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3 practical tips for programmers to prevent repetitive strain injuries

humblecoder00 profile image Şahin Arslan ・4 min read

repetitive-strain-injury

Lets face it: Sitting long hours in front of a computer is not something we can call "natural". This is not a regular physical activity for the human body and it will cause side effects if you are not careful. If there is anything I would like you to takeaway from this post, it will be this - be aware of this fact and improve your typical daily work flow around it. If you don't, side effects will start to show themselves.

First of all, I am not a doctor or a physician. I am a programmer spending a lot of hours in front of a computer. What I will be sharing here is practical and simple tips & tools that helped me during my journey.

Tip 1 - Take regular breaks and do mini exercises

I bet you heard about this a lot. But the problem is, it is something very easy to ignore. Setting an alarm on the phone? Believe me I tried, it didn't worked for me. Specially when I was in the middle of a solution and wanted to keep my focus, it was easy to just snooze or shut off the alarm and put the phone away. When I started to experience problems related to my posture (back, neck, knees, etc.), it was an alarm for me. I didn't wanted those problems to grow further. I had to find a better solution.

Workrave:

A compact free application that can help you prevent RSI by giving alerts each time you need to take a break. Provides built-in exercises that can be performed when you take a break.

workrave

I was amazed by how minimalistic and effective this little software was. It does the job exactly as it is described - nothing less or more. It is uncomparable to setting an alarm on your phone. Because when it is time to take a break, it locks your computer screen. You can still snooze it, but it will keep the popup moving and make an annoying noise. This makes harder to ignore the message, and that's exactly what I wanted. Now even when I am in the middle of something, taking those breaks doesn't ruin anything - instead I find myself in a better mode after coming back.

There are 2 types of breaks you can have: longer and mini.

Longer breaks:

They show up with series of exercises you can follow along:

workrave-exercise

Mini breaks:

Mini breaks are very short ones. When you get the alert, it is good time to leave your chair and walk around a little bit, stretch and come back in a minute.

break

On top of everything, you can completely customize your experience that can fit into your work flow. How often you will recieve your break times, how long the breaks should be, and so on. Make sure to try this helper if you don't already!

Get it free from official website: Workrave

Tip 2 - Take care of your wrist by using a vertical orthopedic mouse

It was surprising for me to figure out the fact about classic mouses - it causes your wrist to stay in an unnatural position. I became aware of this when I started to feel tense at my wrist after working day:

wrist pain

As I have figured out, vertical orthopedic mouses were made to prevent this. I ordered one to try out. Result? I still use it since I get it and didn't had tense feeling at my wrist anymore. To be honest, it was hard to get used to it at least for a week, because it forces you to use your hand in whole different way than you are used to:

vertical mouse

If you are experiencing tense feeling at your wrist, you need this. Even you don't have that problem right now, you can't go wrong with this. I don't have any specific brand / model to advice, but the model I use is here:

https://www.trust.com/en/product/22879-verto-ergonomic-wireless-mouse

Tip 3 - Take care of your eyes by using computer glasses with blue light filter

When I started to spend long hours in front of a computer, I haven't experienced any problem with my eyes. I could stare to the monitor all day long without an issue. By the time I started to experience eye fatigue: dry eyes, redness in the eye, eye twitches and so on. I had to do something to prevent this.

After some research, I figured using computer glasses with blue light filter helped a lot of people. You don't need a prescription to use them. So I decided to give it a try - and it worked sooner than I expected. Dry eyes, redness and twitches disappeared after a week I started to use them.

If you are experiencing the similar issues, this can help you. Again, I don't have a specific brand / model to advice, but the one I currently use is here:

https://gunnar.com/product/enigma-assassins-creed-valhalla-edition/

computer-glasses

I hope these tips will also help you to prevent RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) and stay sharp on your journey.

Thanks for reading!

Discussion (11)

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ldrscke profile image
Christian Ledermann

Have a look at serenade.ai/

Rest your wrists while staying productive
Using a keyboard all day can cause wrist pain. Whether you have an injury or you're looking to prevent one, Serenade can help you be just as productive without typing at all.

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humblecoder00 profile image
Şahin Arslan Author

Interesting tool!

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lornasw93 profile image
Lorna Watson

Great tips, especially with the vertical ergonomic mouse, highly recommend it to anyone! I found it quick to get used too and for sure taken the achiness away from my wrist. I wouldn’t go back to a standard mouse

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humblecoder00 profile image
Şahin Arslan Author

Exactly! Usage of regular mouse causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in the long term. Little bit uncomfort to switch using vertical mouse at the beginning is totally worth it.

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ajxn profile image
Anders Jackson

Wouldn't use more keyboard shortcuts help with this, IF using the mousse actually is the problem?

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humblecoder00 profile image
Şahin Arslan Author

Valid point - personally I use a lot of keyboard shortcuts and it reduces my actions on mouse. However, it was not enough and I still had stiffness after working days.

I believe it is more related to how we keep our wrists on the table. Holding a classic mouse for many hours puts unnecessary pressure, while vertical mouse supports more relaxed holding position for the wrist.

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mjablecnik profile image
Martin Jablečník • Edited

Instead of glasses I am filter blue light on Linux with Redshift software.

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tbroyer profile image
Thomas Broyer

No need for any additional software actually, it's now built into GNOME (probably KDE and others too), Android, Windows, etc.

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humblecoder00 profile image
Şahin Arslan Author

Thanks for the tip - I remember reading about it but haven't tried yet. Worth a try!

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machineno15 profile image
Tanvir Shaikh

That's great tool,i was thinking to create like one until i found this. Thanks man.