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Typing and mouse clicks are two of the potential causes of Repetitive Strain Injury or RSI, a major health risk in computer users. With the arrival of touchscreen devices, tapping has also been added to the mix. Even if you can’t remove these three actions from the equation completely, with a few simple tricks, you can reduce their negative effects on your hands.

If a sizeable portion of your workload involves a computer or a mobile device, it is difficult to give it up entirely or even scale down the time spent with it. But you must find a way to rest your hands to lower the risk of RSI, or if you already have the condition, to alleviate the resulting pain considerably.

Here are three tips that can ease the burden on your hands and make computer or mobile usage slightly more comfortable.

Leave The Dirty Work To Your Device

Whether you’re typing a password, a short email, or a blog post, there are bound to be several chunks of text that you need to enter on a regular basis. Why type them out every time when you can use a text expander to automate a lot of your typing activity?

typing

Use a sturdy application like PhraseExpress to autocomplete the words you type frequently, replace common abbrieviations with their expanded versions or fix typing errors. Ryan’s post on PhraseExpress 7 Awesome Uses For PhraseExpress Text Expander 7 Awesome Uses For PhraseExpress Text Expander In my never-ending quest to find new ways to automate my activities in front of the keyboard, and to shave precious seconds off of my work schedule, I always appreciate new and creative technologies that... Read More tells you what you need to know about the capabilities of this text expansion app. WordExpander and eType are two other text expansion alternatives for Windows users. If you’re a Mac user, do check out Bakari’s post on TextExpander 7 Tips For Automating Your Mac With TextExpander 7 Tips For Automating Your Mac With TextExpander If you haven't gotten on the Mac automation spaceship by now, you're missing out. Applications like Keyboard Maestro, Hazel, and TextExpander can speed up your workflow and save you lots of clicking, copying, pasting and... Read More .

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Order Your Device About

The future is here and has been for quite some time now, and you can verbally order your computer to carry out your instructions. Launching apps, searching the Web, taking notes – all of that (and more!) is possible with a good speech-to-text converter.

speech-to-text

The latest versions of most operating systems come with some kind of built-in software for speech recognition. Depending on the OS you use, you can take advantage of these Windows 8 speech recognition tips Windows Phone 8 Voice Recognition Tips and Tricks Windows Phone 8 Voice Recognition Tips and Tricks Why would you pick up your phone if you could just tell it what to do? Windows Phone 8 has several very good speech recognition options. Give laziness and productivity a boost with our tips... Read More , try the dictation feature on Mac OS How To Dictate Writing On Your Mac: Apple's Dictation vs DragonDictate How To Dictate Writing On Your Mac: Apple's Dictation vs DragonDictate For a long time if you wanted or needed to use a speech-to-text dictation program on your Mac, your only choices were MacSpeech Dictate (now defunct) and Nuance's DragonDictate. But with the release of Mountain... Read More (introduced in the Mountain Lion release), or enlist the help of iOS’ Siri If You're Not Using Siri By Now, You Should Be If You're Not Using Siri By Now, You Should Be Most of the commercials, jokes, and media hype about Apple's iOS voice assistant, Siri, have subsided, but I still run into iPhone users who don't take advantage of this powerful feature. Just the other day... Read More . If you’re an Android user, it’s time you read Yaara’s mammoth post on talking to your Android device OK, Google: 20+ Useful Things You Can Say to Your Android Phone OK, Google: 20+ Useful Things You Can Say to Your Android Phone Slowly, without us noticing, the future has arrived. Read More .

In case you’re not happy with the voice software that came bundled with your device, you can always scout the web for an app of your choice.

While it sounds as if speech recognition is an instant solution to give your fingers some rest from the excessive typing and tapping, remember that speech recognition software comes with a learning curve.

When you begin using such software, there will be times when you feel like rattling your computer like it’s a real person, because whatever it’s typing has no resemblance to what you’re saying. This is normal and it will pass. After a few days of trial and error, you will learn to reduce the margin of error both by modulating your voice and training your device to understand exactly what you want typed. Of course, not all apps require the same amount of time for adjustment.

siri-voice-recognition

Among the popular speech recognition apps are the ones from Nuance’s Dragon series. There are both free and paid apps in the set. Dragon Dictation and Dragon GO! for iOS are among the free choices, while Dragon Home for PC ($99.99) and Dragon Dictate for Mac ($199.99) are among the paid applications available. The products are expensive, but generally work very well.

