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Split and ortholinear did nothing for my RSI

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I am a software engineer with no prior history of RSI. After taking a job at a FAANG company my work life balance took a dive and I started coding double the amount I had been at my previous job. I ended up developing issues in my wrists and hands, including both aching pains and numbing. My company has ergo experts who come and evaluate people who develop such injuries. I was given a kineses advantage and I purchased a moonlander to try as well. I tried both keyboards for a month each, both of which took a toll on my productivity as I had to relearn how to touch type on them.

Neither of the keyboards helped at all with my issues. I ended up getting a different specialist who had me go back to a regular keyboard so I could be more productive, but came up with scheduled breaks and also changed my posture. I also switched to a vertical mouse which was much easier to adjust to. My RSI symptoms went away in a single week.

There's definitely something to be said for challenging existing norms, but based on my personal experience these so called better layouts and ortho-shaped keyboards did nothing except make my work life worse. If there is a difference, I think it must be marginal compared to the effects of having a good professional evaluate your posture and take appropriate breaks. Oddly enough, my choice of mouse did end up being a bigger factor than my keyboard as well.

I had a couple hard times dealing with sharp pain in the wrists and finger joints, fortunately not serious and not permanent. A pain in the left wrist was cured by learning a new layout (Dvorak simplified). A pain in knuckles was cured by re-arranging some shortcuts (moving them from the right hand to the left hand). A pain in the right wrist was cured by learning to touch type properly (again).

What's common in all of my pains is they emerged on the standard (physical) keyboard and are cured on the same keyboard. The keyboard is not the problem. The technique is.

The essence of the proper (healthy) technique is to locate the correct key by shoulder/elbow. Use finger only to strike the key. Never use your wrist.

Orthodox, conservative, and boring. Right?

An alternative technique is to use fingers only, keeping your hand/elbow/shoulder fixed. It is more efficient. It is easy to learn. It is more accurate (hence, faster). It generates no load on shoulder/back/neck etc (hence, no need for regular short rests during a long typing session). But it puts stress on the weaker and more vulnerable parts of your arms: fingers and wrists. Wrists included, because it is hard to always keep them fixed. And you're exposed to greater risk of hand injury.

It is easy to recognize keyboards that were designed with the alternative technique in mind. They have non-parallel columns of keys. Or non-linear (curved) columns. Or non-planar array of keys (key wells). And, sometimes, extremely few keys.

EDIT. One more sign: rather large range (angle/arc) of thumb keys.

That said, there are more than one school of ergonomics. You choose one that suits you.

I use Ortho and split ergo at software companies for years.

Never had injury.


--- Quote from: VimLover on Fri, 17 December 2021, 10:19:15 ---After taking a job at a FAANG company my work life balance took a dive and I started coding double the amount I had been at my previous job.

--- End quote ---
That is your main problem right there. Start searching for a better job. Switch when you find it. No job is worth damaging your health. Or at least, ignore the toxic culture in the place you are now and do not type like crazy all the time. Productivity of programmers depends more on thinking than on typing anyway.

I develop software as well. I have a different experience. I switched to Kinesis Advantage in 2003 and later to K80CS in 2015. Both keyboard changes improved my comfort. I never had hand problems before the switches nor after them.

The key is to relax while typing. Given a new keyboard, all your muscles are more tightened and your brain works harder during the relearning. You probably stretched your fingers to reach keys at new locations. Try moving those larger joints (elbows and shoulders) in more natural ways to reach those keys. Don't ever type with wrists resting on something. That's a recipe for wrist pain. Those are my lessons learned in a hard way, also in a FAANG company.

To help the transition, take intermediate steps to the land of ergonomics, say, by getting a split keyboard with a traditional row-staggered layout so you maintain your productivity. Your shoulders will thank you for this step. Then try tenting to help your wrists and forearms. Then try an ortholinear layout to help your fingers. If you get a chance, take a video on you typing on an ergonomic keyboard. I believe you will easily find out how incorrectly you're typing.

Your second specialist is right. Taking regular breaks definitely helps. Some strength training, like push ups, also helps.


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