Yes, I’ve been suffering again. In my right hand and elbow, mostly, in my left hand and neck a little. It hurts like Hell. The most painful part is the outside edge of my edge and the nobbly boney bit where my hand joins my wrist. As a picture (or, rather a photo) tells a thousand words, this bit of my hand here:
So, this morning, I updated what I knew on this subject by reading up about RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) on the internet, as it is some time since I published The Dreaded Lurgy page on this blog. At the time I wrote that page, it was apparent to me that the advice mostly dished out is for desktop PC users in offices, that is, sit with elbows, waist and knees at right angles and your line of vision lining up towards the top of the screen, without your needing to tilt your neck upwards or downwards – see the illustration on the Dreaded Lurgy page. Although people working in offices do still (mostly) use desktop computers, a lot of us nowadays use laptops, tablets and phones, and the advice has not caught up with us. I use a laptop to write and an iPad and iPhone when on the move. Our last desktop computer died several years ago.
My research also brought up a lot of adverts for so-called ergonomic devices – keyboards, mice, wrist-rests and mouse rests, and various other things – all expensive. Try them if you can afford them – and if you have space in a skip outside your house when you can’t be bothered to use them anymore.
I did find two wonderful articles by Jack Schofield – dated 2005 and 2013 – in The Guardian Online, about RSI caused by using laptops, tablets and other devices. Although old, these are gold dust. Jack Schofield has suffered too.
Broadly speaking, all computer users need to take frequent breaks. How frequent, you ask. Every forty minutes. Jack Schofield feels this is not possible for someone typing at their place of work, but, for writers writing at home, needing loo breaks and cups of tea/coffee – and biscuits to combat writers’ block – this advice has potential. A break of a few minutes will force you to adjust your position and that’s what’s important.
Laptop users should also be aware of the dangers of looking too far down at their screen, as you will when using your laptop on your lap, which is surely what it is designed for. (The Americans call laptops notebooks – I wonder why!) It isn’t possible, says Schofield, to adopt a good position whereby you can see your keyboard and your screen, without straining your neck. He suggests using a detachable screen and a notebook riser or ergonomic stand to raise your machine from your lap. To my mind, using a detachable screen, on my lap, would be cumbersome but I’m thinking seriously about ways of raising my laptop on my knee.
The main problem for me, however, has always been the hands. I use a mouse with my laptop. Mice haven’t changed in design since the 1960s. I’m convinced that it’s the mouse that’s causing me pain, as, when I’m just inputting on the keyboard, it’s not so painful. I try to avoid that outside edge of my hand rubbing against the edge of a desk or table, because I’m conscious that this seems to aggravate it. Also I’m using a variety of devices; at the moment I’m typing this on my iPhone.
The ultimate cure would be not to use the computer at all for a few days, and I was going to use that as an excuse for this blog post being late, but, as you probably know, I posted on Dear Reader last night, and I’ll be posting again tomorrow on Dear Reader, about Lydia’s Song as part of the Katherine Blessan Blog Tour. Busted!