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RSI risk for translators
Thread poster: Mariusz Kuklinski

Mariusz Kuklinski  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:38
Member
English to Polish
+ ...
Jan 30, 2015

Hi fellow keyboard slaves,

I work on a larger project which will keep me busy well into the next year. Unfortunately, I recognise unmistakable symptoms of a RSI affliction. I am aware that at some time there were very many journalists at the Financial Times who had their arms put in plaster for a year or so and I certainly don't want to find myself in such a situation, which would be catastrophic to my credit rating. I am familiar with the relevant medical stuff but I am interested whether any members of the community have ever been affected by this and what were their ways of coping with it: breaks - shorter or longer, how ofen? Any exercises, physiotherapy? Changing to any specific ergonomic type of a keyboard? Frozen pea poultices?icon_smile.gif

Happy & painless typing!
Mariusz


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Roy Chacón  Identity Verified
Colombia
Member
English to Spanish
Several Jan 31, 2015

Try a combination: get a Cherry MX Red mechanical keyboard (expensive but worthwhile), a mouse with a very soft button (I actually dissemble the micro switch to soften it, by bending the spring like mechanism a bit), try different mouse pads to find the one that slides better, and a touch pad to alternate with the mouse. You can also get Naturally Speaking to aid in typing.

And of course, correct posture.

Hope this helps, it did for me.


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Mariusz Kuklinski  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:38
Member
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
A good advice, indeed Jan 31, 2015

Thank you, Roy for your prompt and comprehensive advice. Indeed, I have evolved to computers from mechanical typewriters (for some two decades or so I had been working on an an indestructible pre-1945 (!) German Erika), and I agree that the lack of mechanical resistance in computer keyboards, shallow key travel and an abrupt end of it make a substantial difference (I love old ThinkPads because the end of key travel in their keyboards feels as if touching rubber. Unfortunately, their graphic cards do not match the needs of modern external monitors). I like also your point about alternating a touch pad with a mouse. You are certainly right that a combined approach would work best.

BR
- Mariusz


[Edited at 2015-01-31 03:35 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:38
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Definitely a split-type keyboard Jan 31, 2015

It amazes me that people who are typing all day long keep using straight keyboards and even recommend them. Yes, the mechanics could be fantastic, but it is still a straight keyboard that forces you to bend your wrists!

I would definitely recommend to get an ergonomic keyboard. I have used them for 20 years and never had the slightest discomfort in my wrists, even translating 11, 12 or 13 hours a day for many days in a row. You do not have to incur in a big expense either: I started with a Microsoft Natural Keyboard back in 1995 which cost some 100 euros and worked fine for a couple of years, then got a Logitech Desktop Pro model which cost some 100 euros as well and worked beautifully for very many years, and recently got a Microsoft Sculpt which is really cost effective and is working beautifully for me so far.

I work some 10 hours a day on the computer and definitely recommend to give less importance to the mechanics and jump to a split-type, raised-in-the-middle keyboard once for all. You struggle with the new positions for a few days, but after that the benefits are enormous.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:38
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Prevention is better than cure Jan 31, 2015

We need to be very careful about RSI. I'm a periodic sufferer even though my equipment is good. It isn't a matter of using the right technology. It's a physiological fact of life that if you perform the same actions over and over again, it will cause muscular problems.

Interestingly, the other day when I was paying for my groceries at the local supermarket, I noticed the checkout lady rubbing her arm and I asked her what was wrong; she explained that by continuously operating the cash register again and again, in the same way every time, she, too, was suffering from RSI. I described the way it was affecting me, and she said she was going to take up her problem with the management as it was infringing the regulations on health and safety at the workplace.

In my case, alas, I can't take up the problem with the management, because the management is me!

In my case, the RSI manifests itself when I have a big job to do and I'm working on it continuously, day after day. It's a pain that begins in the wrist of my right hand. It is caused by excessive, repetitive mouse movements, mainly in the wrist because of sliding the mouse to the left and right as I reposition the cursor on-screen.

If I keep on working, trying to ignore the pain, it creeps all the way up to my elbow and then into my shoulder.

At that point I stop working and try to stay away from the computer for at least 12 hours. If it's a weekend, and if my deadline permits, I resolutely do not work during the weekend. Fortunately for big projects, I usually negotiate deadlines that are long enough to make this possible.

True, dictation software can help a great deal by eliminating most of the keyboard work. For example, I'm dictating this post and only using the keyboard to correct speech errors made by the software. (Using dictation has the added benefit of eliminating all the typing mistakes I used to make!)

In fact, physically and in terms of technology, my whole setup is ideal from a physiological point of view: I have a good-quality non-reflective display, a very good working chair, my eyes are at the correct height for working, and so on. Despite all of these precautions, the RSI still comes.

So technology is not going to solve this problem. I'm wondering if there's anything I should be doing when I'm not suffering from RSI, to prevent it from arising in the first place? I know there are little exercises you can do, stretching and relaxing the fingers, etc.

Some exercises are described in this gaming discussion forum: http://tinyurl.com/lj4utc3

Prevention is better than cure!

[Edited at 2015-01-31 09:54 GMT]


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Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 12:38
English to Russian
+ ...
Use a good keyboard and get rid of the mouse Jan 31, 2015

On the hardware side, your mileage may vary, but my personal impression is that the mouse does much more harm to your hand than the keyboard. Two much better alternatives would be a good large trackball (Kensington being the gold standard) or a trackpoint like on Thinkpads and some other business laptops. Lenovo does offer several models of trackpoint-equipped keyboards, which also have an excellent key feel.

