Question: Since 1995 I’ve been increasingly working behind a computer. During the past two and a half years the level of intensity increased significantly due to the nature of my work (studying and now freelance research)where i found myself reading and absorbing evermore information online. I should also add that I’ve been working behind a Toshiba laptop with an external mouse/keyboard and 13inch tft screen. During the past few weeks or should I say months I’ve noticed a very slow rise in the symptoms associated with rsi including tingling sensations and sometimes pain in the fingers, wrists, elbows and arms generally. I started to give concern to this upon realising that these symptoms persisted even after breaks e.g. after a couple of days off coming back to the computer and immediately experiencing the above. Interestingly enough before purchasing the external keyboard (a £10 trust standard English keyboard)back in March/April I was not aware of these symptoms although as i understand it rsi emerges over a long period of time and is difficult to detect in the very early stages.
I’ve also had a problem emerge with an existing eye weakness. I have a latent divergent squint (lazy eye) which seems to have become worse along with eye strain in front of the computer. After getting new glasses with a non glare coating and an inbuilt correction for my squint things have improved a little but I still feel pain in my eyes. Could this be a sign of temporary eye strain or could it be associated with rsi? I’m starting to think the latter. On both counts after taking regular breaks and doing some initial research I arranged through helpful local GP/s appointments with a physio and an eye specialist (both appointments due tomorrow as chance would have it). Anyway, that about sums up my experiences to date. I think I’ve reached the first stage of at least acknowledging the seriousness of the problem while starting to formulate a long term plan to prevent it from getting worse. i would really appreciate any advice/tips anyone may have especially with:
1) the eye problem- has anyone had a similar experience?
2) can anyone recommend the best screen/configuration to upgrade to? at the extreme do people use projectors to work with 🙂 this may be an outlandish and not to mention a very expensive solution but I imagine that such a situation would transform (perhaps for the worse?) computer viewing/interaction. With a squint things close up appear to need more eye concentration (muscle correction).
3)typing- is it expensive to move over to voice recognition? i will join the relevant list to find out more about voice recognition- but any thoughts here would be welcome.
Answer 1: Laptops are particularly dangerous, because it’s so difficult to get your setup right. It may be easier to overcome this if you have an external keyboard and monitor. Have a look at the Pocket Ergonomist. This is the classic progression. The stages are well described in “Repetitive Strain Injury”, Pascarelli & Quilter, available from the US via online booksellers (unless anyone knows of a UK distributor?) You may have changed your posture in some specific way when you changed to the new keyboard. Using a standard kbd ought to be better than using the laptop kbd, but it all depends on the rest of the setup. There are theories that the eyestrain associated with screen use could be a kind of “RSI in the eyes”, but whether this is true or not is hard to say. There is discussion of the subject, and references to some studies at http://www.prio.com/. Bear in mind while reading that both sites come from people who make their living from treating eye disorders and therefore have their own take on the subject. Mightn’t a projection screen be harder to focus on? I always find it harder to look at “large screen” TVs than at the real TV screen. Some people have been able to get assistance with this through the PACT scheme for enabling disabled people to obtain or remain in employment. The rules are trickier for self-employed — ask to see the Disability Employment Advisor at the local Job Centre.