A little history: I'm 31 years old and have been using computers since I was old enough to type "Load "Program File",8,1" on my Commodore64. Before that I was playing games on my Atari, or the neighbor's Colecovision. I'm a Mechanical Engineer, and have done a lot of CAD work. I've never been a fast typist, but 40wpm (QWERTY) was fast enough for me. I started having problems even when I was a teen. I remember visiting the doctor with my mom and he was checking out my left wrist. The diagnosis at the time: I wasn't moving it enough. Okay... I started more exercises.
In college I started playing guitar, and my computer usage went up dramatically. I was -always- on the computer just to keep up my grades. I'v been playing guitar semi-regularly now for 12 years.
All the while I've had increasing difficulty with both my forearms and wrists. At my first out-of-college job, I insisted on an ergonomic keyboard before I even hired in. (MS Natural Keyboard). I saw some doc's there and was given more exersises to do to keep things limber.
My second job (same place I am now) required me to do a lot more CAD work than my first job. I did some light programming, CAD, wrote and maintained a website, spreadsheets... you name it. Always on the computer. The CAD is by far the worst... mousing ALL THE TIME. So, the pain increased. I started teaching myself to write with my left hand. (looked like a first graders' handwriting) Finally I realized that I was avoiding my work if I had to click too much. I found some software that helped with that. Also, I got some devices... the trackball... different mouses... a detachable numeric keypad. I told my supervisor about it when I noticed it. I seriously thought I'd have to change careers. I went to Mayo Clinic (I live close to Rochester, MN) and was diagnosed with Cubital Tunnel Syndrome in my left forearm (note this is not carpel tunnel) and general RSI. The thing that I learned most from my sessions with the physical theripists and hand-specialists is that they really don't know a lot about RSI yet. It's a pretty new thing, and any -good- doctor won't advise surgery until there is clearly something both identifiable, and fixable to do, and as long as the benefits will outweigh the drawbacks. There are a lot of unnecessary surgeries that go on... and too many blame carpel tunnel, when it's really not.
Anyway, back to your questions... It does affect me in my everyday living. I have about 80% of the range of motion in my left hand compared to my right. That bothers me, but there's not much I can do about it. I try to
stretch regularly, and I'm careful not to over-stretch anything. Too much guitar is a problem, too much computer is a problem... too much scooping ice cream...
I can produce permanent damage. It would probably be classified as "tendonitis". Again, ask a well trained doctor and they'll tell you that tendonitis means "something's wrong with your tendons, but we don't know what."
There is no real help that surgery can offer. The cubital tunnel can be helped by moving the ulner nerve to the other side of the elbow, but that just relocates the problem... it can come back again in the new location.
Fortunately enough for me, I found the TS keyboard just at the time that I was going through the physical therapy. It was pretty easy to convince the company to buy one for me. And if they hadn't, I would have bought
it myself. But that has dramatically reduced my problem. Most of my trouble came because of the mousing and clicking... and there was worsened by having to reach between the mouse and the keyboard. The TS helped that a lot. Then I learned about Dvorak, and took the plunge to learn how to touch type all over again. I wish the whole world would switch to Dvorak... it would help a lot of people.
Basically, at this point I consider my problem manageable. If I'm careful... use my TS... do my breaks and stretches... I can go without serious fatigue, and I can prevent further injury. If my TS ever dies on me, though, I'm going to have to rethink my input options. I keep a list of Ergo devices whenever I come across something new, and I'm always considering what options are out there.
So, that's my story (or at least a part of it)....
Last edited by jmadison
on 01 Mar 2006, 21:55, edited 1 time in total.