My battle with wrist pains

Table of Contents

Note: I'm not a doctor, dietitian or ergonomics expert. I just have spent a lot of time to find something that works well for me. This is my experience and you can probably take inspiration for it, but don't do stupid things and seek expert advice if you need it.

In parts of the IT industry abbreviations like RSI1 and CTS2 gets thrown around fairly often. I'm guilty myself of doing this.

Approximately five years ago I thought that my career as a professional developer was over. This was at age 25. Since then I have worked in many ways to address these issues that I had problems with. I now feel confident that I've beaten it for my own sake.

In this post I'm going to go through the big rough steps of what I've changed over time. All the steps have been worked on in parallel so this blog post isn't linear.

Ergonomics part 1

The first thing I did on this field was really when I switched to Svorak3 (A Swedish Dvorak4 layout) around 2006 because it was different but also later noticed that it was more comfortable.

Then I've gone through keyboards, wrist rests, key switches, mice, and other utilities that are supposed to be ergonomically and "fix this".

I ordered two of Keyboardio5 Model 01 from Kickstarter6 when it launched, one for home and one for work. This set me to the path of Matias Quiet Switches7 as a good idea.

The delivery time was long enough so I never actually started to use it because I jumped on a groupby for the ErgoDox Infinity8 that that was launched way later but got shipped much faster. So I got two of that one as well to have one at work and one at home. They also happened to support the Matias Quiet Switches7.

I've experienced quality issues with my Matias Switches which pushed me to move back to Cherry MX or at least something Cherry MX compatible. At a Keyboard meetup I got the chance to try out an ErgoDox with Zealios V29. Which I later ordered switches for and it's now my main keyboard, together with the MX Ergo10 that replaced my previous M57011.

All this costed me a lot of money on hardware, it haven't solved all problems just magically. More has been needed.

Good health

Good health is the source of having a good healthy life. A lot of health comes from working out properly and eating good food.

Why pain?

At the worst point I had so much pain that I went to a doctor regarding my issues. This was both a terrible experience but it thought me something.

The doctor told me this:

If you're unable to use keyboards, then maybe you should find a job where you don't use keyboards.

The doctor also thought me that the source of the pain is inflammation12 that ends up in my wrists and joins and causes the pain. To lower the immediate pain, I got pain pills.

Handle inflammation

The thing with inflammation is that we all have a bit of inflammation in us all the time, from living. But it's not really a problem. Because the body can handle inflammation on it's own as long it's small quantities. I've found two primary ways to help the body to handle inflammation better.

Increased blood flow

Increased blood flow to the regions with inflammation will help the body getting rid if inflammation faster.

As far as I see it, there's two reasonable ways to increase blood flow:

  • If you're numb, massage may help to let blood through.
  • Doing activities that increase blood flow, for example physical activities such as running, cycling, etc. Any form of workout that raises the pulse.

In the past three years I've gone from loathing physical activities to wanting more of it and actually miss it if it's not present.

Ingestion of inflammation

I started by going vegetarian several years ago as a "crazy experiment", without really knowing anything about the benefits. During the years it's over and over again has proved to be the right choice.

Since then, during the years I've read several books on the topic of diet. I've learned that all animal sources of food contains inflammation13. I'm also pretty sure that adding extra inflammation to your body when you have problems with inflammation seems to be a bad idea.

Something that I believe have helped me greatly is to reduce the amount of animal sources of food down to zero.

So today I aim to follow a whole-food plant based diet14 that is low on fat.

Good documentaries / presentations:

To not mention books such as:

Ergonomics part 2

During the spring of 2020, I went to a private doctor that did a ultrasound scan of my wrists. The doctor scanned my wrists and said this:

I have good news and I have bad news:

  • I can't find anything that is broken.
  • It's probably an environmental issue of something you do in your daily work that causes this.

I've also had recorded a video of me typing on my ErgoDoxes just the week before which I offered to show the doctor.

He was impressed by the pretty keyboard but also immediately spotted a potential problem: How I used my wrist rests.

I did put too much pressure on my wrist rests and needed to rest my arms more to have less pressure on the wrists. This combined with avoiding weird angles using the wrists to hold the laptop in place and avoiding weird angles of using my phone has made the pain manageable.

I can now feel the pain from what I do, and I can stop it by not working in that position or doing that particular thing. I have the tools to not have pain even after 8-10 hours of keyboard use in a single day. And I can work a full time job without any problems.

Summary

A TL DR of my actions that made the pain manageable:

  • Ergonomic keyboard with wrist and arm rests for long time use
  • Sticking to a fully plant based diet14
  • Working out three to four times a week

It's still a daily struggle, but it's manageable and easy to live with compared to how it was in the past.

Footnotes:

3

Svorak is one of the Swedish Dvoraks: http://aoeu.info

5

Keyboardio web shop: https://keyboard.io/

7

Matias quiet click switches: http://matias.ca/switches/quiet/

8

Infinity ErgoDox Mechanical Keyboard: https://input.club/devices/infinity-ergodox/

9

Purple Zealios V2 Switches (Tactile): https://zealpc.net/products/zealio

12

Wikipedia about inflammation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inflammation

13

Nutrition Facts page about inflammation: https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/inflammation/

14

Nutrition Facts page about plant based diets: https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/plant-based-diets/

Date: 2020-08-09 Sun 18:00

Author: Elis Hirwing <elis@hirwing.se>

Created: 2020-08-14 Fri 17:57