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Prabhu R
Prabhu R

Posted on • Originally published at blog.teamnexus.in

Repetitive Strain Injury - What is it & How to avoid

These days many jobs are office based and most of the people who work in these jobs sit in an office desk, usually, in front of a computer. As a result, they tend to sit there for hours together in the same posture or doing repeatedly the same movements causing inflammation, pain and damage to the soft tissues, muscles, tendons etc. This leads to trigger finger (also called BlackBerry Thumb, Playstation Thumb & Smartphone Thumb), tennis elbow and carpal tunnel (Rubik's Wrist or Raver's Wrist).

These effects/injuries are commonly referred to Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). It is a gradual build up of damage to muscles and nerves that it tends to cause

  • Pain
  • Tightness
  • Numbness
  • Tingling Sensation
  • Dull ache

and similar symptoms.

It is common among people who have a sedentary job, sitting almost all day. This includes

  • Programmers
  • People playing computer games for a long time
  • People on their Smartphone for a long time
  • Office Assistants
  • Office Managers
  • Call support engineers

and the likes. The early people take remedial measures, when they start to see early symptoms will help avoid complications. Even better, is to use tools or software that help avoid RSI. There are many available but in this post we will look at a few that are free and cross-platform

Most of these RSI preventing software use the Pomodoro Technique - a time management method invented by Francesco Cirillo where work is split into smaller tasks separated by short breaks. All of these software have similar functionality of prompting for breaks at configured time intervals

Workrave

First in the list is Workrave. A portable version is available from PortableApps. Workrave monitors mouse movements and keyboard typing and provides the following features

  • Microbreaks - A short break every 10-20 mins typically for about 15-30 seconds.During a microbreak you can let go of keyboard and mouse, look away from the screen, and relax a bit.
  • Rest breaks - A break away from your computer every 1 to 2 hours typically for about 5-10 minutes.
  • Daily Limit - The amount of time you use your computer. When you have reached the configured daily computer usage limit, you are prompted to stop using the computer for the day.

Workrave presents a gentle Break warning before the break starts

The beautiful feature is Exercises at the start of the restbreak. Each exercise takes about 30 seconds, and the number of exercises that are shown is configurable.

Workrave also provides a number of statistics like breaks taken, skipped etc.

BreakTimer App

The next app is the BreakTimer App, that is a cross platform app. The installation is simple and it sits in the system tray. It allows configuration of break frequency and break length. It also provides customization of work hours.

It shows a nice pop-up window or notification before the break and displays the configured break message. It does not have micro-breaks, rest-breaks or daily limit like Workrave but does the breaking timing aspect well. It doesn't gather any statistics, just plain simple break timer.

All breaks can be postponed by a preconfigured time and can also be skipped.

Stretchly

The last app in this post is Stretchly which is also a cross-platform app. There is a portable option available, just download and extract it to a directory and run the application, as simple as that. Like the other two programs, this one also sits in the tray and displays notifications during breaks.

Like Workrave, Stretchly has minibreaks and long breaks, however, it neither has daily limits nor collects any statistics. It does its function in a plain simple manner - display break notifications. One just 10 seconds (configurable) before the break and a bigger almost full screen notification.

Another nice feature is Stretchly suggests a small exercise or a workout during each break. The entire program is Apple macOS themed even in Microsoft Windows.

All three programs are quite good and do their jobs well. It is just a matter of preference on who likes what. But it is definitely great softwaree to avoid a bad conditions.

Try it yourself and stay healthy!

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