Handmade Hero»Forums»Code
19 posts
RSI tips & tricks --- add yours
Back when I was coding a lot; one trick I used to use was to move the screen & keyboard from one side of my desk to the other, I would find whatever pain I was having would slowly dissipate and then re-invent itself in some new and interesting way.

Of course your mileage will vary, most of my problems came from being in a bad car wreck which buggered up my neck & shoulders. (Don't skip the physio kids)

I also found exercise & a good sports massage (deep tissue arms & neck) also helped, (Possibly a placebo fix), but as I'm terminally lazy that never lasted for very long.

Casey: you complain about how bad the medical profession is with these things, I'd agree, 20 years back when I was having problems, I was told both by the Doc & by my boss to harden up and if you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen.... They were arseholes :)

Hang in there mate, get well soon!
Rowan Crawford
13 posts
RSI tips & tricks --- add yours
As Casey mentioned, these problems seem to be experienced and solved on an individual basis, but here are some more general thoughts.

Don't mess with it. Think of it having two thresholds, both with unknown values: the 1st threshold is where it becomes sore and if you stop what you're doing (with luck) it'll settle back down. The 2nd threshold, if breached by trying to work through it, is where your brain flags it as "damaged" and this is where you may well have the problem for life (or at least a long time -- cool down in stage 2 is slow). So don't mess with it.

Medical professionals + nerve pain = they will see it as a nail for their particular hammer. Watch out for this, it's an easy way to waste money while improving nothing.

I use two mice and a low-profile Apple keyboard (NOT the wireless one). The two mice are to spread the work load: left for a while, right for a while, left for a while, and so on. The keyboard is simply the one that is closest to the keys being on the desktop that I could find, and that puts less strain and angling on my wrists.

I rest my arms quite heavily on the desk and sort of pivot at the point where they hang off the desk a bit, probably with a similar aim to Casey's wrist braces.


I have fibromyalgia, which is not RSI but is sort of like an RSI generator. Anything repetition or strain related I can fall prey to very easily, so I've sort of been collecting the whole set. It took the worst part of a year to be properly diagnosed.

There's nothing to suggest Casey has fibromyalgia, so that's good. Just a good ol' fashioned case of ouchy finger. Though I'm not a doctor.
Miguel Lechón
78 posts
RSI tips & tricks --- add yours
I also use two mice and I find the setup kind of nice even when my right wrist is not acting up. It's not really applicable to Casey, I think, because he's right-handed and his problems are on the left hand.
Casey Muratori
801 posts / 1 project
Casey Muratori is a programmer at Molly Rocket on the game 1935 and is the host of the educational programming series Handmade Hero.
RSI tips & tricks --- add yours
low-profile Apple keyboard (NOT the wireless one).

I was thinking about that as well as something I might want to try... I don't know that my problem has much to do with vertical wrist angle, but of course I also don't know that it _doesn't_, so it seemed like something good to try.

Any specific one, or just whatever the current wired keyboard is?

- Casey
Rowan Crawford
13 posts
RSI tips & tricks --- add yours
It's just one of these:


The problem with the wireless version is that the battery pack forces the keyboard to an acute angle. Even this wired version isn't perfectly flat, but I find it pretty nice.

Though, I've wondered if I'd like it to be more compact, to minimize lateral movements. I'm not sure. It's an experimental process for me too.

Philip Ludington
14 posts
RSI tips & tricks --- add yours
Edited by Philip Ludington on
1) A pillow, when things where there worst for me, I used pillows as the desks and arms rest.
1) I use a left handed mouse at work and normal right hand mouse at home.
2) Got ride of cheap chairs and bought high quality ones. (Any kind of arm rest that is concave, has edges or ridges seems to always cause problems. They must be soft, big and pillow-y looking.
52 posts
It's been so long ;)
RSI tips & tricks --- add yours
I myself do not have any wrist troubles (yet, hopefully never). But I always hear the you should exercise your hands with hand putty. You can also wrap a rubber band around your fingers and spread your fingers out. I do not know the significance of these.

I also relax my arm and hand when not typing, I have no clue if it helps at all, but it seems like it should. :P
117 posts
Code hacker/developer
RSI tips & tricks --- add yours
So I had been fine with the RSI using my good ole' Fellowes ergo keyboard and my Evoluent hand-shake mouse, however, I just worked out at the gym last night and tried some "Incline Dumbbell Alt Curls", where you basically sit down and start with the dumbbell and a completely extended arm towards the ground, then you lift the weight all the way through the entire arm's range of motion to your chest area... I had been doing regular standing curls and I noticed that after doing these, they were much harder and I had to drop the weight to less than half of what I could do with the regular standing curls with less range of motion. Now I am also starting to feel the tingling in my right forearm/elbow/wrist, so I suspect starting this exercise may have caused it, though it may end up strengthening the area in the longer run?

Anyone have experience with this or any other suggestions. I thought I remember seeing another RSI post here but the only other one I found was the guy saying Emacs was the cause. Any recommended wrist/arm braces? Thanks
1 posts
RSI tips & tricks --- add yours
Edited by Paul on Reason: Spelling mistake
Hi Casey and everyone! :-)

Looking through the forums here it seems like there hasn't been a post on RSI for a while. Since I think it's very important, and I've learned a lot from the Handmade Hero videos, I thought I'd add my thoughts here to try and give a bit back. I noticed RSI in myself after about three months working full time, and have been dealing with it for almost 20 years now. I am not a doctor or physio or anything else, so these thoughts are just my opinion based on my own experience. But hopefully they help in some way... :-)

I think you can't cure RSI, only manage it. No magical piece of tech or pill will suddenly make it go away. RSI isn't caused by a disease or infection, it's caused by our lifestyle. Our lifestyle of sitting slouched over a keyboard for too long, staring at a screen and making millions of tiny movements with our fingers. Changing to use different keyboard shortcuts, or even a different keyboard is probably going to be too small a change to help by itself.

But I think that a lot of little changes all together definitely can help. To me, all those small changes add up to a change in lifestyle, to changing enough things so that we can still function as programmers, but also function in the real world too. So, here we go... ;-)

Some things I have learned over the years:

- RSI doesn't start in your hands or wrists, it starts in your shoulders, neck and back.
- The medical profession really struggle to know how to treat it, always looking for one cure-all magical solution.
- Everyone is different, so different things help different people, but the over-arching concepts are similar.
- Different tech can hurt or help in different ways:
- Keyboard hurts less than sideways/handshake mouse.
- Sideways/handshake mouse hurts less than standard mouse.
- Standard mouse hurts less than trackpad.
- But no single change is sufficient by itself.
- Not all changes work for everyone, both physically and in discipline and fitting into daily life.
- It's not just about strength/weakness, but also about being uneven from left to right, or front to back.
- It's not just about strength/weakness, but also flexibility.
- If you "harden up" and push through the pain you'll make it worse and probably do yourself permanent damage. Better to stop.

Some things that have helped me over the years:

- Gym sessions two or three times a week exercising my whole body but focusing on back and lower/side core.
- Swimming.
- Yoga.
- General range of movement exercises, like rotating arms around like a crazy windmill. Hard to do in an office. ;-)
- A standing desk.
- Keyboard shortcuts.
- Having my monitor very high (my eyes are usually level with the bottom third/half of the screen).
- Using the mouse with the left hand for some time and the right hand for other time.
- Walking around to think and focus, rather than sitting still.
- A split-angled keyboard (I have a Goldtouch split keyboard at work, and have heard good things about the Kinesis Advantage).
- Reading using an e-reader instead of a real book.
- Coffee (caffeine seems to help muscle recovery, but destroys my stomach, so only in moderation).
- Being promoted to lead, meaning more time in meetings and less time coding.
- Running.
- Any exercises to strengthen/tighten the back of my whole body. Not just back and neck but triceps, hamstrings and glutes too.
- Any stretching that reduces tightness in the front of my whole body, such as quads, hip flexors, chest and biceps. Also neck and shoulders.
- Sex. Seems to reduce stress. ;-)
- Anything that helps pull my shoulders back and down, and keep my neck upright.

Some things that make it worse:

- Pushups.
- Bicep curls.
- Core/abs exercises that put a lot of stress on my neck (e.g. some crunches).
- Exercises emphasising the front of my body, like chest, biceps, quads, even some upper core.
- Cycling/spin.
- Looking down at a laptop screen, or having my monitor too low.
- Playing a stressful game where I tense my muscles all the time (e.g. Doom).
- Sitting in one place for too long (not just coding, but watching TV, movies etc).
- Carrying a bag in an uneven way (e.g. one heavy grocery bag in one hand).
- Sports that rely on one side of my body more than the other (e.g. football/soccer).
- Carrying a heavy backpack, especially over just one shoulder.
- Carrying something heavy in one arm and not the other (e.g. a child).
- Reading a book in my lap (looking down).
- Alcohol.
- Anything that causes immediate or delayed pain. Muscles usually feel pain 24-48 hours after the actual event.

My own discipline is definitely not strong enough to follow all this advice all the time, but by doing multiple bits and pieces of these constantly, and avoiding the bad stuff most of the time, they add up to enough that I can usually code enough to be productive and not collapse from pain.

Hopefully that all helps in some small way! :-)