A cliff, covered in dead grass, overlooks an ocean. Two hands are straining to hang on, so an unseen person doesn't fall.
Photo by Daniel Jensen / Unsplash

Let's talk about that time I got an assistant. It really sucked.

This was a long time ago. I don't know if you remember life before Fruit Ninja, but we were all typing away on our BlackBerry keyboards under the misguided notion that our emails were both important and urgent.

I was employed as an eLearning developer at the time and needed to create a course on how to use some software.

The only problem was that the software hadn't been built yet. Instead, I had a bunch of screenshots, some technical documentation and a very unflattering deadline.

Now, I'm not one to shy away from hard work. I jumped right into those 12 to 14-hour days, taking breaks only for the occasional smoke, scotch or ham and cheese croissant.

The work was very fiddly. To get the output I wanted, I found myself doing a lot of fine editing. Tiny movements left to right, up and down, with my mouse only moving millimetres with each change.

On day 8, I noticed that my wrist was a bit sore. I didn't think anything of it. I mean, of course, it was sore... I had just worked a 100-hour week!

On day 9, I was in pain. My whole right hand and wrist were throbbing. My boss was sympathetic and shouted me an Irish coffee for breakfast. But we had a deadline to hit, so I put a bandaid on and got back to work.

By day 10, I was in absolute agony. My hand and wrist felt like they were on fire.

I couldn't use my right hand at all.

I tried to develop using my left hand, but of course, that didn't work. This was a problem, as I was the only one who knew how to use Captivate and this had to be completed yesterday.

So I scored an assistant!

She was brilliant. Smart, committed and patient. But nothing could have prepared her for the task of literally being my right hand! I mean, I don't mean to be difficult, but there is a right pixel, so could you try clicking there?

Anyway, we got it done and the campaign launched on time.

The only problem was that...

I still couldn't use my hand.

A trip to a specialist suggested that I was suffering from repetitive strain injury (RSI) which is an "overuse injury". Or maybe it's carpal tunnel syndrome? He couldn't say. Either way, there wasn't much that could be done. Surgery may be an option but it's one of those operations that might make things worse. Great.

He gave me some exercises to do and told me to take it easy.

That was over a decade ago. It still hurts.

No Fruit Ninja for me.

Using a normal mouse is not an option. I've tried trackballs, tablets, trackpads, and everything in between. For me, the vertical mouse is where it's at. And I have a trackpad that I use with my left hand for gestures, scrolling etc.

Thankfully, my RSI isn't getting worse, however, it does take a lot of discipline to give my hands the rest they need, especially when I'm scrambling against a deadline.

Good ergonomics is essential. If you have any pain in your body as a result of the work that you are doing, fix it now - before it's too late.

The above text was written a year or two ago. What do you think happened? Did Matt utter a curse when he said "my RSI isn't getting worse"? Did he ignore the situation until his hands exploded? We all know that Matt really wants robot claws, so maybe he is imagining all this so he can justify them? Either way, we should ban him from writing in the third person.
Cartoon showing a woman holding files standing at an office door. Inside, an overweight man is using his mouse with his left hand while holding a partially eaten donut in the right. The caption says "I like to mix up my exercise routine. Sometimes I right click. Sometimes I double click..."
Cartoon by an unknown artist. Yep, I stole it from the internet.

I'm going to let you in on a secret.

If you have an injury that is caused by "overuse", you need to stop!

Step away from the mouse. Put down that phone. And when the button-smashing fights in spider-man have you hurting, yep, the PlayStation's gotta go.

I'll finish this story later. While you're waiting, I want you to listen to Dr Levi, the gamers and esports doctor:

And Jamie, the Healthy Software Developer:

They both want to help you.

Subscribe to Matthew Bibby

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.