How to Prevent Repetitive Stress Injuries Like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

March 27, 2009

in computer-related health

by Tina Gasperson

Computer use is particularly well-suited to the occurrence of repetitive stress injuries (RSI), which happens when a joint is subjected to repeated movement and overuse. Working a mouse and typing on a keyboard can be very stressful to the wrist joints, and once an RSI-related condition like carpal tunnel syndrome sets in, it can be difficult to reverse.

To help your wrists stay healthy, there are several things you can do. First, make sure that your keyboard is at the optimal height to reduce stress and strain on your wrists. When you type, are your hands in line with your arms, or do they tilt up at your wrist joint? If you notice a jaunty arm angle instead of a straight limb line, you need to raise your keyboard – or lower the height of your chair. At the same time, you need to make sure your wrists are supported. If you have to hover your hands over the keyboard, your arms will get tired very quickly and you’ll lapse into bad form. This not only causes RSI, it will give you sore muscles as well. You can purchase a padded wrist support that attaches to your computer desk, or to the edge of your keyboard, for supportive comfort.

Another important step to take is to limit your time at the computer. For many of us, time online is quickly replacing our time in front of the television, and while watching less television is definitely a good thing, simply substituting face time with your PC is not necessarily the best course of action. Spending hours chatting or updating your status on Facebook will not help keep your joints (or other parts of your body) healthy.

If working with a computer is part of your job, there isn’t much you can do about the length of time you’re in front of your LCD monitor. Try to take stretch breaks at regular intervals during the day. Once an hour, do an in-your-seat toning regimen, or if you can get up and move around, take a brisk walk or two around the office. Every 15 minutes or so, stop typing and let your arms dangle at your sides. Give your wrists and arms a good shake, let them hang, and give them another shake. This relieves the pressure and gets the blood flowing into your digits. When you get home, get your best friend or your significant other to gently massage your hands and wrists, then wrap your hands in warm, damp cloths or soak them in very warm water with Epsom salts to relax the muscles. Then, be prepared to return the favor.

Tina Gasperson (, affectionately known as Computer Lady by her family, has been writing about IT, home computing, and the Internet for more than a decade.