When I was in Grade 7 my mother insisted that I took typing as one of my classes. It was definitely not in my top 3 choices. Neither was Latin but I took that too. I am so grateful that I learned how to type (no comment on the Latin). Like riding a bicycle it’s a skill that you never forget. I’m not sure if typing is offered as a course anymore but if it is it should contain an arm/hand stretching and strengthening component.
There are a number of repetitive use injuries from typing. One of the most common injuries is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. It is caused by pressure on your median nerve. The median nerve goes through the wrist by passing through a narrow path, the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is made of bone and ligament. Any swelling in the wrist results in a squeezing of the tunnel and that pinches the median nerve. Symptoms including tingling, numbness, burning and pain. There are ergonomic changes that can reduce the chances of you experiencing an injury from spending too much time at the computer. However, the important point to consider is that spending too much time doing any one thing has the potential of causing some kind of overuse strain or injuries. Changing ergonomics can sometimes be like putting a band aid on a broken arm. The best option is movement. Once again, exercise to the rescue.
Here are some simple exercises to do at your desk when your hands aren’t on the keyboard (like when you’re on a call or thinking):
- Squeeze a ball. Any kind of ball that fits in your hand will do. Squeeze with lots or a little pressure. Toss it from hand-to-hand. Roll it on the desk under one hand and then the other.
- Spread your fingers. Try that now. Just spread ‘em as wide as you can. Doesn’t that feel good?
- Wiggle your fingers. Imagine that you’re playing the piano. Move each finger as if it is playing a key at a time.
The following exercises are more for wrists and arms. They take a bit more concentration. They are best done on the floor (on your hands and knees) but they can be done while standing at your desk.
- Place your hands on a flat surface (palms down) with your fingers pointed forward. Lock your elbows and lean forward to feel the stretch in your wrist and up your arm.
- Place your hands on the flat surface (palms down) again but this time point your fingers backward. Lock your elbows and lean back. There should be a stretch that travels up the inside of your arms.
- Place your hands on the flat surface with the back of your hand facing down (fingers pointing back). This is called the flipper stretch. If you can, straighten your elbows and lean back. If that is too much just focus on getting into the position with your elbows bent. Try doing one hand at a time if that makes things easier. I have seen people do push-ups with their hands in this “flipper” position. I can’t see that happening for me at any point in my future.
All of these movements will keep you in fine typing form … or get you there. Don’t fret if there is too much pain to start with. It will ease up. It will take a lot of time to undo all of the stiffness that has been established over the years of doing what you’ve been doing. Thankfully it won’t take as long to undo the damage if you do the exercises every day.
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