Touch typing – Additional comments

Comment 1: As an ex-touch-typist with RSI, I can tell you it takes many, many hours of practice before you can achieve the sort of speed that will let you produce typed copy without thinking about it. You are basically training a reflex action when you learn to touch-type, so that you can, in the end, type whilst your mind is only half upon what you are going, just enough to monitor your work. I could even hold conversations whilst typing (not very intellectual ones, I grant you, but still…). How can your employers expect you to take on this extra burden when you are in pain NOW? It doesn’t seem very realistic to me. By far the best solution, I would suggest, is for your employers to buy you a copy of a voice-recognition package. I suggest Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional, but then I am biased – I use it every day in my work, and I can produce work at least twice as fast as I did previously (and I was a 90 wpm touch typist). If you are using a windows-based program, it should work – you can obtain advice from the website below.

Installation and training really does not take very long – I took half a day and I had the 3.52 version and they’ve gone through 4 and are up to 5 since then so it’s a lot quicker now. The cost of the Professional version in the UK was about £350 last time I looked. If you only want to produce large chunks of text and not do fancy things, you can buy something like Dragon NaturallySpeaking Essentials for about £40 – depends how generous your employers are feeling – but you could stress that if they buy you voice-recognition rather than touch typing training, you will be an ASSET to them very soon, rather than a liability. I would also suggest you take a look at the website Some other people prefer programs like VoiceWrite but sorry I don’t have a web address for them.

Comment 2: Yes, I too would be very grateful to hear more about your exercises. I’m building up quite a collection of stretches etc, from books, flyers, the physio etc, but I’m always looking for new and hopefully better stretches/exercises to try. Stretching seems to be a possible way forward.

Comment 3: A lot of useful advice has already been given, but here’s a couple of extra thoughts:
1) Your employers may have suggested learning to touch type as a way of encouraging you to spread the load across all fingers. I tried this initially as my injury is almost entirely in the fingers and hands, but it was too painful / difficult initially. Not sure how it would help a wrist problem. In the end I purchased a Maltron dual handed keyboard in QWERTY layout and this forces one to spread the load onto both hands. After several years of using this I can (almost) touch type although I’ve never set out to do that! Still not cured though and have to limit my typing considerably.

2) I also swear by (and occasionally at) Dragon Voice recognition products. The latest “Naturally speaking” versions are optimized from a hi-end PIII (Pentium 3) but work remarkably well on mid-range PIIs and Celerons. Personally I use Dragon Dictate a great deal as well. Although this is an older package and can’t do text dictation very well it is very good at controlling windows and working is excelling etc. They are susceptible to noisy environments though, so you may need some screens or other acoustic improvements.

3) I really don’t think you should be typing with your splints on. I wear them around the office to wrest the wrist / hand when it gets bad, but I’m pretty certain that trying to type with them on will cause more damage (I believe by increasing stress in areas around the splint and not allowing the tendons etc to more correctly). Perhaps someone else with more medical knowledge could comment here. Hope that helps a bit. Try and stay positive. Best wishes.

Comment 4:  First of all thank you to you and to everyone else on the list for your kind words of wisdom and support – it really does feel good to know that people out there can understand what I am going through! Some news to report: I am going to be having an ergonomic assessment of my workstation tomorrow – kindly arranged for by the DEA @ my local Job Centre. He is a kind chap who has already confirmed that I do qualify for help under the Access to Work Scheme. With regards to medical treatment I am on the waiting list @ Ashford Hospital for the Pain Clinic – been told it will take a minimum one year before I get to see someone – still waiting for the appointment to come through. Also, I may have to leave my job at the end of March (3rd time I will be doing this in 5 years). On the plus side at least I might be able to qualify for help under the DDA to get retrained in a new career where I don’t need to use the keyboard………how does security officer @ Heathrow sound to you?? (It’s a better alternative to going on the dole).

Comment 5:  How does security officer @ Heathrow sound to you? (It’s a better alternative to going on the dole).

Comment 6:  I’ve been following the thread of this conversation and feel I would like to say the following. Firstly, to suggest touch typing as a cure or to even alleviate the symptoms of RSI shows a DEFINITE lack in knowledge of RSI and all other Work Related Upper Limb Disorders. What you will actually do is end up increasing the trauma suffered by the hands and wrists and increasing your chances of suffering an incurable disorder. DONT DO IT. The best thing to do is look at the ergonomics of your work station. I’m afraid it’s just good old posture and good working practices that will save you at the end of the day. This includes REGULAR breaks for stretches and exercising. If you haven’t already seen a physiotherapist, then see one. Get your GP to recommend one or ask the people on this list who are in your area for recommendations (is your area West London by any chance)?!!! Also look at how you can decrease your workload. This is a very sensitive issue as very often employers immediately start to look for ways to get rid of you as soon as you ask them to look at this option. Be diplomatic, but be firm. Employers are bound by law to look at ALL ways and methods to alleviate your symptoms. This even includes paid time off to see a physio/doctor. You might want to try to suggest ‘SHARING‘ your workload rather than cutting it down as an example. Also try out some voice recognition software such as Dragon Dictate or IBMs range of VR software. As with smoking related disorders/illnesses/diseases prevention is the best cure. Get the best medical advice you can. If you have medical insurance then use it.

After such a bleak message, I would say keep a stiff upper lip. Most of us on the list are in the same position or have come along the same path. We know what you’re going through and you are definitely not alone. Be strong for your own sake as the ignorant who don’t have RSI are just that I’m afraid… bloody ignorant! Wow… now I feel better for having sounded off! As for the operation could it have been for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? That’s the only operation I’m aware of that could possibly have any effect on any ‘recognised’ work related disorder. Although it works in some cases it just sounds to me a bit like going to the doctor to have a hole cut in your head to cure a headache about 100 years ago?! Well, we’re still definitely in the dark ages as far as WRULDs go… I sincerely hope that we don’t have to hang around 100 years before someone finds out the real cause or discovers a miracle cure for us! Good luck everyone!

Comment 7:  A lot has already been said here on the subject, but I agree that you shouldn’t learn to touch-type. I am a self-taught touch typist with small hands. I don’t know if this has caused or contributed to my problem, but being self-taught, I sit incorrectly at my workstation, resulting in poor posture. Like you, I was given splints to give relief, but I couldn’t work with them on and suggest that you don’t either. Again, I’m not medically trained, but you will be forcing against the splint to move your fingers and the added pressure and strain will only add to your problem. As for the exercise, I was told to try Pilates, because it’s very gentle like Yoga. I found that I could only do about 80% of the class and had to modify some of the exercises as I couldn’t raise my hands above my head. With patience (over 6 months) I have drastically improved my posture and strengthened my torso muscles. I still can’t do everything, but it is getting easier. I also tried swimming and managed one stroke due to the pain along my upper arm when I stretched out to swim. I think it’s like all these things…you have to work out what’s right for you.

Other people have mentioned physio. I had a few months with the NHS physio who concentrated purely on my posture and arms. When this ended (you only get so much on the NHS) the company physio took over (thankfully I work for a large organisation). She took a different approach and worked on my thoracic spine (middle bit where your ribs are approx.) to release tension in the vertebrae and is now working on my neck muscles. She believes that poor posture at work made my neck jut forward and has tightened all my neck muscles which are tightening the nerves and thus causing the pain in my wrists. Without going on, I just wanted to demonstrate that it’s trial and error, even with the specialists, because we all are so different; but persevere because with a good practitioner, you will get there in the end.

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