting at a slight angle with cushioning in the lower back region.

  2. The Screen
    Most ergonomists recommend that the top of the screen is parallel with your eyes as in the diagram above.  For many  people though this is probably not such a good idea as it can cause neck problems.  Usually a more comfortable position is with the top of the screen about 5cm lower than the eye level.
  3. Keyboard and Mouse
    All too often users have so much clutter on theirs desks that they have to stretch over the clutter to reach their keyboard or mouse.  This causes slouching and leads to problems.  The keyboard should be as close to you on your desk as possible.  If you have documents that you are using they should be behind or to the side of the keyboard, not in front of it.  A gel keyboard rest is a good idea although some specialists don’t agree with this.Whoever suggested that all keyboards have a flip-up stand on the base should be hauled over the coals.  According to EU regulations this is mandatory and if its there – people use it.  This is clearly not a good idea as it stretches the muscles in the wrist even more than they need to. So don’t use those little feet. Resist the temptation!

    If you feel that you need an ergonomic keyboard, these tend to be split keyboards with the left and right hands working at an angle in the handshake or ‘neutral position’.  They take a little bit of getting used to but once used, you never go back.  You can see a number of these on the RSI Shop website.

    Similarly for the mouse, the mouse should be right next to the keyboard and close to the front edge of the desk.  All the main ergonomic mice are on the RSI Shop website but try getting the positioning of your mouse correct before buying new kit.

  4. Breaks
    I doubt if there has been any research on this but I find that the majority of RSI sufferers are very ‘driven’.  By this I mean that if they have some important work to do, they just keep on going until it is finished.Not good for RSI

    All the books, company guidelines and articles tell you to take frequent breaks from typing.  A break doesn’t necessarily mean a 10 minute trip to the smoking area – just do something else for 5 minutes that doesn’t require using the keyboard or mouse.

  5. And finally …… Pastimes and Hobbies
    How many times have I been asked to recommend a specialist keyboard or mouse only to find that the RSI sufferer has a hobby which is designed to make their condition worse?Weight lifting, pruning, computer gaming and of course typing are not ideal pastimes for an RSI sufferer.  If your rest time cannot be used to rest those poor overused wrists then you are not helping your recovery.

 

I suffered from RSI many years ago and no doubt this was one of the reasons that encouraged me to specialise in this area.  Admittedly my RSI is now totally under control but if only someone had give me these tips all those years ago it could have saved months of physiotherapy, hand braces and lost work time.

If you find the above tips helpful please feel free to share this with your friends.

Computer equipment to help people with Parkinson’s disease

We are oftening asked what equipment can help a computer user with Parkinson’s disease.

 

One of the biggest problems that users suffer from is the repeating of typed characters. So instead of typing just an ‘a’, a whole string of ‘aaaaaaaa’s appear.

Fortunately Windows (all versions) have a utility called FilterKeys to eliminate repeated characters.  It can be accessed from the Start Menu | Contol Panel | Accessibility Options and then checking the Use FilterKeys check box.

 

Another problem which is quite common is the constant missing of the intended character. So instead of hitting the letter ‘A’ for instance, you miss and hit the letter ‘S’ next to it.
For this problem Keyguards are very useful. These are metal or plastic plates that fit over the keyboard with holes over every key.  So you either press the letter ‘A’ or the letter ‘S’ but if you hit in between the two, you just hit metal (or plastic).

Keyguards are not made for every keyboard and surprisingly, although they all look very similar, there are probably in excess of 5000 different kinds of keyboards, all with very slightly different spacing, widths or layout.  So the keyguards and keyboards come as matched pairs.

The ones available within the UK are as shown here.

 

Using the mouse successfully is also a common problem.  You are able to position the cursor in the right place but just as you go to press the button, your tremor causes the mouse and therefore the mouse cursor to move.

For this we would recommend either a large rollerball mouse, with the rollerball as large as possible.  This allows seperates the moving of the mouse and the clicking into two distinct actions and therefore is a lot easier to control for people with tremors.  See typical rollerball mice here.

 

Another approach is to use a mouse ‘filter’ which filters out tremors.  The Assistive Mouse Adapter is a tremor supressing filter which electronically filters out tremors.  With its controls, it can be adjusted to suit the magnitude and frequency of your tremor, with the ability to adjust it during the course of the day.  Well worth a try!

Assistive mouse adapter

Tremor surpressing mouse filter

Disabled users and laptop/notebook computers

We often get asked for advice on laptop computers for elderly or disabled users.

Generally speaking laptops are an ergonomic disaster area; the screen is at the wrong height, the keyboard is positioned incorrectly and the built-in mouse is often difficult for people with mobility problems to manipulate.

So you need an external keyboard or notebook riser to raise the screen to the correct height and an external keyboard and mouse to suit your needs. By this time you are probably beginning to think that a desktop computer might have been better after all!

So unless portability is your main consideration, it is probably better in the long run to go for a desktop computer – it is cheaper, lasts longer, can be repaired more easily if it goes wrong and can be adapted more easily for the user.

Brand new program for single handed users

Have come across a program designed for computer users with use of only one hand?

This may be as a result of an accident or condition which has limited or excluded the use of one arm.

There are several keyboards around designed for this:

■Maltron Single Hand Keyboard
■Matias Half QWERTY Keyboard
■Half keyboard
■CyKey
■Frogpad
Well now there is a MUCH CHEAPER software option. ALT-Key is a program designed to double up the function of each keyboard key to enable you to work within a much smaller area. Each key has been programmed to have two values with the left overlaying the right hand side of the keyboard and vice versa. So the letter “Q” doubles as both teh “Q” and the letter “P”. The letter “W” doubles as the letter “O” and so on. All you have to do is hold it down.

You can download a free trial at www.alt-key.co.uk and at the moment the software costs just £50.oo.

If this would help you, why not give it a try!

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
Disabled users and laptop/notebook computers
Posted on 28/02/2011 by mslyper