Ergonomics - Complications Ensue
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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Q. I'm having withdrawal pains from not being able to write. It sounds a little crazy, at least it does to non-writers, but I was recently diagnosed with tendinitis in both hands, wrists and elbows. I can't type anymore.
There's an easy answer to this one. Get yourself an ergonomic keyboard.

Regular keyboards are not arranged for the convenience of your hands. They are arranged in a straight line. Your hands come in at angles. So, you have to squinch your wrists in order to type. When you're young, you don't notice. As you get older, your hands start to resent the imposition. An ergonomic keyboard places the keys at an angle that is natural for your wrists.

I used to use my laptop as a desktop, using its own keyboard. My hands started to hurt. I got an external keyboard. The pain went away.

Ergonomic keyboards cost as little as $20 on eBay; more if you use the fancy split-keyboard type and pay retail. You might want to buy two, one for the home, one for the office. Or you can just buy one, and take it back and forth with you.

Safetype makes an even more ergonomic, if utterly weird looking keyboard. That's $295.00.

You might also think about getting yourself a Herman Miller Aeron chair. You get tendonitis because you're in an awkward posture. If your elbows are hurting, it's because they're not in a position they like to be in. The Aeron chair allows you to adjust everything -- back support, arm rest height, chair height, resistance to leaning back. There's a reason you see them everywhere, and it's not their easy-to-clean, breathable seat. They make it hurt less to sit.

The Aeron is expensive. But how much did you spend on your car? How much of your life do you spend in your car? Now, how much of your life do you spend in your chair?

You might want to think about buying an Aeron chair for your office, if that's where you spend most of your time. See if you can get your job to pay for it on the grounds of it being cheaper than your being disabled. If not, see if you can get your doctor to prescribe one so you can at least deduct it from your taxes. Even if your job won't pay for it, ask if you can bring yours in. (Have it put on the office insurance, in case someone else pinches it.)

You can also get an adjustable desk; though if your chair is adjustable you may not need one. I have a nice big old desk from the 1930's with drawers. It is not adjustable at all. I love it.

Ergonomic keyboard, adjustable desk, Aeron chair: probably a lot cheaper than ten visits to the physiotherapist, and they address the cause rather than the symptoms.

At the same time, you might want to have a physiotherapist come look at you at work. There may be things you're doing wrong that would be obvious to a professional but not to a layperson. And, you're more likely to listen to a professional. My beloved wife insists on typing while lying sideways on a bed or couch. One of these days her back is going to make her pay for that.

(For the ultimate in ergonomics, check out Craig Mazin's post on all his spiffy writing gear.)

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2 Comments:

Unfortunately, I've tried these suggestions, except for the expensive desk and chair, but work has purchased me a good chair, an ergo keyboard, and an ergo mouse. I sit at desk that they added a keyboard tray to but still it's not working. We have an ergonomics lady and she has come and set up my desk exactly they way it's suppose to be set up ... yet, it's not working. I think I'm just too far gone for any of this to work. I just need rest at this point which brings me back to the feelings of withdrawal.

By Blogger chell-shock, at 11:59 AM  

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

By Blogger john, at 12:19 AM  

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