On the body side, I like these exercises a lot.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:38
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Trackpad Jan 31, 2015

Anton Konashenok wrote:

On the hardware side, your mileage may vary, but my personal impression is that the mouse does much more harm to your hand than the keyboard. Two much better alternatives would be a good large trackball (Kensington being the gold standard) or a trackpoint like on Thinkpads and some other business laptops.


The jury seems to be out on the matter of trackpads - http://tinyurl.com/p335nxr

Nevertheless it's an interesting suggestion. I may give it a try. Thanks.


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Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 12:38
English to Russian
+ ...
Tom, trackPOINT, not trackPAD! Jan 31, 2015

Tom, it's not a trackpad I was mentioning, but a trackpoint, a.k.a. pointing stick - that is, a rubber nub in the middle of the keyboard, between G, H, and B, also known under a certain anatomical termicon_wink.gif

[Edited at 2015-01-31 10:30 GMT]


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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
Ideas Jan 31, 2015

Others have already mentioned Microsoft's Natural keyboard, which I've found great pleasure using.

And others have already mentioned trackballs. I'm a great fan of trackballs. They eliminate the need for a mouse pad, and for moving the entire device and your arm around. I will never buy an ordinary mouse again. Trackballs are mainly produced by Kensington and Logitech. My experiences with Logitech have been mixed: they only last 2-3 years before the switches or something else begins to break down, and they have discontinued the model that was designed for using the trackball with your middle fingers (not your thumb) and had advanced navigation buttons. I'm using a Kensington with scroll ring now. I prefer not to use the thumb for the trackball, as I feel that thumb movements are less precise, and the risk of strain in the thumb higher. That rules out Logitech's advanced model.

But as Tom said, even if you get everything set up ergonomically, you may still get RSI, or at least pain and discomfort from strain. I've had the same experience. On the other hand, I've only been using a normal laptop for three years, and despite its being very un-ergonomic, I'm not getting pain.

I think stress may be an important factor. If someone is working to tight deadlines or has taken on more work than what he or she can do in a normal working day, then the body's fight-or-flight mechanism may set in and start pumping adrenaline out into the body. That again will affect your muscles, making them tighten, and a lot more. Stress management is perhaps as important, if not more, than all the gadgets. Some people find yoga helps (I myself haven't seen the light yet). Others may have other techniques. It may be a question of learning to have a mindset that makes someone able to focus on enjoying what he or she is doing instead of focusing on deadlines, for example. It may also be a question of carefully analysing if that nth last-minute job is worth doing: will the extra money compensate for the extra stress and perhaps broken sleep rhythm that could make you jet lagged on thus less productive? Feeling calm throughout the day will help avoiding strain.


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:38
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Rollermouse Jan 31, 2015

I've been using this for a year now, and I am very happy with it. Not exactly cheap, but worth every penny imho. However, I used to have problems with my arm and shoulder rather than with my wrists.

[Bearbeitet am 2015-01-31 10:32 GMT]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:38
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Ah OK Jan 31, 2015

Anton Konashenok wrote:

Tom, it's not a trackpad I was mentioning, but a trackpoint, a.k.a. pointing stick - that is, a rubber nub in the middle of the keyboard, between G, H, and B, also known under a certain anatomical termicon_wink.gif

[Edited at 2015-01-31 10:30 GMT]


Ah OK but the trackpad seems to also alleviate wrist strain so I've decided to give it a try. Anyway, the Apple keyboard that I use doesn't have one of those little anatomical things (I've always wondered what that was for!) (er, I mean the one on the keyboard).


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Ben Senior  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:38
German to English
Vertical mouse Jan 31, 2015

In another forum there has been a lot of positive response to using a vertical mouse.

The advantage is that when using the vertical mouse your wrist is always in its natural position and not turned so the hand is horizontal.

Ben


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:38
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Seeing the light Jan 31, 2015

Thomas Frost wrote:

.........s. It may be a question of learning to have a mindset.....


I've been looking for a mindset on eBay but can't seem to find one. I do have a headset though.

icon_smile.gif


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:38
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Vertical mouse - scary image Jan 31, 2015

Ben Senior wrote:

In another forum there has been a lot of positive response to using a vertical mouse.

The advantage is that when using the vertical mouse your wrist is always in its natural position and not turned so the hand is horizontal.

Ben


Here's a scary image of what's happening:

http://tinyurl.com/at98nt7

Although you might prefer this:

http://tinyurl.com/ovurvpe

[Edited at 2015-01-31 10:39 GMT]


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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
Language Jan 31, 2015

Tom in London wrote:

Thomas Frost wrote:

.........s. It may be a question of learning to have a mindset.....


I've been looking for a mindset on eBay but can't seem to find one. I do have a headset though.

icon_smile.gif


I know you enjoy nit-picking linguistics, Tom. Mindset, or mind-set, is one of these words or concepts that dictionaries don't agree on. Merriam-Webster spells it mind-set. On cambridge.org, it is mindset.

In books from just the middle of the 20th Century, you can still find "to-day" instead of "today". The tendency in English seems to be that such combined words slowly grow together over a period over many years, and during the transitional period, linguistic connoisseurs can thus have perpetual discussions about what is right and what is wrong. Is the conservative, preferring to leave the language unchanged until ten Queens of England in a row have systematically written it a new way, right, or is the progressist, who would like to see new words like "twerking" integrated into Oxford's Unabridged Dictionary the next day, right?

As there is no linguistic authority for English, who decides who is right and who is wrong?

In France, an MP was fined a couple of months ago for saying "Madame le Président", linguistically correct according to l'Académie française but in violation of a political-feminist rule in the National Assembly, instead of "Madame la Présidente", which according to the same Académie refers to the president's wife, but which the Assembly's political-feminist rules prescribe. So even having a linguistic authority is no guarantee for avoiding discussion.


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