Friday, November 10, 2006


It's All In The Wrist

RSI, otherwise known as Repetitive Strain Injury, afflicts white collar workers the world over. It may first manifest itself as a tingling sensation in your arms, wrists or hands, escalate to persistent throbbing, and then finally explode into crippling pain that may affect your earning power as well as your happiness. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, the name for a severe variation of RSI, received a lot of ink some years ago when it occurred among people who spent hours manipulating computer mice. Like the author of the article at the link below, you can avoid - or at least delay the onset of - this injury by alternating between the mouse and the keyboard, and taking rests between bouts of computer work. Voice recognition software can help relieve the burden, if you can afford it. The most notorious graphomane of American fiction, William T. Vollmann, started using voice recognition software when he himself developed the condition. Exercise also helps. There is even a software package called WorkRave that will remind you to take work breaks at regular intervals. One wonders whether or not RSI sufferers are eligible for workmen's compensation, but most probably not. That is no doubt yet another disadvantage that non-unionized white collar workers have in comparison to their blue collar counterparts.

The main problem with taking rests, however, is that you risk decreasing your sacred "productivity". If you are afraid of having your boss catch you taking a rest, you can look busy by shuffling papers about your desk, reading manuals or making copious handwritten notes (or doodles). Anything to vary the pattern of your motor activity will help ward off RSI even if it doesn't exactly involve rest. Those workers whose companies use software to monitor their keystrokes may be out of luck. The Man demands that you be clicking away through one mode or the other, or you will be stigmatized as a slacker. Unless, of course, you can find some way to continue generating keystrokes of some sort while you are resting your hands. You don't want to use your feet to do this - that might look like you're "kicking back", and you don't want that. You might want to position an inanimate object just so, so that it will produce a steady if sporadic stream of keystrokes in very much the same fashion as the Coke bottle tapped out Morse code all by its lonesome in that 1960's nuclear apocalypse movie On The Beach.

If worse comes to worst, and you develop RSI despite your best efforts to resist it, you can always go to India to be treated by a certain Dr. Deepak Sharan. With all the outsourcing to India in recent years, it looks like RSI has become a problem there as well.

"Tackling That Tingling" from The Wall Street Journal

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