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Computing

Tips and taps to relieve your carpal tunnel and repetitive stress syndrome

October 16, 1998
Web posted at: 12:40 PM EDT

by Nicholas Petreley

From...


(IDG) -- I'd like to thank readers and InfoWorld Electric forum participants for all their input regarding carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive stress syndrome. (See my previous column, "Here are a baby boomer's remedies for sore eyes and carpal tunnel syndrome," Sept. 28) One such letter appeared in a recent issue of InfoWorld. (See To The Editor, "Remedies for aches and pains," Sept. 28.) In it, Marcia Tingley correctly pointed out that things like the proper seat height can make a world of difference.

Another reader, Vern Goldsmith, waxed rhapsodic about a pressure-point massaging device by Panasonic, the Shiatsu Accu-Tap II. He was so jazzed on the thing that he sent me a unit. I confess that when I opened the package I immediately thought I was the butt of a practical joke. The Accu-Tap looks like your standard massaging vibrator (you know, the kind with 1,001 uses, only one of which comes to mind if your mind is in the gutter.)

To my surprise, this thing really does work wonders. The Accu-Tap has a powerful pounding motion -- so powerful that Panasonic warns you not to use it on your head or on your bones. I found that I could get some relief from carpal tunnel pain by using it on the webbed area between thumb and forefinger. It also helps to use it on the muscles of the forearm. Most surprising of all, it seems to have a beneficial effect on my wrists and arms when I use it on the muscles between my shoulder blades.

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You can buy the Accu-Tap for $99 from The Bone Store (www.bonestore.com/massage.html), or Vern will sell you one for $5 less and toss in 15 minutes of phone advice on how to use it. You can reach him at vern@goldsmith.com.

A number of other readers alerted me to the fact that the Microsoft natural keyboard, which I recommended, has changed since I bought mine. Most of these readers were severely disappointed with the new style.

In particular, a few readers complained that the new keyboard no longer has a flap underneath it to make the keyboard tilt down and away from you. This feature allows you to rest your palms on the keyboard without bending your wrists. I didn't find this to be a problem with the new keyboard, personally. The new version already tilts pretty much in the same direction without the need for an added flap. The precise angle might be different, but if it is, I found the difference to be negligible as long as I adjusted the height of my chair properly.

But I will offer a loud "amen" to my readers' complaints about the new supplemental cursor keys (the grouped arrow keys and the grouped home, end, and page-up keys). Microsoft reduced the footprint for the new keyboard by reducing the size of these keys and rearranging them. The new design makes these navigation keys all but useless. If I could get used to navigating via the numeric keypad with the num-lock key off, I'd be perfectly happy with the new keyboard. But my old one works fine, so I see no reason to put myself to the test.

A lot of readers seem to have beaten carpal tunnel syndrome by switching the hand with which they use their mouse. I tried it, and it seems to help. It takes some getting used to, but it isn't as difficult as I thought it might be.

I also received some unusual suggestions. One reader recommended an herbal tea called "Computer De-Stress Tea" from the Yogi Tea company. I haven't tried it, but it is supposedly coming to a health food store near you sometime in October. Another claims her carpal tunnel disappeared after she started practicing martial arts.

To quote from her letter, "There's nothing like an hour of punching, kicking, yelling, and sword-swinging to reduce workplace stress to a rational level."

Finally, many of you seemed to think the finger-tapping tip that appeared in the same column was somehow flawed. In case you missed it, reader Patrick Purcell suggested something you could do while waiting for a stable version of Windows NT 5.0 to ship: Stand at the New York Harbor and watch continental drift cause the coast of France to come crashing in.

Readers pointed out that continental drift is causing France to drift away from the United States, not toward it. Therefore France will never come crashing into New York Harbor.

All I can say is: So? What's flawed about the analogy?

Former consultant and programmer Nicholas Petreley thinks continental drift is Earth's fault. Send your comments to nicholas_petreley@infoworld.com.

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