Occupational Hazard: Writers and Repetitive Stress Injuries

I had planned to post again yesterday but got waylaid, inspiring a change in what I was going to blog about.  So, here we go — the oft-unmentioned occupational hazard of the writer and other keyboard slaves, repetitive stress injuries.

I love my computer and I love being at my desk.  It’s my sacred space, where, even when others use it on occasion, God help you if things get moved around without my prior knowledge and consent.  Unfortunately, it’s also the setup for many aches, pains, and injuries I could have without even realizing it.

Pictured: A health hazard

Repetitive stress injuries, or overuse injuries, are most common among desk jockeys and usually afflict the soft tissues in the back, arms, hands, neck, and eyes and any corresponding joints.  You’ve most likely heard of some of the more serious ones — migraines, tendonitis, trigger finger, and the dreaded carpal tunnel — but all those aches and pains and sore spots you discover after a long day typing also fall into that category.

These injuries can and should be avoided at all costs, not just for the sake of comfort, but because letting an RSI develop into something serious can put you out of commission completely — bad news for anyone trying to finish a long project, or who makes a living writing.

That’s what happened to me yesterday.  I got to my desk at about 9am and barely moved until after 4pm.  After I had lost my focus and complained to my significant other about my back pain, I had to give up and find a more comfortable place to sit down.

Today it’s better — I feel more like my actual 22 years instead of 50 — but I’m going to have to invest in a more comfortable desk chair.  What a treat it would be if I developed back trouble before my freelance career had even gotten out of infancy.

I mention all this not to complain, but as a reminder to my fellow writers.  Avoid RSIs at all costs, because they are much easier to prevent than to treat. My few tips:

  • Take frequent breaks.  Don’t consistently spend several hours glued to your chair — get up and stretch, move out of the same positions, look at something besides .
  • Invest in good ergonomic equipment.
  • Keep your wrists straight when typing or mousing, rather than bent or resting on the desk.
  • Always use good posture.
  • Don’t squint and avoid writing in the dark, which causes extra glare from the computer screen.
  • If you do have carpal tunnel, always wear your brace when at the computer.
  • Read this great article on Writing-World.com: Avoiding Repetitive-Stress Injuries

Have you dealt with an RSI?  Share your wisdom!