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Ergo I am

I’ve been in the professional writing game for about eight years now, including a year and a half as a copywriter for a marketing company in Toronto, and recently it’s started to hurt.

I’ve been in the professional writing game for about eight years now, including a year and a half as a copywriter for a marketing company in Toronto, and recently it’s started to hurt.

Typically I come home from a long day of typing, sometimes thousands of words in a day, plop myself down on the couch and pick up my guitar to unwind for a while.

But lately my fingers, hands and wrists were too sore to play much guitar. They were too sore to even type properly, and I started to notice type-o after type-o in my work – or more than usual let’s say. Somewhere along the line I lost the dexterity to hit the right keys in the right order.

I did a little online research to see what the problem might be and came up with a few possible answers.

The simplest might just be overuse, meaning my wrists and fingers were sore because of a repetitive use. Doing the same motion over and over can result in swelling, soreness, and sometimes even more serious damage.

I could also have a touch of arthritis, which basically means an inflammation and stiffening of the joints. It’s believed that repetitive motion injuries can lead to arthritis over time, but there are a lot of other factors involved, including my obviously inferior family genetics.

The most interesting explanation was carpal tunnel syndrome. Once thought to be a made-up ailment that mentally unbalanced whiners latch on to in order to avoid doing work, doctors now understand that the median nerve bundle connecting your wrists to your hands can sometimes compress in its narrow channel – especially when your wrists are bent in an unnatural position all day while your fingers tap away at a computer keyboard.

What makes me think that I might have a tad CTS is the fact that the pain eases significantly when I hold my wrists straight in relation to my hands while I’m typing.

To fix the problem I recently ordered an ergonomic keyboard, the kind with the built-in hand rest and the split keypad where the keys are angled to allow for straighter arm and wrist position. The keys are also a lot more supple than the ones on the keyboard that came with my iMac – probably the stiffest keyboard I’ve ever used and quite possibly the cause of my injury.

In less than a week using the new keyboard I’ve already noticed a huge difference. It took a while to get used to, and it’s crazy trying to go back to my regular keyboard at home, but my wrists, hands and fingers are not nearly as sore and I’m back to plucking away at my guitar every night.

I also learned that there are other things I can do if the situation gets bad again. Some people wear wrist straps, while others take anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling. You can also purchase additional wrist and hand rests for your mouse and keyboard.

Contrary to popular belief, office work has more than its fair share of health risks. Aside from paper cuts, office flab and the occasional stapler accident, people can develop serious back injuries, strain their eyes by keeping them focused at a fixed distance all day long, and contract all kinds of repetitive injuries like my (I think) Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Lucky for us there are tens of millions of office workers out there that go through some of the same things, so there is no shortage of exercises, treatments, and ergonomically designed products out there to keep us going.

For starters, I’d suggest you go right to the top – the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety at – and look for the Ergonomics link on the home page. The CCOHS also has information for just about every kind of office workers, as well as specific work-related injuries. Some of their advice includes exercises, stretches, suggestions how to do things better, and suggestions on what kinds of products might help.

If your office is not ergonomically designed, has poor lighting, etc. it might be worth directing your employer to the United Steelworkers site ( ) where they discuss the basics of ergonomics with relevant information on recent changes to the Canada Labour Code.

The Canada Health Portal, which is produced by Health Canada, also has some valuable information. Start at and look for the Occupational Health link to access the federal government’s ergonomic information and policies.

Website of the Week

If you’re ever using the Internet to kill time and aren’t really sure where to go, I have two good sites for you. The first is Alexa, , which provides an overall traffic ranking for the World Wide Web. The Movers & Shakers feature lists the websites that have made the biggest jumps and drops in volume and the Top 500 is fairly self-explanatory. There isn’t much movement in the top-10 (Google, Yahoo, MySpace, MSN, eBay, Microsoft, Blogger, etc.) but you can usually find some neat sites further down the list. You can also look for rankings in about 20 different categories if you have a rough idea what you’re looking for. Another good site is , which is similar to Alexa, but also takes note of what sites people add to their "Favourites" folders.