Repetitive stress injury (RSI) is a problem that plagues a lot of office workers. For many, RSI manifests as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) in the wrists and fingers from extended use of the keyboard. CTS is a common condition that causes pain, numbness, or a dull ache in the fingers and wrists.
In some cases, CTS can go away without treatment, but not always. The worst case is surgery, but even non-surgical treatments like wrist splints and corticosteroid injections are annoying. Typically speaking, a good ergonomic workspace is the first step to preventing CTS, but it's just as important to take breaks.
Many of us are accustomed to the QWERTY layout of the keyboard. The QWERTY was designed for maximum amount of finger movement to avoid jammed levers in old mechanical typewriters. The alternate option, the Dvorak layout was designed to minimize finger movement. Most operating systems allow you to switch your keyboard to this format.
Using a mouse could also cause wrist pain while typing. All the work is usually done by one finger. Double clicking and dragging can be particularly straining. Positioning the mouse improperly can also cause tension. Using a trackball instead might alleviate this wrist stress. You don’t have to move your entire arm to move the pointer. It also has extra buttons which can be programmed to double-click or drag with a single click. Most importantly, the work is evenly distributed among the fingers.
If you do experience wrist pain, stop typing! Rest your wrist for 24-48 hours after symptoms appear. Apply an ice pack but not for longer than 20 minutes at a time. Use an Ace bandage for compression; wrap your wrist from the base of the fingers all the way up to the top of the forearm. The wrap should be snug but not cutting off the circulation. If you find that your situation continues to worsen, consider seeking professional medical advice.