Long time, no blog. The run up to Christmas was rather hectic because of my research proposal and literature review. This in itself wasn’t a problem—I enjoy reading and writing—but it was that my RSI stopped me from using my computer.
Throughout most of my undergraduate degree I remember having mild discomfort in my arms from typing, mostly because I had a job on Saturdays which meant I had spend the whole of Sunday writing lab reports. It was fairly bad while I was writing up my undergraduate project and then over the summer with temporary work that involved a lot of typing. Unfortunately my literature review caused it to evolve into a chronic and excruciatingly painful condition.
Thankfully I’m now on the mend. I spoke to Occupational Health and I’ve now got a new chair that works properly. Through a GP I’ve got physiotherapy every week, which seems crazy as you normally associate it with sports injuries or something you have after a major operation—not typing! I’ve also got a Kinesis Advantage keyboard. Ugly and expensive, but so comfortable to type on.
Reading that I was at risk of permanent disability made me realise I need to start taking care of myself.[^RSIbook] In the past, I worked and worked and worked. Lab reports had to be finished, lectures had to be revised and money had to be earned. I ignored my body to the point where I ended up in A&E in 2010 with suspected appendicitis (turned out it was probably a stomach ulcer).
With hindsight it was unsustainable. I’m under much less pressure now, perhaps because I’m driven by a desire to work on something I really enjoy rather than a pressure to manage a huge workload set by the department. But I can see how it could happen again.
To prevent it, I’ve issued myself with a rather plain prescription of exercise, less booze and a healthier diet. It seems obvious, but it’s easy to forget that work isn’t the be all end all and neglect your well-being. As my supervisor pointed out, you’re no good to anyone if you’re so knackered you can’t work.
*[RSI]: repetitive strain injury
[^RSIbook]: From Repetitive Strain Injury: A Computer User’s Guide by Emil Pascarelli and Deborah Quilter. I highly recommend it. Also check out Matt Might’s article on handling repetitive strain injury.