Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) also known as Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD) is one of the common problems among software professionals. For me, it appeared as a pain in the wrist joints, shoulder pain and neck stiffness. The pain in the wrist joints where much serious than rest of them. The adjustable keyboard tray with mouse pad and fully adjustable chair allows me to sit properly and work. But the normal keyboard requires bending of wrist for typing. This started getting me trouble. The picture shows the difference.
Then I got myself a Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. It alligns perfectly with the normal position of arms and therefore eases the typing effort. No more bending of wrists and the comfortable pad gives enough support. It has lot of shortcut keys which you can configure in windows. I always work on linux and therefore kind of useless for me. Correcting the posture or properly keeping the arms won’t fully avoid RSI. The best method is to take short breaks in between and do small bending and stretching excercise. That works the best. Next section explains how I force myself to take breaks in between. It is not an easy task which you can do just by determination. Sitting in front of the computer, you won’t realize how fast time goes.
Take short breaks:
Yes, I know – it is easier said than done. Everyone knows that you should take breaks if you are typing for a long time or doing something continuously for longer duration. But it seldom works. That is when I accidentally happened to see this software rsibreak in ubuntu repository. It is a KDE4 application which will lock the screen at configurable intervals. You can configure the time intervals as well as the duration. While the screen is locked, it shows a countdown timer also. Just utilize that time to give some excercise for your body parts. I had always been a KDE user. But KDE4 failed on me. It was fancy, it was colorful and all that, but not something I wanted. So I moved to GNOME. The only thing I missed in gnome was KDE’s klipper which is far better than gnome’s glipper. Moving to gnome meant finding an alternative for rsibreak also. After upgrading to Ubuntu 9.04, I noticed that there was an inbuilt mechanism to do something similar. Now as I am typing this, it locked my screen once. We can postpone the break using a small button at the bottom right of the screen, but it will popup again after some time, forcing the user to take a break. Trust me, a software like this helps a lot. Though we all know that short breaks help in avoiding RSI and other computer related health problems, we never do it. We never get time to do it; thats the fact.
Enable Typing breaks in Ubuntu 9.04:
Go to System -> Preferences -> Keyboard. In that, select the tab “Typing Break” and enable the options. Configure the timings according to your preference and you are set. Try it out and let me know if it helped you 🙂