it’s VERY VERY important to a good life to understand how to deal with RSI. there is a lot of information about this, but i wanted to add my emphasis to how important it is. and i noticed a lot of the information is lacking in the stretches and squeezes area – it will list several and leave out a ton of others. so making a better list there is my main motivation for writing this.
RSI can absolutely cripple people's lives and doing some stretches and squeezes can make a huge difference in staying healthy.
here are some of the most important general things:
do not wait until you have a problem and then learn about RSI afterwards. by then a lot of damage is already done and it will be much harder to manage and you might not fully recover ever.
take breaks. regularly. seriously, do it.
if anything hurts, that means you should have taken a break BEFORE IT HURT. you need to stop immediately, but more importantly take a break sooner next time. never ever ever ignore pain.
you should type with your wrists straight. whatever you do, DON'T put your palms on the table at the base of the keyboard, then bend your wrists up to type on the keyboard.
using a trackpad a lot can hurt your index finger which does most of the work. laptop users should seriously consider using a mouse part of the time. (mice are also better input devices – faster and more accurate. if you don’t experience it that way, that’s due to a lack of skill with a mouse which is completely fixable. also having acceleration enabled can make a mouse a lot worse to use.)
if you use a trackpad a lot or have issues with a mouse, you should learn to use trackpad and/or mouse left handed in addition to right handed. you'll be slow at first but you can learn it. then switch off sometimes. if you use your left hand a quarter of the time, that's a lot less work for your right hand.
trackpads and mice are harder on your hands than a keyboard. learn keyboard hotkeys/shortcuts and create new ones.
get a keyboard which requires a low amount of force to press keys down. apple's recent keyboards (with the very thin keys) are good here. there are other good ones too. if you have an old keyboard with full size keys (like half an inch tall) it's probably really bad. type with a light touch.
also a lot of mice really suck – they have problems like weighing too much, requiring too much force to click, having too much traction when you try to move them, and being imprecise. get a mouse that you can use with a light touch. also you need a good surface, probably a mousepad, so it actually works well (mice work poorly on most desks). Razer makes good mice. Apple makes bad mice (i tried an apple wireless mouse several years ago and it was heavy and the bottom had a ton of friction with the mousepad instead of sliding easily, and it took more force to click than a razer mouse and it wasn't very precise.)
get a good chair. and think about the arm rests. i use an Aeron chair with a pillow over the arm rests which creates like a big arm rest accross my entire lap. (i like this a lot but you need the right kind of pillow in terms of size, shape, softness. most pillows wouldn't work very well. i don't know where to buy a good one, sorry). i used to use a cheap office chair that was good too, but a lot of the cheap ones suck.
eyes: staring at a screen can hurt your eyes. look away and focus on distant objects sometimes. close and squeeze your eyes shut hard sometimes. massage your closed eyes with your palms sometimes. look into Flux and Gunnars.
google information about monitor height, keyboard height, chair height, etc. i won’t go into details on that for now except to mention that by attaching the screen to the keyboard, laptops make good ergonomics impossible without an external keyboard and/or external display. a good computer setup has the keyboard lower than the screen. it’s fine to use a laptop in your lap or in bed sometimes, part of the time, but using it like that all the time is a bad idea.
you should stretch sometimes. with skill, you can tell when you need it, when stuff is tight, etc. if you don’t have a lot of experience and understanding of this, do it regularly. you can stretch when away from the computer, e.g. when waiting in line, when waiting for your microwave, while walking to another room, while on the phone, etc
lots of websites and videos with information about stretches are way too incomplete and leave out a ton of great hand stretches (and often all the squeezes and all the shoulder/neck stuff too). here is a better list (soon, below):
note that in general anything done with one hand should be repeated with the other, and all stretches should be held for a few seconds. that can be 15 seconds or 30, it depends what you’re comfortable with. at first you should do ALL of these things (it really doesn’t take that long once you’ve done them a few times and remember everything). as you get more experience with them and get a better understanding of your body, you can get a sense of which are most helpful to you.
you should read a bunch of different guides on this stuff and learn a lot about it. my above information is pretty quick just to give a general idea. learn more. now here are stretches and squeezes which i will be more complete with:
STRETCHES AND SQUEEZES:make one hand flat (with the arm straight), gently push on your fingers with the other hand to bend your wrist back. also repeat the same thing without using your other hand – just using the muscles in the first hand instead of pushing on it. and anything that’s for one hand, repeat it with the other hand after.
push the other way, on the back of your hand, to bend the wrist the other direction. and repeat without using the second hand to push.
pull your thumb back with the other hand.
put your two flat hands together (palms and fingers aligned). press downward so your wrists bend back.
rotate your wrists both ways and push gently with the other hand.
grip around your wrist and the area behind it with your other hand and twist the skin both directions. then move your hand up your arm a little and repeat. this massages it. also squeeze and slide your hand instead of twist to massage more.
put your hands on your hips with the thumb separate from the other fingers and press in to stretch the thumb away from the rest
spread out all your fingers. push them all outwards and backwards. (with their own muscles, not your other hand)
bend fingers over and under the next finger over. index to middle. middle to ring. and ring to pinky.
squeezes (it’s very important to do squeezes and use your muscles, not just stretches): make a fist, squeeze hard. bend just the tips of your fingers in and squeeze. make a fist with your thumb inside it and squeeze. grip one forearm with the other hand and squeeze. also get one of those balls to squeeze in your hand if you want.
put your left hand flat with fingers facing up. then grip it with your right hand, so your palms are together, but your hands are rotated 90 degrees to each other, so the fingers on your right hand will point left or forward. you should have your left thumb, then right thumb, then left 4 fingers, then right 4 fingers, in that order, counter-clockwise. then bend in your fingers and squeeze. and repeat with the other hand facing up.
interlace your fingers so they alternate one from each hand. with your palms together, squeeze – press in with all your fingers.
fingers still interlaced, put your arms at full length, palms facing away from you, and press outward.
shoulder and neck rotations (both directions) and stretches (move or turn head or shoulders in each direction they go to the max and hold it a bit)
yes, try ALL of these stretches and squeezes. over time you can learn to feel which ones your body needs when and see which are most valuable to you. you should still do ALL of them sometimes, but you can adjust the frequency and amounts for different ones.