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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?
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 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.
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.
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, try the dictation feature on Mac OS (introduced in the Mountain Lion release), or enlist the help of iOS’ Siri. If you’re an Android user, it’s time you read Yaara’s mammoth post on talking to your Android device.
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.
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.
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, 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, saving your neck and back, 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.