I've had repetitive strain injury from computer use for about seven years. At its worst, it hurt to turn doorknobs, but now I've found ways to keep it under control. These are the treatment options that worked for me and also the tools and the technologies that I now use to work at a computer.
First, the obligatory disclaimer. I am not a doctor. What I share is what worked for me, but other cases might be different.
Books and resources:
1. It's Not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is worth reading to better understand repetitive strain injury. It has exercises too, but I found them less useful than the other books mentioned below.
2. Sharon Butler has a good book with stretching exercises called Conquering Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Since then, she has developed more specialized stretching programs that she sells on her website.
3. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook is a good book for a massage based self treatment. It covers soft tissue pain in all areas of the body, and not just the arms.
4. Another book worth looking through is Pain Free at Your PC by Pete Egoscue, for its alternate viewpoint on ergonomics.
I tried many kinds of therapy, including physical therapy, massage therapy, shiatsu, acupuncture, and Alexander technique. These might have helped a little, but not much. The only therapy that made a difference was active release therapy. It's a soft tissue release technique, and I had it done with a chiropractor. This gave me noticeable results after the first appointment, and after a few weeks I was able to start typing again. This is pretty impressive since I had been unsuccessfully trying therapies for over a year at that point.
1. I highly recommend the Armaid for forearm and wrist pain. It helps get rid of knots and loosen up the muscles.
2. If you suffer from tight back muscles, the Theracane (in conjunction with the trigger point therapy workbook) is also nice for treating muscle spasms.
1. I highly recommend typing gloves from Handeze. They are inexpensive and offer really good support to the wrist. Many of people are told to wear hard wrist braces. I didn't find them useful and found that the pain would return in a different place after a few days. One thing the hard wrist braces are good for however, is to wear to sleep if you find that you bend your wrists in a weird or irritating position at night.
2. For upper back pain, get a reading stand that will hold books and papers vertically on the desk so you don't have to bend over them.
Computer Hardware and equipment: There are many resources on ergonomic computer set up, so I won't cover that here. I'll give my preference is for hardware, but this can be subjective and these things are expensive, so ideally you want to try them out before you buy them
1. An ergonomic keyboard is very important. I swear by my Goldtouch, but since they switched manufacturers, their keyboards haven't been as good and actually seem to exacerbate my symptoms. Some friends of mine prefer the Kinesis keyboards, but they take some getting used to.
2. Ergonomic mice also help. I don't have a clear favorite here, but I like the 3M vertical mouse and the Kensington trackball. I've never used track pads but some people like them.
1. Install a stretch break reminder software on your computer. You can find lots of them for free online
2. Because mouse clicking irritates my wrist, I use a software that clicks the mouse for me when I stop the pointer. The Windows version is called Mousetool. It's been so long since I downloaded it that I don't remember where I got it, but you can find download sites for it via Google. Just remember to take the necessary precautions when downloading programs from unknown websites.
3. I also use voice recognition software. Dragon NaturallySpeaking has come a long way even since my college days. It does make mistakes, and annoyingly, the types of mistakes it makes tend to make you look like a bad writer, for example verb agreement mistakes or its/it's errors. I don't use Dragon for the final draft of anything important, but for first drafts that will still undergo several rounds of proofreading, it's helpful. If you use voice recognition, then you MUST get a noise canceling microphone. The microphone that comes in the box is worthless. I use the Plantronics DSP 400.
Okay, so that is all the information I can think of for now. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.
On a completely random note, I was recently interviewed on an article about work related injuries at Redbook. This is what happens when you spend too much time hanging out on HARO.