Tag Archives: Repetitive Strain Injury

Take A Scheduled Break From Computing – Free Workrave Reminds You When It’s Time

Workrave logo.pngThere’s an old joke that goes something like this – If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself. I’m sure there are a lot of guys my age who can relate. All those “little” injuries I suffered back in the day – the busted shoulder, the dislocated knee, the groin injury, the slipped disc ….., bother me every day.

Until a year ago or so, I exacerbated all those old injuries by bad computing habits – the type of habits that virtually all computer users have, including:

Slouching, rather than sitting upright (This used to be my favorite position).

Barely moving (except for hands and eyes).

Incorrect screen height and positioning.

Poor keyboard placement.

NOT taking breaks away from the keyboard. (I was totally guilty of this one).

In July of last year, I discovered a neat little freebie application – Workrave – an application that’s designed to prevent computer users from developing, or aggravating, occupational diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive strain injuries (my problem), or myopia.

Since I installed this application, I’ve used it religiously to force myself to take micro-pauses, and longer rest breaks. The most important break being – walking away from the computer at regular intervals.

I have to admit, that while I haven’t had to deal with the back problem that was the catalyst for me in installing this application – I still creak a little, early in the morning.   Smile

One of the more impressive features of this application is a set of onscreen exercises that you can use to help you heal injuries, or as in my case, to help me get all the kinks out of my muscles.

Miss Workrave, illustrating  just two of the exercises.She’ll expect you to join in.

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Application setup goes relatively smoothly since the user interface is “follow the bouncing ball” simple.

You can enable/disable each timer, modify the time between breaks, and set the break durations from within the Preference menu.

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While taking this screen capture, as you can see, I was prompted to take a micro- break as per my schedule.

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The application can keep track of your computer activity and breaks.

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Bonus: By using Workrave’s built-in networking feature, you give everyone on the network an opportunity to relax, or exercise on a scheduled basis. A neat feature, I thought.

Available modes:

Normal – “Normal” mode is for normal usage. It will prompt you to break and, if so configured, force you to take the break.

Quiet – “Quiet” mode is pretty much like normal mode, in that it will still register your activity, and notice that you need to take a break, but it will not actually prompt you to take one, nor block you from using the computer. This is typically used when you want to show something on your computer to someone else. You are using the computer doing the explaining and the showing, but you do not want to be interrupted by breaks.

Suspended – In “Suspended” mode, Workrave no longer records your activity. This is typically used when someone else is using your computer for a brief time. In these cases, you may not want to quit Workrave, and you also don’t want the activity recorded, because it isn’t yours, and hence you will not need to take any “overdue” breaks. When someone else is using the computer for a longer time, it is best to quit Workrave altogether.

If you want to prevent injury, or other unpleasant consequences from too much time on the computer, or you need a reminder to take a break for any reason, Workrave could be just the right tool to help you do this.

I will say, it took some time to get the idea into my head that I had to become more responsive to the aches and pains, and other unpleasant consequences from too much time on the computer. I finally accepted the idea that a reminder program might be part of the solution and, as it turned out, Workrave was the right tool.

System requirements: Windows or GNU/Linux.

Download at: Workrave

Additional resources:

Computer terminal work and the benefits of microbreaks

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Filed under downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Living Life, Open Source, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Blogging Is A Pain In The ………

I’ll bet you though that I was about to say that blogging is a pain in the ass. It’s not – although it does have its moments. No, in my case, blogging is actually a pain in the back. Here’s what I mean.

I’m normally on a computer by 7 AM every day, and generally, I’m computing until at least 11 PM. Part of that time, about 4 hours or so, is set aside for managing this blog – developing and writing new articles; responding to comments, and so on. Somewhere in those hours, I take time for lunch and dinner.

But, in April of this year, I finally paid the price for all the mistakes I’ve made, over the years, while sitting at a computer keyboard. Mistakes, that taken one at a time, don’t seem that serious. But, an accumulation of these mistakes can be physically costly.

The personal price I paid for these accumulated errors was back pain so severe, that even morphine did little to reduce the agony, and I do mean agony. I fact, even though it’s been months now, I’m still in constant pain – though it’s manageable without medication.

My doctor’s advice?  Accept the pain and reduced ability as an ongoing fact of life, or consider surgery. Back surgery is the only real alternative I think, and I’ve scheduled it for early in the Fall.

You might wonder why I’m relating this story to you, and you might even be thinking – that will never happen to me. Oh no?

The type of mistakes that I made are the type of mistakes that virtually all computer users make, including:

Slouching, rather than sitting upright (This used to be my favorite position).

Barely moving.

Incorrect screen height, or positioning.

Poor keyboard placement.

NOT taking breaks away from the keyboard. (I was totally guilty of this one).

So, I’ve had to learn to implement certain strategies to manage this back pain while I’m on a computer. The most important one being – getting up out of my chair (a very good chair, by the way), and walking away from the computer at regular intervals.

To prompt me to do this I use Workrave, an open source (free), application that assists in the recovery and prevention of RSI – Repetitive Strain Injury. The program frequently alerts me to take micro-pauses, longer rest breaks, and restricts me to my daily computing limit – still a high limit mind you.

One of the more impressive features of this application is a set of onscreen exercises that you can use to help you heal injuries, or as in my case, prevent future injuries – I hope!

The following screen shots illustrate just two of the exercises.

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Application setup goes relatively smoothly since the user interface is “follow the bouncing ball” simple.

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While taking this screen capture, as you can see, I was prompted to take a micro- break as per my schedule. I postponed this break, by the way.

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By using Workrave’s networking feature you give everyone on the network an opportunity to relax, or exercise on a scheduled basis. A neat feature, I thought.

If you want to prevent injury, or other unpleasant consequences from too much time on the computer, or you need a reminder to take a break for any reason, Workrave could be just the right tool to help you do this.

If you’re a Geek, then you REALLY need this tool. 🙂

System requirements: Windows or GNU/Linux.

Download at: Workrave

Additional resources:

Computer terminal work and the benefits of microbreaks

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

32 Comments

Filed under downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Living Life, Networking, Open Source, Software, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP