Matt RaibleMatt Raible is a Java Champion and Developer Advocate at Okta. developer.okta.com

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10+ YEARS


Over 10 years ago, I wrote my first blog post. Since then, I've authored books, had kids, traveled the world, found Trish and blogged about it all.

Carpal Tunnel

When I finished hacking away on Roller this past Saturday, my fingers hurt from typing so much. Who knows why, I didn't add that much code. Must've been all the keystrokes to run Ant, start Tomcat, and test stuff. Yeah, we need more tests - but those won't help tweak CSS. Yesterday, all I did was review Hibernate in Action, so no coding, but a fair amount of typing. By the time I went on a bike ride yesterday afternoon - my left hand's left-most fingers were curled up naturally and my forearm was aching. Carpal Tunnel has set in quite nicely in my left forearm. I can still type, as evidenced by this post - but it definitely hurts and it seems like I could do some serious damage if I keep it up.

Herein lies the problem. I took this week off from my regular gig to concentrate on the Spring book. So I need to be typing like a madman all week - but my body is not cooperating. Rather, it's trying to tell me something - "you're not cut out for this this much coding/typing." So what should I do? I've had these same symptoms before - and when I did, I got a massage and took a couple of days off. That's a bit difficult this week with my livelihood depending on a pain-free left arm/wrist/fingers. I've booked a 10:00 massage - let's hope that gets me through the week. I definitely need a longer-term solution though. It'd be nice to write this book w/o typing, just talking.

Related: Carpal Tunnel in March 2006.

Posted in General at Mar 22 2004, 08:22:23 AM MST 13 Comments
Comments:

Have you looked into any speech reconition software. It is expansive and probably won't work that great for coding but I have talked to people with carple tunnel who write books and they say it helps them. VaiVoice by IBM is supposed to be ok and then there is Naturally Speaking(?) which I hear is pretty good and Windows only. Nevertheless I can understand how it is worrisome to be a coder and have problems with your hands. Heck I worry a little bit when ever I use a big knife since I know lively hood largely comes from my typing hands. :)

Posted by Kurt Wiersma on March 22, 2004 at 10:29 AM MST #

Could Julie (right name?) transcribe for you? Obviously she wouldn't want to do this regularly, but perhaps to help out this week?

Posted by Lance on March 22, 2004 at 11:49 AM MST #

Nope - Julie and Abbie are down in Florida (it's Grandma's spring break) for the week. I just got back from a massage - their recommendation was lots of stretching. They said they get a lot of folks with similar symptoms and most work through it. Transcribing is a good idea - however, I tend to use Google (and this site) to find a lot of my information for writing, so I it might not work to well for me to" spout it out" to someone.

Posted by Matt Raible on March 22, 2004 at 12:30 PM MST #

Two words: Kensis Keyboard. I've been using one of these for years and it helps a ton. Takes about 3 or 4 weeks to get used to but after that you'll be able to type faster for a longer period of time.

Posted by Bill on March 22, 2004 at 01:10 PM MST #

!Matt, I'm using these [mueller wrist supports|http://www.muellersportsmed.com/wriststabilizer.htm] they have [several other types|http://www.muellersportsmed.com/wristproducts.htm]. I picked them up at my local Walmart for about $30 for the pair. You might want to try them, before you plunk down the $400 bucks for a Kensis Keyboard. I've also used the [Microsoft Natural Keyboard|http://www.microsoft.com/products/info/product.aspx?view=22&pcid=422a84cc-d5b2-4543-9d76-6f3c9bd87b6c&type=ovr] for several years with some success. I've tried both Naturally Speaking and IBM ViaVoice. I've always gotten very frustrated with the errors they create. I was faster at typing then I was using these software packages. They just die on __computer jargon__. Plus, they are no help with ''coding''. HTH

Posted by Jeff Duska on March 22, 2004 at 02:15 PM MST #

I'll second the Kinesis - Ergonomics suggestion. However, it won't help you this week as you need about 3 weeks to adjust. On the plus side my already fast typing gained another 30% or so when I switched.
As a suggestion for this week. Do lots of exercise and use a micropause program (WorkRave is good).
Good luck

Posted by Koz on March 22, 2004 at 03:05 PM MST #

Hi Matt... My wife had a lot of trouble with this; there's no easy solution. They say the mouse is a bigger offender than the keyboard. She brought in the corporate ergonomics specialist (hard to do in your small firm, I'm sure). Two things that helped (1) lower the height of the desk. she's only 5'2' and a standard height is a bit too much and (2) when things were bad, she bought a big trackball and used her toe to move the mouse. really. (the third thing that helped was being laid off, but I don't recommend it unless you badly want to spend more time with Abbie).

Posted by Will on March 22, 2004 at 05:25 PM MST #

Ditto on the Kinesis keyboards, I've had a contoured model for 3 or 4 years now and am very happy with it. ALTHOUGH SOMETIMES THE LEFT SHIFT KEY STICKS. But that just adds character.

Posted by James A. Hillyerd on March 22, 2004 at 05:39 PM MST #

!

There are three types of things you can do to reduce the stress on your arms. Mechanically, a good ergonomic keyboard will make a difference. If you can find a decent low-profile keyboard, that will help too. Using a wrist rest is a plus, and I'd also suggest trying out a trackball if you're doing a lot of mousing around.

Environmentally, make sure that you're sitting in the right position. When sitting at your desk, your thighs should be parallel with the floor, you should be sitting straight, your arms should rest naturally on the desk and you should be looking down on the monitor a little. There's more information here: [http://www.nih.gov/od/ors/ds/ergonomics/computer.html] (if you can excuse the exceptionally tacky animated GIF)

The final thing is to change your behaviour. Koz's suggestion of using a micropause program and doing regular exercises is spot on, but I'd add that getting up leaving your desk every now and then will do you good too (I find it useful to head off and make a coffee when I'm having trouble with a chewy problem: the break somehow helps to focus my mind)

Posted by Simon Stewart on March 22, 2004 at 05:52 PM MST #

You can use my kinesis keyboard (until you get better) as it's just sitting in the basement now. I do like it, but have been using the Microsoft keyboard for a few and it works out ok for me. It's yours Raible, come and get it!

Posted by Michael Zucker on March 22, 2004 at 05:55 PM MST #

something easy that works for me is to switch my mouse to left handed. I am right handed; my left hand is so gip that it never really tenses up.

Posted by chris on March 22, 2004 at 06:08 PM MST #

Heat before you start typing and stretching. Ice and ibuprofin when you are done for the day. Stretch before you ice.

Posted by Steven Citron-Pousty on March 22, 2004 at 08:54 PM MST #

I've been using IMAK's smart gloves for the past year: http://www.officeorganix.com/IMAKglove.htm Before I used them, I was doing 16 hours/day of typing. Then, I started having pain in my right forearm. Then I bought the gloves. Only 100 $, but god, they help !

Posted by François Beausoleil on August 12, 2004 at 03:34 PM MDT #

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