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Developer health - taking care of yourself as you code

I’ve recently contracted tendonitis in both of my hands, it’s nothing major and can be treated of course, but it made me realize how I have been passive about my health as a developer up until then. I’m not talking about going for a run or hitting the gym multiple times a week, but all the other, seemingly little things that can have a major impact on our careers.
Who would’ve thought: my hands are pretty important to code 🤦‍♂️

Let’s cover a few topics: what you can do right now both actively and passively, and what you can invest in to prevent certain problems.

Passive behavioral changes

Watch your back posture 📏

Start by sitting all the way back in your chair. If you have good lumbar support it should be rather easy to keep a straight posture. If you tend to forget and end up perched over your screen, try reminding yourself every few minutes until it becomes a habit.

It’s often said that a 90° or 130° angle is good for your back.

Rest your forearms on your armrest 💪

And if you don’t have any, try to get some !
Your arms should be resting comfortably on your armrests, no pressure should be felt on your shoulders or elbows. If you do feel pressure, adjust the height of your armrests to be aligned with your desk.

Your arms or wrists should not be pressing on the hard edge of the desk, it should lay there comfortably.

Align yourself with your desk 👨‍💻

As mentioned above, you should be aligned with your desk. This was probably my biggest mistake due to a bad chair I had at home: your arms should not be reaching up or down to your work station.

Additionally, your feet should be resting flat on the ground with your legs at an 90° angle.

Position your primary and secondary monitor(s) correctly 🖥

Ideally, your monitor(s) should be at eye height and in front of you, avoiding you to constantly turn your head.

Working with laptops often means your neck will be at an angle which can create aching over a long period of time. To solve this issue, grab a laptop stand and add an external keyboard !

Position your hands correctly on your keyboard 🤚

I can’t stress that enough: your hands should be straight on your keyboard, you shouldn’t type diagonally. They should also not be bent over the keyboard.

Grip your mouse correctly 🐭

First off, don’t grip it firmly and rest your hand on it, avoid having a talon-like grip. Try to use your whole arm and wrist to move it to allow for larger and stronger muscles to do the work. Finally, try to have your upper arm close into your side.

Active behavioral changes

Take. breaks. ⏳

Ideally, you should do a 5-10 minute break every 50 to 60 minutes of work.
I know, this might be infeasible in your current working conditions, but try to sneak in break little by little for the sake of your health.

If your job requires you to stay for a very long period of time in front of the keyboard, try longer breaks after a longer amount of time, even though the former method is recommended.

Stretch your hands 🙆‍♂️

I’ve found the following exercises after finding out I had tendonitis. They allow me to get my hands warmed up and ready to type and only take a few minutes every few hours. You can even pair them up with the breaks mentioned above 🤯

There are many hand stretches out there, but we often forget to get ourselves ready for work and omit them.

Take your time 🐌

I think of myself as a fast typer, but it’s sometimes worth it to slow down in order to avoid straining on your hands.

Stay hydrated kids 💧

One of the best remedies for tendonitis is water ! So always keep a water bottle near your work station.

Investments

Ergonomic mouse (mice?)

Your average computer mouse is not comfortable and pushes you to have a bad grip over a long perid of time. Ergonomic mouses allow for a comfortable position where your wrist is not twisted. I know it looks weird, but trust me, it works !
Note the pad with a foam support for my wrist 😄, it’s worth keeping in mind that some types of wrist rests are not recommended as they can block blood circulation.

My own mouse & pad, 17 & 9 € respectively

Ergonomic keyboard

In order to have an optimal posture on your keyboard, some people recommend purchasing an ergonomic keyboard. They apparently take time to get used to (if ever), although I wouldn’t know, as I don’t have one. But I’ve heard great things about them so they’re worth considering.

When needed, purchase hand or wrist braces 🤲

When injured, a wrist brace like the one bellow can be of great help ! It adds pressure on your hand to avoid unecessary movements and allows faster recovery ! It can be found at any sports shop or pharmacies.

Fall style 2019, 10€

Wrapping things up

Our job/hobby is easy physically, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t watch out and anticipate problems. Health is everything, so take care of yourself and happy coding ! 😄

If you’ve learned something or want to help me heal faster, be sure to hit me up @christo_kade ✌️