Alleviating wrist pain for developers (or how to stop using your mouse)

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If you’re reading this, you are most likely a developer or a computer user with wrist pain, or someone who uses a computer regularly and wants to prevent having issues like wrist pain.

For your sake, I hope it’s the latter.

Wrist pain is awful if you have a computer job. And if you don’t do anything about it, chances are it will get much worse.

So what can you do?

Low hanging fruit

  • Learn more keyboard shortcuts so you can start using your mouse less
  • Start using command-line tools instead of GUIs when you can (e.g. Git)
  • Do hand stretches a couple times per day (http://ergonomictrends.com/hand-wrist-exercises-computer-users/). A couple minutes every 2-3 hours could have great results.
  • Take breaks
  • Get a wrist rest for your keyboard
  • Check if your posture can be improved (chair, desk, monitor etc.)

More involved

  • Get an ergnomic keyboard (I use an ErgoDox EZ, but I’ve heard great things about the Kinisis Advantage 2)
  • Get ergonomic mice (vertical & trackball so you can switch it up)
  • Get a standing desk
  • Get a high-quality chair
  • Learn Vim for text editing
  • Start using a window manager
  • Talk to a doctor

Extreme measures

  • Get consistent medical help (physical therapy)
  • Learn a more efficient keyboard layout than Qwerty (e.g. Colemak, Workman)

Other possible causes

While doing some research for this article I stumbled upon this article https://codewithoutrules.com/2016/11/18/rsi-solution/

It mentions that suppressed emotional stress could cause pain by tensing muscles or reducing blood flow. Another possibility is that you are too cold, which can reduce blood flow.

Another thing mentioned in this article was that caffeine shrinks blood vessels. I haven’t researched this yet, but it sounds like a solution might be to stop “turning coffee into code” or just reducing your caffeine intake.

Taking a proactive approach

In Dutch we have a saying “voorkomen is beter dan genezen”, which roughly translates to “preventation is better than a cure”.

If you have ever had any wrist pain or other problems as a result from using your computer a lot, I would highly recommend you to try some of the things I mentioned as low hanging fruit.

A word of advice

When I was experiencing severe wrist pain, it took me a couple weeks to get rid of it. None of these solutions will solve your problem right away, you need to give it some time. During that time, I would recommend you to not spend much time programming outside of your job.

What helped me was getting rid of the small mouse I was using at work. I also started doing hand stretching routines 2 or 3 times per day.


Further reading

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