Wednesday, 14 November 2012

RSI Prevention Part 9 - Gripmaster Hand Exerciser From Prohands.Net

Another Ergonomics Blogger

I recently read a great blog post on ergonomics, which recommended a number of things for programmers.
Amongst the recommendations were some things that I have previously written about here, here and here, so I was pleased that it wasn't 'just me'.

He also recommended strength training using Your Shape 2012 on the XBox 360.
Well, I already use Your Shape and had noticed a difference with my shoulders and neck, so much so that I left a comment on Evan's blog to that effect.

Use The Force, Luke: Get A Hand Exerciser

I had also been considering getting a hand exerciser, or grip strengthener, which I had seen on Amazon
So I was prompted to 'go get it' and here are my results.

To explain, I usually start the week with my hands feeling ok because I have rested them over the weekend.
But by the end of a working week, particularly if I have done a lot of typing, they are aching again.
I thought that since exercise for my shoulders had helped, then perhaps this would too???

The "GripMaster" hand exerciser (pictured left) is a small, simple gadget that fits in your pocket (well, a decent sized pocket anyway!).
It consists of two pieces of shaped plastic with a set of smaller finger-sized plastic pieces attached, with springs between them.
To use it, you just squeeze it for a few seconds and then release the tension or at least, that's the theory.

How Tough Are You(r Hands) Mr Ergonomics?

There are several 'versions' of this gizmo available, with easy, medium and high tensions.
Even though the reviews were overwhelmingly positive, they were mostly written by people who were into a particular sport (like rock climbing) or were musicians trying to improve their guitar or [insert name of instrument here].
So I was still a little bit in the dark about whether it could help me with my mouse and keyboard problems.
After checking each one out, I eventually decided to buy the middle/medium tension one.

"Nil point"

When it arrived, it was well packaged and there appeared to be a nice little instruction leaflet with it so I eagerly opened it up to see how it worked.
Sadly, I was disappointed to find a glossy double-sided page, advertising all their other products with just 2 pictures of exercises, or more accurately, hand positions you could use with the thing.
As they say in Eurovision "Nil point"!

However, there was a web address for Prohands.net where I could get more information.
The first chance I got I fired up the Prohands website, which opened up with a helpful screen for either sports pros or musicians.
I was just going for basic strength, so went down the sports route to reveal a page with lots of example exercises and better still: instructions!

Why bother?

Why am I making a point about this?
Well I'm glad you asked.

You see, without even thinking about it, I had assumed that I should just 'pump' on the exerciser and increase the number of repetitions.
This is what you would do for standard weight training at the gym if you were toning your arms, for example.
- You either increase the weight for more strength or add repetitions for more stamina once you have the basics in place, right?

Wrong!

According to Prohands, you should squeeze the GripMaster gently, hold it for a few seconds and then release.
You can do this for your whole hand or individual fingers, depending on the exercise.
If I hadn't gone to the website and learned this fundamental piece of information, then I could have damaged my hand unwittingly.

To be fair, there is a warning in the leaflet to "be careful" when exercising and go slowly.
However, the website is great, but it really should be in the original packaging too.

So that's +100 for the website, -1000s for the 'boxed product', IMO.

The Good Stuff: How The Gripmaster Works

Ok, now I've got that off my chest I can get to the good part!
The explanations on the website were excellent: clear, concise and with extra videos in case I wasn't sure of anything.

With a little common sense, I located two or three exercises that seemed to fit with my situation.

I soon found out that my third and fourth (ring and little/'pinky') fingers were a lot weaker than my fore- and middle fingers.
Perhaps it should have been obvious, but it was still a revelation to me quite how much difference there was.

What Has It Got In Its Pockets?

The great thing about the GripMaster being a small device is that I was able to put it in my pocket (I love pockets, a subject for another day! -no kidding) and bring it out whenever the mood took.
It came with me to the kitchen and the toilet; basically anywhere away from my desk where no one would think I was weird. (Hmmm...?)

Over the first 2 - 3 days, the discomfort in my hands was just as bad as before, or maybe even slightly worse.
However, after that it started to settle down and by the end of the week, there was a definite improvement when compared to the end of the previous week.


I have now used the GripMaster over 6-8 weeks, exercising my hands a number of times per day in the first two weeks and settling down to 2-3 times per day after that.
And I think it's working...!!!
It's still early days, but I can feel my hands are stronger than they were and although the ache isn't completely gone I feel that my hands are recovering more quickly after the end of the working week.

I will update this post again if anything changes, but on balance so far, I would have no hesitation in recommending this product to others.
You can also find out more about the Gripmaster in my article over on Squidoo.

This is part 9 of a series of articles on Ergonomics and computers.
Follow the links below to the rest of the series:
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