Monday, March 19, 2012

Day 10: The Striking Effects of Computers

(I'm was away on business, so it was hit or miss with the Internet interactivity. At this point, I will attempt to catch up.)

Consider how computers and the screens that allow us to work even in the dark serve as a serious distraction and are potentially more damaging to your hands than pens and pencils. (At least, that has been my experience.)

First, while this post covers ergonomic adjustments that might help avoid "complications" from our dependence on computers, the next one will describe how computers have changed the writing process overall. (Once again, it all begins in early childhood classrooms. This begs the question: Do children learn to use a mouse before a pencil? But that will keep for tomorrow.)

For now, we will stick with the physical aspects of writing on computers and how to avoid the repetitive stress injuries (RSI) that can painfully sideline anyone who uses computers.

Look at how you are sitting at the moment, what fingers you use to scroll and think about whether you have stepped away from the computer screen for more than 10 minutes at any time in the past two hours.

The repetitive part of RSI involves both mouse work and striking the keys, but a few basic adjustments can make a world of difference in continuing to create those worlds.

According to Jonathan Bailin, Ph.D. in "Ergonomics & Computer Injury: FAQs" at
Two main themes permeate ergonomic study of RSI prevention: posture and relaxation. Appropriate posture is necessary to keep the strain of performing work in a near stationary position (static exertion) to a minimum. But even the best posture can fall prey to overload when combined with bad work habits.
Relaxation involves taking regular breaks and stretching, rather than working, "through" the pain, and ensuring that you don't tense your neck, hands, shoulders and back while you type. And, for older writers, don't recreate the typewriter in your past -- your wrists should not flex upward or downward, because this causes stress. Also, few desks and chairs are coordinated to ensure that you don't strain in working on a keyboard, so take that into consideration.

You can find out more about this issue on a number of sites, including But, if you are already experiencing pain, tell your physician and get help before the mini-tears in your muscles and the inflammation in finger and wrist joints (upper arms and neck, also) cause you more tears than the critics.

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