RSI Exercises
December 13, 2004 12:31 PM   Subscribe

My job involves a lot of repetitive motion and I type way too much outside of work. I've had RSI issues in the past, and I want to strengthen my wrists/arms/shoulders so that they don't flare up again. Any recommended books or web sites where I can find RSI-specific exercises?

(Yes, yes, I know. Just Type Less. Assume for the moment that's not an option).
posted by Jeanne to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Nothing specific, but I've had great success avoiding RSI by regularly doing doing non-repetitive workouts that strengthen the forearm and hands, such as rock climbing.
posted by SpecialK at 12:39 PM on December 13, 2004

Your question leads me to believe that the strain comes not from typing, but other repetitive motions. Though this software is designed to help protect against typing-related RSI by encouraging or forcing micro-breaks and excercises throughout the day, I imagine the exercises it proposes would be helpful whatever the souce.
posted by piro at 12:48 PM on December 13, 2004

Switch to Dvorak keyboard layout and get an ergonomic keyboard. Worked for me.
posted by kindall at 1:01 PM on December 13, 2004

maybe not relevant, but switching the mouse from side to side helps me (you quickly get used to left hand mousing).
posted by andrew cooke at 1:15 PM on December 13, 2004

Yoga poses that put a lot of weight on my wrists paradoxically helped some of those issues for me. Hurt like hell at first, but my wrists are much beter now (regular practice might also help your posture, which, if you slouch, could be contributing to the problem).

Yoga Journal has some poses that are good for wrists.
posted by occhiblu at 1:54 PM on December 13, 2004

There is no reason to think you have to type less, in general. You probably just need to strengthen the system overall. This is a good reason to visit an occupational therapist. They can interview you about your activities and explain how they relate to your symptoms. They test your strength and give you advice about optimal strengthening and maintenance regimens. An OT may give you a little blob of Theraputty - which comes in colors coded for hardness - along with specific exercises.

Once you've had a chance to strengthen your hands and wrists in particular, activities like yoga, rock climbing, or just light weight-lifting will have few if any restrictions (or discomforts) and can maintain your strength. You only have one pair of wrists (I assume), and everyone's experience and background is a little bit different, so this is an area where I would get professional evaluation and recommendations.
posted by caitlinb at 2:24 PM on December 13, 2004

Wrist pain and lack of wrist strength are ongoing issues for me. When I saw a PT for this issue several years ago I got put on both the Power Putty (a version of Theraputty) as well as being taught a few exercises to use with light (1-, 2-, and 3-pound) barbells - basically flex your wrist 15 times in each direction (forwards, backwards, and thumb up) holding the barbell - start at 1 lb and work your way up (just like regular weightlifting). With the putty, don't just squeeze but also wrap it around your fingers and stretch them outwards, also try a wringing or twisting motion - make up your own exercises also. The yoga poses might be too difficult if your wrists are really weak and/or if your weight is at all substantial.
posted by matildaben at 3:08 PM on December 13, 2004

Matildaben's suggestions are good. Be wary of the rockclimbing suggestion. While the sport does strengthen the hands and forearm, overuse and strain injuries abound.

The Microsoft natural keyboards made a big difference for me, as did simply learning to type more gently.
posted by Manjusri at 4:39 PM on December 13, 2004

I've got a great wrist strengthening exercise for you (and it's SFW).

Get a broomstick (any tubular stick will do, really). Drill a hole in the stick through the middle. Tie one end of a strong string to the stick through the hole. Tie the other around a weight. Any weight will do, though I've found the standard round-weight-with-a-hole-in-it works best.

The exercise is simple: alternating between hands, twist the stick to completely wrap up the string around it. There are a few different positions that work, but two basic ones. Sitting down, rest the stick across both your legs, letting the string/weight hang down between them on the floor. Grab the stick with both hands equadistant from where the string ties to the stick. In the first variation you grab the stick palms-up, the second variation is palms-down.

Just twist the stick with each hand until the string is completely wound up, then reverse until the weight is on the floor again. Very easy exercise, very good workout for your wrists.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:46 PM on December 13, 2004

Just to clarify: you drill the hole through the middle of the stick, not at the end.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:24 PM on December 13, 2004

Things that have helped me:

Using this keyboard to obviate the need for a mouse (note: the price on this link is lousy, look around). The trackpoint (the little red button between the G, H, and B keys) takes some getting used to, but is very precise and easy on the wrists. IBM makes the best one.

Learning to solve a Rubik's Cube.

Shuffling a deck of cards during (informal) meetings, telephone calls, etc.

Also, I spent a long time learning to use a computer without a mouse. Web browsing is difficult, but navigating Windows is easy with some practice. Linux takes a little more work, but it can also be done, especially if you are a CLI junky.
posted by bh at 6:45 PM on December 13, 2004

Ergonomics Today or "Ergoweb" is quite a good resource.
Typing Injury FAQ is also good.
RSI Exercises from My Daily Yoga.
Here are some good links on workstation ergonomic design from OSHA, Cornell University Ergonomics Lab, and Healthy Computing.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:11 PM on December 13, 2004 [1 favorite]

I knew a sign language interpreter who wore a neoprene sleeve on his forearm during the day. He said the warmth and pressure did him well, and it's more passive than exercises and such. I can't vouch for it, but I never heard of it before that.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 8:46 PM on December 13, 2004

Some RSI is not caused by weakness, but by tension. Make sure that you have comfortable posture and that you aren't tense all the time.
posted by callmejay at 12:10 PM on December 14, 2004

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