It is becoming increasingly apparent that working on a computer keyboard is a form of physical stress capable of causing permanent disability. The sometimes crippling pain in fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, and back caused by lengthy keyboard sessions is still not fully understood by researchers. There isn't even agreement on a name. Various experts refer alternately to repetitive stress injury (RSI) or cumulative trauma disorder, while victims often mistakenly think all injuries are a form of carpal tunnel syndrome, which is a specific wrist ailment.
Despite all of the confusion, there is a product on the market which offers some simple steps for preventing injury. Stretch-ercise, a new CD-ROM put together with advice from Robert Gamburd, one of the physicians for the San Francisco 49ers football team, consists of a series of 36 exercises presented through five-second video clips, playing in a postage-stamp-size window on a computer screen. The operator sets up a scheduling system-based on either the number of keystrokes, the number of mouse clicks, or the amount of time elapsed—instructing Stretch-ercise how often it should pop on the screen to remind the operator to perform such exercises as “chicken wings,” “head rolls,” and “torso rotation.”
An “activity report” feature keeps track, of how many keystrokes and mouse clicks the operator has performed. For example, this issue of LSN required about 68,500 keystrokes, about 50 percent of them for revisions.
A CD-ROM drive is not required to use Stretch-ercise—the program also is stored on six floppy disks, which are included in the box. The package loads onto a computer's hard disk, requiring 9.5 megabytes, so it is not necessary to keep the CD-ROM or floppies in a drive. The price is $39.00.
[Contact: Stretch-ercise by IMSI, 1895 E. Francisco Blvd., San Rafael, CA 94901; (800) 833-8082; fax (415) 257-3565.]