If you work in front of your computer for many hours every day, then you may become a victim of the repetitive strain injury (RSI). RSI is a group of injuries of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems that may be caused by repetitive tasks, forceful exertions and sustained awkward positions. Carpel tunnel syndrome is one of the RSIs that is caused when you use keyboard and mouse for many hours everyday. If you have to work on a computer for long durations, then you can prevent the risk of RSI by using a simple software called WorkRave.
Workrave is a free program that might help you in the recovery and prevention of RSI. It keeps alerting you to take micro-breaks (pauses) and rest-breaks so that you do not put too much stress on your nervous system and muscles. The alerts can be bypassed easily, so it does not interfere with your work. It also displays a number of exercises to help you relax your muscles, back, eye, shoulders and wrists.
You can download it from the WorkRave website. It is available both for Windows and Linux. In Windows you can download and install it using the setup program, it comes with. After the installation, it places an icon (of a sheep) in the system tray. Right-clicking on this system tray icon, you can see the context menu from which you can select preferences, mode and other items. You can change the mode from normal, quiet and suspended. In the normal mode, it uses visual and audio alerts, in the quiet mode the sounds are turned off and in the suspended mode it will not alert you.
In the preferences, you can choose the settings for the timers, user interface and the network. There are two types of times – micro-break (for taking rest for short durations) and rest-break (for rest of long durations). By default the micro-break timer, allows you to take 30 seconds of break every 3 minutes but you can change it as you like. The rest-break timer allows you to take breaks of 10 minutes every 45 minutes; again you can change the settings according to your rest requirements. You can also choose the daily limit of rest (default is 4 hours). You can select if you are allowed to skip or postpone an alert. You can enable or disable the micro-break or rest-break timers if you want to.
In the user interface settings, you can select how timer alerts are displayed and what kind of sounds are played when alerts are shown. You can choose the sound schemes and sound volume of alerts. You can also choose if you want the alerts to disable keyboard and mouse input (so that you cannot work and are forced to take a break).
When you see the alert of rest-break (by default, a break of 10 minutes, every 45 minutes), you are shown a series of exercises that you can do to relax your back, shoulders, arms, eyes and neck. These exercises are specially designed to prevent the RSI related issues. If you already have RSI related injuries in back, wrists etc., then these exercises would make it easy for you to recover. You can also manually view these exercises by selecting Exercises from the system tray context menu.
So if you are having a stiff neck, backpain and are at the risk of getting carpel tunnel syndrome, then its time that you install WorkRave on your system and follow its alerts diligently. This app is completely free (actually open source) and is available for Windows and Linux. It can not only prevent you from the RSI risk but can also help you recover from them if you are already suffering from RSI related injuries.
You can download WorkRave from http://www.workrave.org/.