Wikipedia has a great write-up on Repetitive Strain Injury that includes other common names for this condition as well some of the causes of this disorder. Others terms used to describe RSI, all basically meaning the same thing, are occupational overuse syndrome, Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD) and work related upper limb disorder (WRULD). The basic idea behind these illnesses is that one can overuse, or use in an incorrect fashion, a tool such as a computer keyboard in such a way as to cause tissue damage which ultimately results in high amounts of pain and decreased mobility in the affected body part.
Patients who are diagnosed with computer-related RSI typically show the following symptoms:
- Pain, numbness and/or tingling in the fingers, hands and/or arms
- Discomfort worsens with increased activity
- Affected areas are weak with a lack of endurance
Sometimes patients will complain of abnormal feelings in their muscles, tendons or nerves. RSI sufferers may show signs of decreased grip and pinch strength in their fingers and hands. In most circumstances patients will simply say that there seems to be absolutely nothing wrong with their hand or arm, but it hurts to the point of affecting their daily life. Most experts agree that psychological distress (depression and anxiety) may make pain seem worse than it really is, so patients must fully disclose their behaviors.
Many "ergonomic products" exist for use in your computer or office setup. These accessories and pieces of furniture sometimes replace standard models of existing devices or are add-ons to existing complete workstations. Below you will find definitions of the popular types of ergonomic office products available, their typical uses, and which brands or manufacturers are the best.
It has been proven that staying seated for an extended period of time in an improper posture can cause stress on your body. Adjustable height desks
like those at ErgoExperts.com are all available in a variety of sizes and shapes. Most have what is called a "sit-stand" feature which allows you to alternate between sitting down and standing up while working at the computer. The very best desks for years now would be the Workrite Sierra HX
line. Many studies have shown that adding some movement to your work day can greatly enhance your comfort and productivity.
When it comes to shopping for an ergonomic office chair the choices are endless (find a review for each best-selling model at ErgonomicSeating.org). Buying a new computer chair can be confusing, and some people get sticker shock when they realize how expensive ergonomic office seating really is. However, if your back is stiff and causes you pain when seated a new chair is a wise investment. Two brands that offer an outstanding ergonomic task chair are Herman Miller and Humanscale. Expect to pay between $600 - $1300 for a high-end chair, but a very decent one from another brand like VIA Seating can be found for around $350. The Terra Task Chair by VIA has all the features and build-quality of a super high-end chair without the extraordinary price tag.
Computer keyboard trays are extra pieces of furniture that you attach to your desk or work surface (usually on the underside) via a steel mounting track. They hold your keyboard and mouse and take them off of the top of your desk top. For many years now the best model you can buy is a Workrite keyboard tray
system. The next option, pretty much on the same level, are Humanscale
keyboard trays. The main fuction is to allow full adjustability of your input devices so that each user can position the peripherals in the optimal fashion for their body type and size. A bi-product of moving your keyboard and mouse onto a tray is the extra free space it clears up on your desk, just like a monitor arm does.
If eye strain and fatigue are an issue for you there is a company by the name of Gunnar Optiks that has released specialized computer anti-glare glasses that help increase comfort while computing and help reduce the chances of developing a condition like Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) or Digital Eye Fatigue (DEF). These eyeglasses are multi-purpose as they can be used for a variety of other activities like gaming.
Choosing the best ergonomic mice to use with your computer is a daunting task. There are dozens on the market and some are obviously better than others, or at least they get better reviews. Hundreds or even thousands of users report improved comfort and relief from their RSI symptoms when using the Evoluent VerticalMouse. You need to give this mouse about 2 weeks before you really get used to using it all the time, but it helps most people. For greater portability you can also find an ergonomically designed bluetooth wireless mouse like the Microsoft 5000 that will help reduce strain at your main workstation or on the go. Many people also enjoy the feel of a trackball mouse, reporting a big increase in comfort using a ball in your palm to move the cursor around.
Usuaully the first upgrade people make to their computer setup is an ergonomic keyboard. The thing thats ironic about that is that its probably the hardest change to get used to out of every ergonomic product you could possibly try. The microsoft natural keyboard was the original best ergonomic natural keyboard and held that title for years. If you want a true split keyboard you need to check out the goldtouch keyboard. Its way more advanced than the microsoft natural and equally as hard to get used to, but its a serious keyboard for serious computer users.
If cords just aren't your thing you need not worry, there are plenty of wireless ergonomic keyboards available. Microsoft and logitech both make a really sweet wireless combo (like the Microsoft 7000), and they're available in many popular shapes and colors. If you want something to use on your lap, maybe from your bed, you can get a wireless keyboard with built-in touchpad mouse. The best mini wireless touchpad keyboard is made by adesso and it's called the slimtouch.
The use of a USB headset that plugs right into your computer can make speaking on the phone and typing on a keyboard at the same time much easier and more ergonomic. Some newer phone models accept usb connections otherwise there are programs like Skype that allow you to talk using your internet signal, thereby allowing you to plug your headset directly into your computer.
Everyone these days has or is planning to upgrade their computer monitor to an lcd screen. There are many benefits to LCDs like their light weight and easy portability. To take full advantage of these qualities you can purchase an LCD monitor arm that attaches to your desk surface or to the nearest wall. Some popular brands who make high quality mounts include Humanscale and Ergotron to name a few. Read reviews of popular models, as well as helpful articles on ideal monitor placement, at www.MonitorArm.org.