Although I love my job and I relish the time that I get to spend writing every day, I’m also acutely aware of the problems that can stem from a career at the computer. One such problem is the issue of “Repetitive Stress Injury”, which is not a disease or disorder in and of itself, but refers to the set of problems that can occur when you repeat the same motion hundreds of times each day.
Repetitive stress injuries are particularly an issue for people who spend lots of time at the computer – i.e. writers. Typing at the computer causes you to use the same muscles and movements over and over, which can damage certain parts of your body over a significant period of time.
The parts of your body which are most affected by repetitive stress injuries are the eyes and the hands, though other parts of your body can be affected as well. One major problem that writers often experience is back pain because of the way you sit at the computer for long periods of time.
Fortunately, you can minimize the amount of pain your body suffers at the hands of repetitive stress injuries by making yourself aware of potential problems. If you know how certain movements and postures can affect your body, you can work to avoid them as you pursue your writing career.
The eyes are one of the main body parts that suffer from repetitive stress injuries. When your eyes are focused on a computer monitor for 8-10 hours each day, they can become dry and irritated and you can even compromise your vision.
1. Keep the monitor far enough from your body. Experts at Entrepreneur.com advise writers and other “computer potatos” to keep their monitors at least an arm’s length away from your body while you are working. This keeps it far enough away so that your eyes aren’t bothered, but not so far that you have to squint to see what’s on the screen.
2. Ask your doctor about computer lenses. Glasses made specifically for computer-users such as writers are now available. They help your eyes adjust to the computer and can be multi-focaled so that you can look at your computer and a piece of paper on your desk without having to remove your glasses. This can significantly decrease the chances for repetitive stress injuries to your eyes.
3.Purchase a High-Quality Monitor. Some monitors will be easier on the eyes than others, though not every writer can afford an expensive LCD monitor. Check out PCMagazine.com for recommendations for writers and other frequent computer-users to find a monitor that won’t result in repetitive stress injuries, but still remains within your budget.
Your hands are probably more at risk for repetitive stress injuries than your eyes. Not only are your fingers affected from flying across the keys at high speeds, but the repetitive motion of clicking the mouse button can also cause repetitive stress injuries.
1. Purchase a Natural Keyboard from Microsoft. The Natural Keyboard looks a little strange – the keys are split down the middle – but it greatly reduces the proclivity to repetitive stress injuries by putting your wrists at the right angle to your arm.
2. Use External Keyboards for Laptops. Many writers have opted for laptop computers rather than the old-fashioned desktop models, which can raise your risk for repetitive stress injuries. The keys are closer together and far shallower, which increases the concussion felt by your joints. When you’re sitting at your desk with your laptop, consider using an external desktop keyboard instead.
3. Use a Rubber Foam Wrist Rest. Keyboard manufacturers have successfully duped computer-users such as writers into believing that the plastic built-in wrist rests will keep your tissue from bruising and aching. It actually doesn’t do much good at all, so consider investing in a rubber foam wrist pad to avoid repetitive stress injuries.
Every writer cannot afford an expensive ergonomically-correct leather desk chair, so you might have to make do with what you have. Your back can undergo significant repetitive stress injuries from sitting at the computer all day.
1. Use a Pillow or Back Rest. If your computer chair doesn’t allow you to sit back comfortably while working at your computer, use a pillow or back rest to straighten your posture while writing.
2. Use a Mouse Caddy. Some writers experience severe shoulder pain because the mouse is located to the far right of the keyboard, which can place your arm, shoulder and alignment at an odd angle. Check out the mouse caddies at ErgoSource.com.
As a writer, you can’t ultimately prevent all possibilities for repetitive stress injuries, but as a final note, pay attention to your body and what it tells you. If you notice that you’re experiencing pain in a certain area at the end of a long writing session, look for the source of the pain the next day and see if you can’t take steps to relieve it.