Yes, it’s true. You can injure yourself writing. Trust me. And I don’t just meant mentally (although this will probably happen too).

I didn’t believe it could happen, until I left the doctor’s office with a diagnosis of Tennis Elbow and tension headaches (as well as my self diagnosed Pandasthma but that’s for another post). Now tension headaches I could kind of understand. Sitting 8-10 hours a day at my computer, on a chair which cost me a whopping $20, I’m surprised I hadn’t developed back problems as well. But Tennis Elbow? I have played tennis twice in the last 10 years! It turns out there is a bit more science behind it.

When we type, we send our arms and hands moving in odd angles and positions. One result of this is that we start to strain the muscles and tendons that hold our bones in place. With typing, the most common tendons to be affected are those between the radius and ulna (the two main bones in our forearms). By stretching and straining them we put unnecessary pressure on the elbow. The result of this is an excruciating pain in the forearm, at first at the wrist end, then gradually moving up. It’s a very similar feeling to carpal tunnel. This stress is obviously increased by speed and pressure of typing. I type at a speed of around 80 wpm. Granted that’s not Olympic speed, but it’s about the speed of any professional typist. Let’s just say it really hurts.

There are a few things that you can do if you start to feel this:

  1. stop typing … not going to happen
  2. type slower and do less … again, not going to happen. Some of us have deadlines!
  3. get an ergonomic keyboard, it helps to support the arms and wrists as you type … if you have the money this might be a good option. Although see if you can test whether it works for you first.
  4. buy an elbow brace … originally I tried strapping my arm and it worked for a while, but I’m allergic to strapping tape so I had to keep taking it off and reapplying every couple of hours, which was a waste of tape and money, and hurt a lot! So, I bought a brace. They actually aren’t that expensive, and it does help for a bit. I still can’t type for long hours on end without my arm hurting, but I can at least get a good hour or two down at one go.
  5. change how you type … I’ve found that if I type with my arms up, off the desk, and the fingers coming down over the keys then less strain seems to come on my forearms. It is quite exhausting over time though so I suggest just doing this for brief periods to break up your normal typing

So yes, it is possible to get injuries from typing. In some upcoming posts I’ll also share with you some things I’ve done to prevent other injuries and to make my writing life a bit more comfortable.