Author Topic: Split and ortholinear did nothing for my RSI  (Read 4077 times)

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Offline VimLover

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Split and ortholinear did nothing for my RSI
« on: Fri, 17 December 2021, 10:19:15 »
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.

Offline dusan

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Re: Split and ortholinear did nothing for my RSI
« Reply #1 on: Fri, 17 December 2021, 11:11:16 »
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.
« Last Edit: Sat, 18 December 2021, 10:06:01 by dusan »
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Online kajahtaa

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Re: Split and ortholinear did nothing for my RSI
« Reply #2 on: Fri, 17 December 2021, 14:07:08 »
I use Ortho and split ergo at software companies for years.

Never had injury.

Offline vvp

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Re: Split and ortholinear did nothing for my RSI
« Reply #3 on: Fri, 17 December 2021, 15:56:02 »
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.
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.
« Last Edit: Fri, 17 December 2021, 16:00:19 by vvp »

Offline macroxue

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Re: Split and ortholinear did nothing for my RSI
« Reply #4 on: Wed, 29 December 2021, 16:32:11 »
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.
[Darknight: DIY 60% Split Keyboard](https://github.com/macroxue/keyboard-diy)

Offline Stupidface

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Re: Split and ortholinear did nothing for my RSI
« Reply #5 on: Wed, 29 December 2021, 18:32:27 »
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.

Can you please tell us what particular models of mouse and keyboard you were using at the time?  Anyone else who finds himself in a similar environment might find that useful information.

My company has ergo experts who come and evaluate people who develop such injuries.

I have to ask: did they not have an ergo expert come and evaluate you when you first started working there?

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.

I agree that having someone look at what you do and how you go about doing it is a good idea.  However, my understanding of RSIs is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

It's great that the company you work for took the time and trouble to help you after the fact.  However, I am also impressed by the implication that you were not worth the company's time and attention until after your health was affected.

Speaking for myself, I would be chary of working for a company that takes such a short-term view of things.  Perhaps I am missing something, but a company with deep pockets like a FAANG failing to perform some sort of ergonomic evaluation when an employee starts work for them simply screams "liability" to me, particularly in a country as litigious as the US.








Offline OhKeycaps

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Re: Split and ortholinear did nothing for my RSI
« Reply #6 on: Thu, 30 December 2021, 18:38:04 »
I had a lot of pain in my left wrist until I moved to a split ergo. One thing that is underrated, especially if you're a developer - using something like QMK to make lots of shortcuts for ctrl/alt/**** etc can do wonders for your hands.

I was constantly stretching my hands in all sorts of weird directions to hit all the obscure shortcuts I use. Lots of ctrl/alt/**** + f,e,r, etc. It was really putting a strain on my hand, and having a split ortho would not be enough. It wasn't until I started using QMK and having things like HYPER & MEH near my home row did my hand pain start to go away. Now to do ctrl + shift + alt + e, I just hold S and tap E. Compare that with how you would stretch your hand out on a normal keyboard to hit ctrl/alt/****/e. The problem is I was not good at using modifiers on my right side and threw everything on the left.

I would pay close attention to shortcuts that you use frequently that might be causing you more pain that you realize.

Offline vvp

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Re: Split and ortholinear did nothing for my RSI
« Reply #7 on: Fri, 31 December 2021, 03:58:05 »
I was constantly stretching my hands in all sorts of weird directions to hit all the obscure shortcuts I use. Lots of ctrl/alt/**** + f,e,r, etc. It was really putting a strain on my hand, and having a split ortho would not be enough.
It does help enough if the ergo has thumb clusters and all the modifiers are on the thumb clusters. Or at least most of them. E.g. it is enough to swap LeftShift with BackSpace and RightShift with Enter (using the built in remap feature) on Kinessis Advantage to get it to a pretty usable shape. It is not horrible without the swap (since Ctrl and Alt keys are already on the thumb clusters) but the swap helps. Kinesis Advantage is not split though. That sucks. But at least the keywells are quite far apart.

IMO, the most important ergo features for a keyboard are (roughly in the order of importance):
  • well accessible thumb clusters with all the modifiers on them
  • split design or at least a bigger separation of the lef/right sides
  • column staggered instead of row staggered
  • (concave) keywells like Kinessis Advantage or Maltron 3D
  • some tenting is good, 15 as the minimum

Offline Scarab

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Re: Split and ortholinear did nothing for my RSI
« Reply #8 on: Mon, 31 January 2022, 17:36:46 »
I have been researching building my own mech keyboard for years and finally pulled the string on a few GBs earlier this year and end of last year.

I have since wanted to look into ergo keyboards and also a software engineer at FAANG. This thread has made me want to look even more into it as I just get a slight pain in my right wrist. I find I apply pressure on it when resting my wrists on my macbook.

Anyone have any suggestions on ergo boards or anything else (e.g. like that moonlander board in OPs post) I can look into since this is now a whole new world and I'd like to expedite this to mitigate any issues with my wrist sooner rather than later.

Offline Stupidface

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Re: Split and ortholinear did nothing for my RSI
« Reply #9 on: Wed, 02 February 2022, 08:33:53 »
Anyone have any suggestions on ergo boards or anything else (e.g. like that moonlander board in OPs post)

If you work for a FAANG, is there a company-provided ergonomics specialist available that you can consult?  As the OP points out, the answer to your problem may lie in your changing your work habits rather than messing about with various keyboards.

I ask because this part of your post:

I find I apply pressure on it when resting my wrists on my macbook.

...alarmed me somewhat.  It has long been my understanding that resting your wrists on anything whilst you are typing is ill-advised.

Any road, I am hoping your company has someone on-site who can take a close look at how you work and can give you good advice (rather than the sort of half-guess someone like me can furnish).

One thing I did want to clarify:

on my macbook.

Do you use any of the keyboards you mentioned you had purchased with your MacBook?  I ask because I am convinced that the corollary to laptops becoming thinner and lighter is that laptop manufacturers no longer bother incorporating keyboards meant for any sort of serious, long-term typing into their products.

I spend a fair amount of time on a laptop myself, but I would not dream of using the built-in keyboard for anything more than keying in a few search terms now and again.  The point being: I would think using any one of your newly-acquired keyboards would be better than continuing to use your MacBook's built-in keyboard for extended periods.
« Last Edit: Wed, 02 February 2022, 08:39:51 by Stupidface »

Offline vvp

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Re: Split and ortholinear did nothing for my RSI
« Reply #10 on: Wed, 02 February 2022, 11:24:04 »
I find I apply pressure on it when resting my wrists on my macbook.
...alarmed me somewhat.  It has long been my understanding that resting your wrists on anything whilst you are typing is ill-advised.
Especially when the wrists are rested instead of palms!