Can Poor Posture Cause RSI Pain?

In Oops! RSI, Sean McGrath, CTO of Propylon, writes about his experiences with Repetitive Strain Injury:

Twenty five years bashing a computer keyboard has finally caught up with me I’m afraid. Movable aches and pains running up and down arms, in and out of my wrists, through my fingers, shooting pains in my shoulder and arm muscles…the works!

If, for want of a better label, you think of yourself as having RSI or CTS, you might find my story interesting for comparative purposes. If you don’t have symptoms, please don’t conclude this piece will be of no relevance to you. RSI/CTS can be cumulative. You do not have to overtly injure yourself to bring it on. It has most likely incubated in me for decades, silently getting stronger and stronger and then popping out dramatically. I did not have RSI/CTS for twenty five years. And now, all of a sudden, boom, I do! Next week, it could be you.

Being a computer engineer, Sean takes an analytical approach to figuring out what’s going on, but troubleshooting this particular problem proves unexpectedly difficult. Sean researches the problem, tries rest, tries massage therapy, tries stretches and breaks, but still the pain persists.

This is driving me nuts! The first thing they teach you in debugging school is to establish cause and effect. How can I do that when the effects are variable and possibly days removed from some unknown cause?

Currently, Sean is working off the hypothesis that his problem is related to years of poor posture, and is performing exercises in hopes of improving the situation.

His conclusion: “I live (and thankfully, continue to work) in the hope that I can get to the bottom of this and get it under control.” Good luck, Sean!

Randy Rasa

Randy is an engineer/programmer/web designer who has suffered from repetitive strain injury off and on for over a decade.


  1. Hello Sean,

    I am also a computer scientist and I have been debugging my RSI as well. Apparently, though I seem to be having more result than you. I bought myself and ergonomic keyboard which took care of my mouse arm (there goes playing 1st person shooters though, at least for a while). I pay attention to my posture constantly during the day and I have also started using software to force me to take breaks. (AntiRSI is the best one I have ever seen.) I still have wrist and hand problems because of using the nice Apple trackpad (which isn’t a good ergonomic invention apparently for my RSI).

    I think desk height, chair height, elbow rests, typing position, feet support are all very important for me. I still constantly read more to correct posture.

    Hopefully find a way to rid myself of this too.

  2. RSI is a complicated issue. Whilst the causes of sport injuries are resolved when they are being treated, the causes of RSI (CANS, etc) are usually not during the treatment: poor posture needs to be reeducated, stress must be analysed and reduced, ergonomics must be fixed, etc.

    Teaching people proper posture is not feasible by means of words only. Photos and videos help, but what is needed is proprioception: One needs to feel what is right vs. what is wrong. Mirrors help a lot in this respect.

    Be careful when exercising: Stand, sit, or lie properly before doing any kind of exercise… what means “properly”, needs to be learned, but also understood, and trained.

    These ideas are pushed on Constructive feedback is most welcome, in your interest, Sean, as well as in the interest of all those suffering musculoskeletal disorders.

  3. Hi,
    This is World’s No.1 PC typing Expert and Inventor of Safe Typing techniques and Founder of Computer Injury awareness and Prevention Society., India.
    I can make computer users to work safe without any pains.
    Kindly give me a chance to prove it.

    Arun Kumar
    Limca book record holder

Comments are closed