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This is probably not the right place for this question, but I figure it is a board visited by thousands of programmers, and I am a programmer, and it is related, so I would try anyway.

This is not a technical question, but rather a physical one - targeting mostly programmers, who have, as we all know, an extremely keyboard intensive lifestyle. The constant back and forth of the mouse, the rapid typing, the near expert level fluency over the keys. I can't be the only one who has come down with long term chronic pain from all of this.

So I pose the query to other coders, how do you slow down? How do you bring those enormous typing speeds down to levels that let you function in day to day workload? I am currently attempting unfamiliar keyboard layouts, arthritic gloves, restrictive pads, and even word delay tools and I am having a lot of trouble "training" myself to type more slowly and not burn my arms up.

I apologize if this isn't appropriate content, I just figure a place with all programmers would hold some insight.

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closed as off topic by GlenH7, gnat, jk., MichaelT, jmo21 Mar 22 '13 at 15:06

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" The constant back and forth of the mouse..." This really bothers me too. I think an ideal solution would be a keyboard with the numpad on the left (at least - Moving the nav keys might also be good, but I use them a lot where they are), but alas, I have not found one. Better yet would be a mouse that didn't require hands. I've heard of foot-controlled mice, but haven't tried one. Having a mind-controlled mouse would be even better, but the learning curve/control might be a little tricky. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Mar 22 '13 at 14:15
I've never heard the typing speed to be described as causing pain, but have often heard the pressure with which you type can cause these problems, think about trying to type with less impact on each key. Getting a keyboard with easier to press keys may help with this. –  Jimmy Hoffa Mar 22 '13 at 14:25
@gnat - for actual code writing you don't need gigantic WPM rates, so I think the responses here at p.se might actually be different than the advice from professional typists? –  Joris Timmermans Mar 22 '13 at 14:35
@FrustratedWithFormsDesigner The Microsoft Sidewinder X6 lets you put the numpad on either side. It looks ridiculous, but I use one at home and it's actually a very nice keyboard IMO. –  Baqueta Mar 22 '13 at 14:56
@FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Not that I know of, unfortunately. Another way of solving the keyboard<->mouse problem could be something like the Mycestro (currently to be found on Kickstarter) or Leap Motion's upcoming controller. –  Baqueta Mar 22 '13 at 16:02

5 Answers 5

Typing speed does not cause long-term chronic pain. Poor posture, a bad chair, a poorly designed desk/workspace and (in the case of the mouse) gripping the mouse too hard causes this. And above all, sitting in one place for too long.

You need to have your entire workspace evaluated & adjusted properly by someone who knows proper ergonomics. Get a chair that supports you properly and is adjusted for your body size/shape and the desk height. Get the keyboard & display positioned properly. Switch from the mouse to a trackball or a touchpad for a few months.

On a more personal level, you need to get up, out of your chair every hour. I keep a 1L bottle of water on my desk. Hourly, I'm either getting up to refill it or to go to the lavatory. It forces me to step away from the desk and walk around for a few minutes. And proper hydration is always important.

Do other things with your body. Go out for a walk or a jog. Go to the gym. Strengthen those muscles, stretch them & use them in different ways.

And scale back your seat/keyboard time in general.

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+1 for "Switch from the mouse to a trackball..." –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Mar 22 '13 at 14:24
I'm a developer and a pretty dedicated guitar player. I've had the pleasure of tendinitis once. +1 for pointing out that pain is NOT NORMAL. Learn your keyboard shortcuts so you aren't moving to the mouse so much. Get a gel cushion for your mousing hand. Think more, type less. But above all, if it hurts, stop doing what hurts. –  Joris Timmermans Mar 22 '13 at 14:30
+1 for the bottle of water. It works really great for me too. –  Bruno Schäpper Mar 22 '13 at 14:47
+1 for do something else with your body. No matter how good of a chair you have, you're probably going to deal with back pain if you're not getting exercise. Within a week of joining a Taekwondo class, my back pain pretty much disappeared. –  Phil Mar 22 '13 at 15:02
One more thing that helps me out a lot when I feel pain: switch the mouse to your other hand. No trip to the shop needed (except maybe to get an USB cable extender ;-) ) –  Joris Timmermans Mar 22 '13 at 15:24
  1. take breaks - 5 mins off the keyboard every couple of hours (ideally 5 mins out of your seat not looking at a screen and walking around as well)
  2. use features like intellisense/dabrev-expand so you aren't typing from home row so much
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"take breaks - 5 mins off the keyboard every couple of hours..." also do some arm/wrist stretches and walk around. Walk up and down a flight of stairs just to get the blood flowing, or even a 10 minute walk around the block. Works very well for me. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Mar 22 '13 at 14:18

Here are the practices that have personally helped me:

  • Do all reading away from your keyboard/mouse. I read on my iPad. Instapaper lets me move a web page to the iPad in 1 click.

  • Limit your programming time per day. Resting your mind a bit usually makes you a better programmer. Take more time to think through the programming problem; allowing less trial & error on the keyboard.

  • Always look for keyboard shortcuts.

Best wishes with this.

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+1 for suggesting doing your reading/research away from your keyboard. Tablets are a wonderful thing. Using Chrome, my open tabs on one device are accessible on another, so I can move back and forth from device to device. –  Craige Mar 22 '13 at 16:06

One of the usual solution is to try to use a Dvorak or Colemak keyboard.

It will take you some significant time to relearn the new layout, but in the long run it will decrease the pain.

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  1. Find a suitable keyboard for you. E.g. I'm getting more tired from chicklet keyboards and find high travel distance keyboards annoying.
  2. Use some wrist/hand relief tools or toys - balls, tangle, figures, etc. Play with them often while not typing (reading, thinking).
  3. Walk more.
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