Switch To Your Non-Dominant Hand

I learnt this one from experience. Last year, I began experiencing severe pain in my right arm and right leg – the result of excessive computer usage over a period of eight years. The pain didn’t go away completely even after I stopped using the computer for three whole weeks. Eventually, with time and exercise, it did subside enough for me to resume work. But every time I used the mouse to operate my computer, the pain would start up again.

As an experiment, I started using my left (non-dominant) hand to manoeuvre the mouse. A few days later, I was shocked to discover that I was so comfortable using my left hand for mouse clicks that I didn’t even remember making the switch from right to left. Turning ambidextrous while handling digital devices is an easy and effective way to reduce the load on any one hand, as long as you ensure that you’re not overworking either. By making yourself familiar with keyboard shortcuts, you can avoid the need for mouse clicks further.

left-hand

More Ways To Beat RSI

The causes of RSI are not limited to typing, tapping, and mouse clicks, nor is the condition itself limited to users of digital devices. Prolonged repetitive tasks, bad posture The Data Sutra The Data Sutra o you have a special relationship with your computer? Then you may have explored these *ahem* positions before. Read More , stress, a lack of exercise, and various other factors act as catalysts for RSI. The good news is that RSI can be effectively countered by adopting simple measures like taking timely breaks 5 Reasons Working With Computers Is Bad For You & How to Stay Healthy 5 Reasons Working With Computers Is Bad For You & How to Stay Healthy Working on the computer may sound like the most relaxed job in the world, but it's quite the contrary. It's very tough on your body, which is not used to this modern type of work.... Read More , saving your neck and back How To Save Your Neck & Back With Workrave How To Save Your Neck & Back With Workrave Read More , and cultivating an active lifestyle away from the computer.

Do you have any tips for reducing computer activities like typing? Do you have an RSI-related experience to share? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credits: benny_lin, ginnerobot, walkingsf, perolofforsberg, dotbenjamin

  1. Troy
    March 2, 2014 at 6:38 am

    This is such a good article for today's tech world. As an avid tennis player, motorcyclist, coder and blogger, my right arm and forearm take a beating. Long ago after another bout with tennis elbow, I taught myself left-handed mousing, hitting tennis balls lefty and pretty much doing non-essential tasks lefty (e.g. eating).

    I've since added Dragon Naturally Speaking which now works great (version 12), Google Now and auto-correct Text Expanders in any form I can find them.

    My forearm and tennis game have thanked me.

    • Daniel E
      March 3, 2014 at 3:06 am

      Eating's “non-essential”?! What's the matter with you? <ducks>

  2. Dann A
    March 1, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    Thanks for these tips! I've definitely never gotten to the point of pain in my arm and leg, but I do worry about how much time I spend at a desk. I just switched my mouse to my left hand, and I'll give that a shot. I do have a Bluetooth trackpad, too, and I was using that more regularly; maybe I should again. I find that swiping left and right is pretty easy on both, but that the touch scrolling is hard on the muscles in the back of my hand.

    • Akshata
      March 3, 2014 at 6:40 am

      I'm sure switching between the right and left hand for using the mouse will help. When I was using a Windows laptop, I also found touch scrolling difficult. On my new netbook it's better, but I'm still not used to it. I think it'll take us quite some time to start using the touchpad as regularly as we use the mouse :)

      As for spending too much time at a desk, working in chunks using the Pomodoro technique has helped me some by forcing breaks in between. Otherwise one hour blends into the next and I stay in front of the computer for several hours straight.

    • Dann A
      March 3, 2014 at 7:55 am

      Do you use a Bluetooth touchpad, or the one on the computer itself?

      Also, I should start using the Pomodoro technique. I'd like to start tracking all of my time, actually, and I think that doing those two in conjunction would probably make them both easier.

    • Akshata
      March 4, 2014 at 3:10 am

      Dann, I use the one on the netbook itself. I hope the Pomodoro technique works for you.

  3. Dave P
    February 28, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    The best thing I did for my wrists was switch from using a Windows laptop and mouse to using a Chromebook and touchpad. The two-finger swiping method is a lot more relaxing and my RSI cleared up within weeks.

    Before making the switch I also found using a Powerball helped relieve it temporarily.

    • Akshata
      March 1, 2014 at 6:09 am

      I recently switched to an Asus netbook, but still use the mouse. I'll give the swiping method a shot. Powerball sounds effective. Maybe I should try that too.

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