How Do You Use Your Hands at the Computer?
Repetitive Strain Injury has become a common disorder since the advent of the computer. We can type so much more quickly on a computer keyboard than we could on a typewriter. That means that we are requiring our hands to do considerably more work in the same eight hours a day than we used to.
If a secretary using a typewriter could type 60 wpm, and she spent approximately 3 hours of the day doing actual typing, she would be using approximately 10,800 finger strokes every day. With a computer keyboard it is possible to type up to 120 wpm. Now that same 3 hours would turn into 21,600 key strokes. Multiply that over a year’s time, and our modern computer user will have logged 16,200,000 key strokes. Multiply that times the number of working years…. (You get the idea.) Each one of those keystrokes is a mini-trauma to the fingers, hand, and wrist. It is no wonder that RSI has become so widespread!
How do we avoid becoming one of the statistics? Here are a few tips:
- Keep your fingers relaxed. Be aware of tension you may be putting in your hands. This is most likely to happen when you have deadlines to meet or are focusing on a critical project.
- Type more lightly. Many of us use way more pressure to get the keys to respond than is necessary. If the sound of your typing is loud, you are probably a keyboard pounder. Gravity is always exerting pressure on your hands. Use that gravity to take your keys down rather than using pressure. The difference will be amazing.
- Don’t continue to press on keys that need to be held down (such as the shift key). Once the key is down, it doesn’t take much effort to keep it there.
- Keep your wrists above the keyboard. Resting the base of your hands on a desk or wrist rest will put pressure on the carpal tunnel. It isolates the small muscles of the hand and forces them to do work that the larger muscles in your forearms should be doing. Allow your wrists to float in space.
- Avoid resting your elbows on the desk or chair arms. This puts pressure on the ulnar nerve (in the forearm) which can also contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome or other pains.
- Avoid “tea time” pinkies. If the pinkies are held out stiffly, this puts strain on the tendons of the fingers. Just as any other fingers, the pinkies should stay lightly curved. Notice the curve of your hands when they hang loosely at your side. Try to type with that same curve in all of your fingers.
- The strongest point in your hand is the arch where your fingers meet the palm of your hand. Keep that arch tall as your type. The fingers should be lower than that arch.
- Keep fingernails short.
- If you need to press 2 keys at the same time (Ctrl-P), use both hands rather than stretching one hand to reach both keys.
- Allow the whole hand to move when you need to reach the distant keys. Forget what your typing teacher taught you about keeping your hands on Home Row. If you try to glue your hands to home row, you will need to twist your wrists to reach those keys. The twisting motion can in time lead to tendonitis. Instead, imagine a straight line running from your elbow down the outside of your forearm all the way to your pinkie finger. Keep that line straight as your type. When you need to move to the outer keys, let your forearm take you there rather than stretching and twisting your hands to reach them.
If you are benefited by any of these ideas, we would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below. The next topic will deal with your use of the mouse.