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Take a break or get hurt

February 7, 2008 2 comments

What do serious athletes, professional musicians and computer users have in common? They can all get hurt from doing the same motion again and again. Whether it’s holding and playing your instrument the same way, hitting the racket with a ball again and again, or typing at the keyboard, when you do the same motion again and again and again, you have a good chance of hurting yourself. The result is repetitive strain injury, RSI. If you think that you really need to finish this urgent job that you’re working on, and you’ll just ignore the pain, you’re making a big mistake. You might end up not being able to type for days and maybe weeks, and maybe even have surgery.

One way to mitigate RSI is to vary the motion. Try to switch keyboards, from a traditional flat keyboard to an ergonomic one and back every few days or few weeks. The change that I found most effective, though, is to use a program that reminds me to take a break from typing every so often.

Workrave to the rescue

Workrave is a free program that reminds you every so often to take a break. It has two types of breaks. A micro-pause of 30 seconds or so every 10 minutes
Micro-pause

and a rest-break of 3-5 minutes every hour or so. During the first part of the rest-break, it walks you through some exercises.

Rest break

I used to do these, but don’t lately.

At some point, I reduced the frequency of the breaks, and the pains came back. I reduced them and things are better. You can configure the duration and frequency of all the breaks.

All in all this is a great program that does what it’s supposed to. Everything works as advertised.

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