Let’s be clear about this: There’s already enough information about programming-induced RSI-related illnesses out there. When I was hit with the diagnosis I happened to find the most comfort in reading about other affected people’s disease progression, which is precisely what I’m about to give you here.
Programming up to 10 hours a day as the main job and playing technically demanding esport games with sometimes up to 10 inputs per second on the side is NOT a good combination if you care about your arm’s, hand’s and finger’s health. After trying to compete with the top 50 Super Smash Bros. Melee Players in Germany for several months and implementing short training sessions into my daily routine without giving my hands enough time to warm up I suddenly found myself unable to click. Yeah, you read that right. Clicking my mouse would cause me horrendous pain in my arms. After doing some research and a doctor’s visit the diagnose was crystal clear: I caught tendonitis. I overused the tendons in my arms for a long time, didn’t give them enough breaks to heal and now I had to pay the price for it. Avoiding it would have been quite easy:
- take enough breaks when coding/gaming
- set your workspace up ergonomically
- buy proper pc equipment, regard it as a part of your job
- listen to your body’s signals
Wearing arm splints on both arms for several weeks is slightly suboptimal if you’re trying to learn Ruby on Rails. I had to stop coding and a big portion of every day consisted of me trying to learn new ways of working around everyday necessities without using my arms. Even typing on my phone would hurt enough to make me stop bothering and just start using memos — sometimes two seconds long and only consisting of the word “no” (you’ll use that word more often than “yes” when recovering from RSI). It may not have looked like a cruciate ligament injury but it was bad and would have gotten worse if I wouldn’t have been careful about how I strain my arms. How to get through it:
- speak to a doctor you trust
- don’t even try to turn on your pc or any gaming consoles
- Alexa, Siri.. however they might be called, they will be your best friends during times like these after setting them up
- get some help from friends (duh)
- the more serious you are about letting your hands heal, the faster it will go
In some cases it only takes a few days for someone’s hands to heal — in my case, it was two months. The pain won’t go away overnight suddenly and when returning to coding I still felt pain here and there. At times it felt like I forgot how it even felt to code before all of this. Did my hands always hurt a little from time to time? Or is it the after-effects? How slow should I take things for now? Yadda, yadda, yadda. Yes, your tendonitis might turn into a whole phase you’ll have to get through. RSI-Syndromes are often accompanied by a circumstance-induced depression stemming from your limited motional freedom. Days are going to be long and sometimes you’ll wonder if you’ll ever heal. You will.
- you’re sad? Go jogging. Don’t want to? Stay sad then.
- you’ll be good to go before your hands stop hurting entirely, just take it slow
- take it slow but return to giving 100% at coding eventually, half-assing it out of fear of the illness returning won’t do you any good
- read the Mindbody Prescription to learn how circumstance-induced depressions can create pain
- be careful about returning to games like Smash Bros., Starcraft, etc.. Animal Crossing might be the thing to go for now
- find people who went through the same to talk to, you’re not alone with it, here’s one: