ergonomicsI am delighted—but nervous—to officially be on summer holiday! I’m looking forward to a less structured schedule, and I have plenty to keep me busy. But unfortunately, most of this stuff is computer-related. I looked far and wide for an in-person offering for a continuing-education course I want to take and found that everyone was doing it online only—and that’s in addition to an online training program I’ve been plugging away at all year long, and in addition to my writing work for TeleRead and others.

So, why am I nervous?

Well, last summer, I did away with my E Ink reader because I thought I was fine with an iPad alone, and I nearly destroyed my wrists with some carpal tunnel issues that, sadly, have never completely gone away. I’m fine most of the time, but if I start overdoing the tablet stuff, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with tingling fingers. This time around, permanent damage is not an option!

So, what am I doing to minimize the pain?ergonomics

1. Choosing My Tools Wisely

I’m doing as much typing as possible on my iPad with a Logitech keyboard case instead of on my laptop. This is slightly less convenient for course work because it’s harder to switch between open apps. But it’s lower-sitting than my laptop is, so it’s much more comfortable. I can take it on-the-go to coffee shops and sit at the table and work without strain.

2. Using My Time Smartly

I’m planning to minimize my non-essential computer and tablet use for the duration. Sure, it’s fun to kill time with a game or some mindless surfing. But if I can only work in short stretches comfortably, I need to prioritize that time for stuff that’s actually important and find some non-tech things to do for personal entertainment.

I plan to do some urban exploring and go on lots of walks around my city. And I want to learn how to cook, too. I’ll be trying one new recipe a week from some of the cookbooks I’ve stockpiled over the years in search of that one perfect book that will make it all come together for me.

3. Going Back to the Basicsergonomics

Sure, my iPad is slick and fun, but the single-purpose E Ink reader has its place too—it’s smaller, lighter and much more comfortable for longer reading sessions.

I plan to do most of my recreational reading on my Kobo Glo this time around. The iPad is simply too large and heavy for this, especially when I’m reading for hours at a time. And I think the book-style case on my Kobo makes for a more ergonomic reading posture—there’s less torquing in my wrist.

I’ve also seen other ergonomic case ideas like the Wingo (pictured here), which looks potentially interesting, but alas, it’s just a Kickstarter project right now.

ergonomics4. Wearing Appropriate Support

I just purchased a wrist support and plan to wear it whenever I’m at work for longer than half an hour at a time.

I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me before; I would never go to the gym without appropriately supportive shoes. Why did I think I could work at a keyboard for hours without properly supporting the body parts that activity uses?

I can’t speak to the specific features of the one I purchased—I don’t know if the ‘bamboo-activated charcoal’ is legit or just marketing-speak—but it’s light enough to tuck into my bag and so far, it does seem to be making me more comfortable.

5. Taking Better Care of My Body

I am trying to take better care of my body in the general sense, in hopes of learning some better habits. So I’ll be working in half-hour chunks and then taking breaks to rest my eyes, my brain and my wrists.

ergonomicsI’ll be getting tons more physical activity than I’m used to (I do a lot of walking in the summer because I don’t buy a bus pass and I’m too cheap to use a lot of tokens!), and I’m trying to eat well and just be healthy. Every little improvement helps!

I’ll have to be mindful—and thoughtful—in how I use my time. Since I know I’ll need to spend my screen time on work stuff, I’ll have to play at other things. If I don’t, that tricky wrist could go from being a nuisance to a permanent disability.

I wish I had known last summer what I know now. But I think I have a solid plan for surviving my summer of typing.

Any ergonomic tricks to share? Leave me a comment!


  1. Have a look at Maltron keyboard. They are *bloody* expensive (*), and they look like they were salvaged from a crash-landed flying saucer, but they are made for people that have similar problems as yourself.

    There are other options. One of much cheaper options is Microsoft Natural Ergonomic keyboard. That Logitech keyboard case of yours looks exactly like the type of keyboard you should avoid.
    I have purchased a second-hand Microsoft(*) Natural keyboard, and I have improved my typing habits.

    Even good old IBM model M keyboard (or one of its younger brothers) might be improvement.

    If you need an input device “on the go”, have a look at It looks even more alien than Maltron (and costs fraction of price, I believe)

    There are many discussions on the net that can help you to find really ergonomic solution for you.

    Oh … one more things. Get a rubber squeezing ball or a chunk of smart putty or something like that, so you can exercise your wrists and fingers every 30 minutes, or while you finish compiling … oh wait … never mind 😉

    (*) this is how patents foster innovation ;-). They have it patented and instead of producing high volumes and making modest profit on each piece they choose to produce very few units and sell then to the really desperate RSI sufferers … sigh …

    (**) I am no fan of Microsoft. I have been using FreeBSD and Linux operating systems almost exclusively at home for about 10 years.

  2. I hear you loud and clear. My problems with the wrists and fingers sound a lot like yours.

    Wearing the brace on my wrist has probably been the biggest help for me and I wear it basically anytime I am awake even if not using the computer.

    At the office the Microsoft ergonomic split key keyboard has helped a lot as well as an ergonomic Microsoft mouse, but for mobile use on a tablet or phone I am still looking for the perfect tool. The attachable keyboards to devices like the iPad are ok, but I wish there was something even better.

    For laptop/mobile use as you have mentioned sometimes limiting the use and a liberal policy of taking breaks is the best option unless you want to use a dock and use a full size ergonomic setup. I will keep looking to see what else is out there though.

    Good luck.

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