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Caring for Your Wrists
Serious wrist problems can seriously mess up your life. You can fight wrist problems with preventative exercises, better ergonomics, and by reducing stress. Here are some tips from our own struggles with carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis.
Adam & Tonya Engst, TidBITS Editors
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Take a break every hour. Do some relaxation or stretching exercises or talk with someone about topics unrelated to work. Give your body and mind a rest.
Massage your hands and forearms several times a day with a vitamin E lotion. The massage will improve circulation and break up adhesions. Since you can't touch a keyboard until the lotion is absorbed, it also enforces a good break.
Massage the muscles in your neck working your way down from the skull to the shoulders, applying more force to the larger muscles as you go down.
Periodically evaluate your environment for ways to reduce stress. Try to keep your desk uncluttered so you can always find things. Make sure programs are set up correctly on the computer, and see if you can use a macro program to reduce keystrokes.
When faced with unavoidable stress, step back and evaluate your reactions. You can't eliminate stress in life, but you can modify your reactions so they don't harm you.
Create a Healthy Working Environment
(Click for a larger annotated version)
Watch your posture. Your feet should sit flat on the floor, your upper and lower legs should bend at the knee at a right angle, your back should be slightly arched and your neck straight, and your upper and lower arms should also be at right angles. Keep your wrists straight, with the fingers dangling down comfortably.
Do not crane your head and shoulders forward to look at the computer screenyour neck isn't designed to hold the weight.
Use a keyboard wrist rest properly. Your wrists should not be bent or touch the pad while you type. Rest your wrists on the pad only when not typing.
Drink plenty of water regularly during the day. An inexpensive bike water bottle will help keep water at your desk without chance of spills. Experts recommend six to eight glasses of water daily. Juice and soda are not substitutes for pure water, which makes up approximately 65 percent of our bodies.
Get a soft foam ball, hold it in your hand, and with your palm turned up gently squeeze ten to fifteen times. Do this several times a day with each hand. As with any exercise, do not do this if it hurts.
Stretch your fingers apart, trying to make your hand as big as possible. Hold the stretch for a few seconds, then curl your fingers inward without clenching. Keep your fingers curled for a few seconds before repeating.
Periodically drop your hands to your sides and shake them gently as though you were trying to shake off drops of water. This helps restore circulation and reduce carpal tunnel compression.
Oxygen is good stuffbreathe more. Yawning regularly (a reflex action when the body needs more oxygen) is a good way to provide more air to the brain and help calm you. Alternately, try this breathing exercise every half hour. Feel your belly bulge out as you breathe in slowly and deeply; feel your stomach suck in as you breathe out, trying to exhale smoothly and as long as possible.
Periodically stretch your neck. Concentrate on your breathing and the way your muscles move (or don't move) while you do this stretch. Exhale slowly and lower your chin to your chest. Inhale deeply and raise your chin. Exhale and drop your left ear toward your left shoulder, then inhale and raise your head to center again. Do the same for the right side and then repeat. The concentration and breathing are also relaxing.
Rest your eyes by periodically focussing on distant objects. If that's not possible, at least regularly look away from your screen. Blink often to keep your eyes moist. Exercise your eye muscles by tracing an X in a box; look as far to the sides as possible. Reduced eye fatigue reduces stress.
Graphics and original printed layout by Jon.Hersh
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