Are You Hurting?
by Mikki Halpin for Digital Living Today

Is the 100+ hour work-week your start up requires getting you down? I feel your pain. No, I really feel your pain! That is, if we're talking about pain in your wrists, back, legs or neck due to excessive computer use. My hands hurt RIGHT NOW -- maybe yours do too. So, why don't you take a break for a second, relax and read this -- and for heaven's sake, sit up straight!

What many of us desk jockeys are suffering from is, of course, RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury), a general term that describes the cumulative chronic "micro-injuries" associated with repetitive movements and cube farm fatigue. It comes from doing too much of what you do all day: typing your way through cyberspace. That's right, the Internet we know and love may be injurious to your health! But all is not lost, there are ways to set up your workspace for greater health and productivity.

First, it's a good idea to bone up on general ergonomic theory to know what you're dealing with. Check out the UCLA ergonomics site, which is very comprehensive and has explanations of how to set up your desk, and tips for RSI treatment. Remember that these are guidelines and what works best is what works for you. I, for example, have the need for a cat on my lap at various times throughout the day, and have adjusted my desk to accommodate this. Your mileage may vary.

Next, indulge in the best therapy of all: Go Shopping! Bill the booty to your company if you can. Here are a few suggestions for what to toss into your shopping cart:

  • Grahl , "the leader of ergonomic products", has a very small, focused product line. The key innovation here is their Duo-Back chairs, which have a kind of bifurcated, butterfly seat back. They say it "supports the back while allowing movement" which are two Good Things. Bonus: they have patented one design called the "Hugger." Want!

  • Lots of keyboard-weary pixel pushers swear by the Handeze Therapeutic Support Gloves. As you wear them, you are massaged, supported and comforted (if a coworker did that it would be illegal!) They come in granny beige, sultry navy blue, and always-in-style black and are made of Med-A-Likra (think: Spandex). They are much less clunky and uncomfortable than a hand brace, and if lots of us start wearing them as our "cyber skin," they might even become fashionable as well as functional.

  • Goldtouch makes a great keyboard that combines the split board design with those groovy wave type boards that all the kids are using. But the coolest item, the one that will help you feel better and also add elegance to your desktop is their ergonomic mouse, which fits neatly and trustingly into your hand and has scrolling and panning features designed to reduce repetitive tasks. Microsoft's latest IntelliMouse Explorer is also an excellent choice of mouse. It's designed so that your hand rests on a greater amount of the mouse's surface, which reduces fatigue. It's also optical, so there's no roller-ball underneath to get gunked up and slow you down.

Finally, the best advice of all is always to relax -- don't work so hard! If you can't turn it off, consider funding voice recognition research with some of your dot com bucks. And, no, don't be tempted to buy voice-to-text software yet (unless your RSI is crippling). Despite what manufacturers say, this tech is still not ready for prime time.


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