Computer Interfaces & Typing Pain
With my chosen profession, I have to type for a living — so I felt pretty desperate when I realized (about 15 years ago) that I physically couldn't continue to type.
My specific problem turned out (I met with a physical therapist) to be impingement of the median nerve. In my pointer, index, and middle finger area, I experienced coldness, achiness, and then as it got worse — "pins & needles" numbness. In my case, the impingement was not in the carpal tunnel ("carpal tunnel syndrome"), but where these nerves passed under my pectoral muscle area into my shoulder/arm.
I first noticed this problem when using the mouse. Apparently long-term gripping of an object is bad - at least for someone like me whose muscles impinge their nerves.
To fix my problems, here is what I did. (Note the many steps before finally seeking a physical therapist — oops!) Steps 1-4 worked for only a few months to a year before the problem returned.
- Step 1: move my mouse to my left hand
- Step 2: move my mouse to a foot trackball (and eventually a foot mouse).
- Step 3: keyboard change (long story)
- Step 4: voice-recognition software (a dead end)
- Step 5: physical therapist (identified my problem & taught me stretching & exercise changes)
At this point, I'm mostly OK — if I take it easy. To this day, I cannot use a regular hand-mouse for more than 5 minutes.
I decided I wanted a keyboard that let my hands be in a natural/relaxed position. When I let my hands relax, they hang down at the sides of my chair, angled 45 degrees (between inward and facing back). I decided I needed a keyboard I could split and mount there (attached to my chair).
I also wanted to offload some of my most common key activity from my hands to my other (non-mousing) foot. I made a foot keyboard that contains arrow keys, page up/down, and the web-browser-back key.
After lots of research, it looked like the DataHand was the only choice. It was the only keyboard that didn't require me to contort my hands to reach keys outside the "home" (ASDF) keys — because with the DataHand, your fingers are always on the home keys. Unfortunately, this keyboard is extremely expensive, no longer made, and took me months to fully learn to type again. The DataHand is still found for sale (used) once or twice a year on Ebay for $600+. The DataHand does not provide a good mouse solution — so you have to keep taking your hand off your keyboard, or use a foot mouse. Read more about my DataHand keyboard here.
Looking back, I should have sought out a PT expert on typing injuries much earlier in the game!