Using computers for extended periods can cause Repeated (or Repetitive) Strain Injuries or RSI. It is not clear what causes them. The control or the shift keys in the wrong position? Wrong position of the hands? Use of the mouse? People have been typing for years and RSI is a pretty recent phenomenon. But that just means that it was not known by the name of RSI. It doesn’t prove that RSI didn’t exist. In many countries, RSI is not recognized as a work-related injury; thus, this may prevent you from collecting on your damage insurance.

Information on the original wiki:

More information on the web:

Perhaps that shows that people should not hack Emacs after getting home from work …

People who’ve had wrist pains:

BenWing, JamieZawinski, RichardStallman, AlexSchroeder, AaronCrane, DavidMcCabe, ZajcevEvgeny, ShaeErisson, RichardKlinda, YannHodique, JohnSturdy, XueFuqiao

Most of the discomfort I was having (felt like the tendons in the back of my hands) has been aleviated by attempting to keep the muscle tension required to ‘float’ my fingers and hands above the keyboard to a minimum. So, for me, the problem wasn’t striking the keys, but actually the reverse. But there are other pains, especially after a busy day. In some cases I’ve found there may be an almost psychosomatic response, where even touching the keyboard is painful.

  When in one of the many what could be considered 'View' modes I may

try one or more of the following:

1. Try pressing keys in a different way:

thumbs, pinkies, elbows, fists, toes, heels, etc.? (See FootSwitchesJohnSturdy)

2. Try using other objects:

maybe a couple of pens

3. VoiceRecognition

still don’t have this setup for myself


Here is my story. I was having very bad RSI year in past. Pain starts in fingers going along whole forearm to the elbow. It was really painfull to type more than 20 minites. I start depositing bee’s poison on arms covering it with woolen gloves when typing, as doctor recommend me. After nearly month pain retreat a little, but still after typing more then 30 minutes it starts again. I type much and pretty fast, so I decided to switch to dvorak keyboard layout and bought KinesisKeyboard, make some ergonomic key remaps, also drop using mouse at all, and continue depositing bee’s poison every morning. After about 6 month pain retreat at all, now I can type 6 hours without any pain, but still have habbit to make break after 20 minutes 😊 – ZajcevEvgeny

I noticed that moving to a lower chair drastically increases my problems within two hours. Thus, experimenting with chairs and table height might help. – AlexSchroeder


John Ousterhout, UC Berkeley comp sci prof., creator of influential Tcl, and pioneer advocate of dynamic scripting languages (kinda like Lisp, I understand ;)), has some very interesting pointers on Dealing with RSI: Sobering thoughts on prognosis for improvement; amazing personal experiences and strategies for using Dragon Dictate Naturally Speaking: Windows only, and expensive, alas, but it is as good as they say. I trained my neurologically disabled niece on an earlier version of it way back in 1997 and even then it was obviously a truly fabulous, if proprietary, learning algorithm. (I have one word of advice: unlike my young niece, exercize great patience and moderate your expectations and emotions while in training mode or you will surely and unconsciously screw up your voice somehow with each initially frustrating iteration, and thereby permanently screw up the neural net’s ability to recognize your natural speaking voice. Garbage in, garbage out. Worked fine when I trained it on myself – of course, my voice betrayed no psychological need to make it work now, or never. Perfectly natural reaction to pain and powerlessness, but be on your guard. This technology may well be your lifeline: treat it with an air of natural reverence, indifference if you will, by just assuming it will answer your prayers, in its own good time. </preacher-mode> ) Ousterhout uses Naturally Speaking on a spare Windows laptop and pipes its ascii outut to a networked Unix box’s standard input, achieving speeds faster than he could ever type, and he was a fast touch typist. He links to a2x, a free ascii-to-X windows utility, useful for making Windows-only best of breed voice recognition software talk to Unix, right at point in Emacs, presumably: Good luck to all sufferers. – PaulWilson

Reading The Mindbody Prescription [3] helped me a lot. --JasonDunsmore

Getting fit is one of the most helpful things. Some forms of RSI may be circulation-related, and things which help the circulation often reduce RSI. Keep a small dumbbell by your computer, and lift it a few times if your arms/hands/wrists start getting stiff.

FootSwitches, at least for Ctrl, Alt, Shift, and preferably also for some other keys (EmacsVersor) make a big difference – no more hand-stretching chording. I use the kind designed by Xkeys ( but they are re-badged under various names. – JohnSturdy

I started to experience bad RSI when I first used emacs. The chording was simply too awkward. I swapped my CapsLock and CTRL keys and that made it a bit better. Then I tried to create more ergonomic key bindings. I looked into FootSwitches, but they were too expensive. Finally, I switched to ViperMode and that made all the difference. To my delight, I found that a bit of tweaking made ViperMode even easier to use than Vim. For instance, instead of the awful “gqap” in vim to format/fill paragraphs, I set the following:

       (define-key viper-vi-global-user-map (kbd "q") 'fill-paragraph)

Now I have all the basic vi commands + an overlay of wonderful C-c commands in various modes + multiple undo and search commands. To me, it is the best of both worlds.

Emacs, of course, is infinitely more powerful than vi(m). Despite emacs’ painful default keybindings, customizing it to make it as comfortable as possible is well worth the effort.


Random tips (although the people needing them most can’t get to them):

ErgoemacsKeybindings helped me a lot. – XueFuqiao

CategoryAccessibility CategoryKeys