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Can Typing Cause Repetitive Stress Injuries?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A repetitive stress injury is an injury to the tendons, muscles, or soft tissue of the body caused by simple repetitive motions. Many people who use computers extensively experience repetitive stress injuries from typing, mousing, and having ergonomically unsound workstations. Typing injuries can become very serious, especially if they are not addressed. On a low level, typing injuries can cause people to be out of work for a period of time while they heal, but people can also be severely crippled if they do not address the issue. Fortunately, steps can be taken to prevent typing injuries, and to support your health in the long term.

The association of repetitive stress injuries with specific occupations is hundreds of years old. Historians noted as early as the 17th century that writers and scribes often had hand injuries, and that butchers and manual laborers sometimes had similar pains, especially in the upper body. As the use of computers and typewriters has become widespread, the concept of typing injuries has been brought to the attention of many people.

There are a number of different types of repetitive stress injuries which can be acquired through typing, ranging from tennis elbow to tendinitis. Many of these injuries can be healed, if the patient realizes the damage early enough and takes step to treat it and prevent reinjury. Other repetitive stress injuries, such as cysts and carpal tunnel syndrome, are potentially more dangerous. Carpal tunnel is caused by swelling around the bones and ligaments, resulting in restricted movement and pain. If allowed to progress, it can only be treated surgically.

While typing injuries can be serious, they can be minimized, and many doctors are more concerned about the mouse. Using a mouse forces the hand into a strange position, and can ultimately result in more long term damage than typing can. To address the potential for repetitive stress injuries, all computer users should take the time to set up an ergonomic workspace which encourages them to hold their arms level and straight from the elbow, with the wrists in a neutral position. The wrists should not be bent or rested on anything while typing, and the legs should be planted on the ground or on a footrest. Typists should also make an effort to sit up straight, without slouching or leaning inwards toward the monitor. Taking these measures will make typing injuries less likely.

Rests are very important if people want to prevent typing injuries. Every 20 minutes or so, computer users should get up, walk around, stretch, and stretch their hands in particular. The hands can be joined and stretched behind the back, or joined together in front of the body with elbows bent and gently twisted from one side of the body to the other. Fingers and thumbs should be fully rotated, and the arms should be stretched outwards from the body, with one hand gripping the other and then switching. This also gives typists an opportunity to rest their eyes.

If a typist notices signs of typing injuries developing, such as numbness, tingling, tension, pain, or a limited range of motion, the typist should take time off. Various treatments ranging from massage to compresses can be used to treat the condition, which should be addressed before the typist returns to work.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a TheHealthBoard researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon208067 — On Aug 22, 2011

Carpal tunnel is nor "caused by swelling around the bones and ligaments, resulting in restricted movement and pain." Carpal tunnel syndrome is a nerve entrapment syndrome affecting the median nerve. The primary symptoms are numbness and tingling in the fingers and progressive weakness. There may be pain but this is not a characteristic symptom. Despite popular thought, there is no published scientific evidence that shows a causative relationship between keyboarding and carpal tunnel syndrome.

By anon157433 — On Mar 02, 2011

RSI often afflicts those who have been doing something for a long time and have formed a habit around the way their use the keyboard and mouse.

The problem would then arise when people who have been typing away for hours and not noticed or have shrugged off the first symptoms thinking they're 'minor and will disappear quickly' eventually gets hit with tennis elbow days/weeks later.

By anon80147 — On Apr 26, 2010

This article is misleading. If a long-term user of a keyboard were to develop tennis elbow/epicondylitis, the first question that should be asked is "what changed?" Someone who has been using a keyboard for a long period of time will have had time for their body to adapt to the physical requirements.

The onset of tennis elbow in someone who is new to keyboarding is far more reasonable, or in a user who has had a sudden increase in their keyboarding.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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