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How I Avoid Thumb Pain From Too Much Coding

01 October 2012

Most coders complain about wrist pain. For some reason I never had major trouble there except when working for hours on a laptop. My main issue seemed more original and was located in the group of muscles controlling the thumb. Suddently it would hurt for days, then go away, then come back… good times.

Eventually I mentioned it to a kinesiotherapist, and the conversation was very similar to the famous joke that goes something like:

« Doctor, it hurts when I do this.

-Don’t do it then! »

Of course this got me thinking: why do I use my thumb so much?

Turns out that the movement of pressing a combination of keys was the thing causing the pain. Of course doing it every once in a while has no consequence, but as a web developer I spend my day opening browser tabs (cmd+T), refreshing pages (cmd+R) and copy and pasting (cmd+C, cmd+V).


As you can see on this terribly filmed video, I tend to twist a bit the thumb to press both keys at the same time. It’s not much but because it’s not a natural position, the repetition of this hundreds of times a day would cause pain.

My first idea was to force myself to use the second cmd button, but I didn’t like it since it would require taking my hand off the mouse for a second. What worked for me was changing the mapping of Caps Lock to Cmd so I could do the gesture with one hand. This allowed me to use my little finger for these action and avoid stressing the thumb muscles.

I’ve been doing this for a few months now, and I do see a difference. If you encounter the same problem, feel free to try this solution out and let me know if it helped!

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