Linux/Unix App For Prevention Of RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury)


A repetitive strain injury (RSI) is occupational overuse syndrome, non-specific arm pain or work related upper limb disorder. RSI caused from overusing the hands to perform a repetitive task, such as typing, writing, or clicking a mouse. Unfortunately, most people do not understand what RSI is or how dangerous it can be. You can easily prevent RSI using open source software called Workrave.

What are the symptoms of RSI?

I’m quoting from this page. Do you experience:

  1. Fatigue or lack of endurance?
  2. Weakness in the hands or forearms?
  3. Tingling, numbness, or loss of sensation?
  4. Heaviness: Do your hands feel like dead weight?
  5. Clumsiness: Do you keep dropping things?
  6. Lack of strength in your hands? Is it harder to open jars? Cut vegetables?
  7. Lack of control or coordination?
  8. Chronically cold hands?
  9. Heightened awareness? Just being slightly more aware of a body part can be a clue that something is wrong.
  10. Hypersensitivity?
  11. Frequent self-massage (subconsciously)?
  12. Sympathy pains? Do your hands hurt when someone else talks about their hand pain?

How to reduce your risk of Developing RSI

  • Take breaks, when using your computer, every 30 minutes or so. Use software such as workrave to prevent RSI.
  • Regular exercise can prevent all sort of injuries including RSI.
  • Use good posture. Adjust your computer desk and chair to support muscles necessary for good posture.


Workrave is a free open source software application intended to prevent computer users from developing RSI or myopia. The software periodically locks the screen while an animated character, “Miss Workrave,” walks the user through various stretching exercises and urges them to take a coffee break. The program frequently alerts you to take micro-pauses, rest breaks and restricts you to your daily limit. The program works under MS-Windows and Linux, UNIX-like operating systems.

Install workrave

Type the following apt command/apt-get command under a Debian / Ubuntu Linux:
$ sudo apt-get install workrave
Fedora Linux user should type the following dnf command:
$ sudo dnf install workrave
RHEL/CentOS Linux user should enable EPEL repo and install it using yum command:
### [ tested on a CentOS/RHEL 7.x and clones ] ###
$ sudo yum install epel-release
$ sudo yum install
$ sudo yum install workrave

Arch Linux user type the following pacman command to install it:
$ sudo pacman -S workrave
FreeBSD user can install it using the following pkg command:
# pkg install workrave
OpenBSD user can install it using the following pkg_add command $ doas pkg_add workrave

How to configure workrave

Workrave works as an applet which is a small application whose user interface resides within a panel. You need to add workrave to panel to control behavior and appearance of the software.

Adding a New Workrave Object To Panel

  • Right-click on a vacant space on a panel to open the panel popup menu.
  • Choose Add to Panel.
  • The Add to Panel dialog opens.The available panel objects are listed alphabetically, with launchers at the top. Select workrave applet and click on Add button.
Fig.01: Adding an Object (Workrave) to a Panel

Fig.01: Adding an Object (Workrave) to a Panel

How Do I Modify Properties Of Workrave Software?

To modify the properties of an object workrave, perform the following steps:

  • Right-click on the workrave object to open the panel object popup.
  • Choose Preference. Use the Properties dialog to modify the properties as required.
Fig.02: Modifying the Properties of The Workrave Software

Fig.02: Modifying the Properties of The Workrave Software

Workrave in Action

The main window shows the time remaining until it suggests a pause. The windows can be closed and you will the time remaining on the panel itself:

Fig.03: Time reaming counter

Fig.03: Time reaming counter

Fig.04: Miss Workrave - an animated character walks you through various stretching exercises

Fig.04: Miss Workrave - an animated character walks you through various stretching exercises

The break prelude window, bugging you to take a micro-pause:

Fig.05: Time for a micro-pause remainder

Fig.05: Time for a micro-pause remainder

Fig.06: You can skip Micro-break

Fig.06: You can skip Micro-break


  1. Workrave project home page.
  2. pokoy lightweight daemon that helps prevent RSI and other computer related stress.
  3. A Pomodoro timer for GNOME 3.
  4. RSI from the wikipedia.

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🐧 14 comments so far... add one
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14 comments… add one
  • surendra kumar anne Nov 4, 2009 @ 9:19

    This is good

  • Patil Nov 4, 2009 @ 12:13

    Good to know this .!!!

  • M.S. Babaei Nov 4, 2009 @ 13:41

    Workrave is always the best!!
    I have CTS and it’s about a year using Workrave my life became easier.

  • M.S. Babaei Nov 4, 2009 @ 13:44

    It’s also good to mention that workrave has problems with xorg 1.6.0 and not working after installation (at least in my gentoo box).
    the solution is to disable the record module in xorg.conf like this:

    Section “Module”
    # Temporary for workrave (xorg 1.6.0 and above caused this)
    #Load “record”
    Disable “record”
    Load “dri2”
    Load “extmod”
    Load “dri”
    Load “glx”
    Load “dbe”
    Load “wfb”

    • NuLL3rr0r Oct 8, 2010 @ 15:08

      Workrave-1.9.2 fixed this problem. It’s not needed anymore to disable xorg record module. In fact with the above setting you are getting this 3rr0r with newest version of Workrave (Workrave won’t run):

      babaei@mbp13x17 ~ $ workrave
      Xlib: extension “RECORD” missing on display “:0.0”.
      workrave: xcb_io.c:140: dequeue_pending_request: Assertion `req == dpy->xcb->pending_requests’ failed.

      I backed to my original configuration, and now its just works fine.

      Section “Module”
      Load “dbe”
      Load “dri”
      Load “extmod”
      Load “glx”
      Load “record”
      Load “dri2”

  • nobody Nov 5, 2009 @ 6:50

    i was looking 4 something like this a long time.

    10x for sharing

  • vonskippy Nov 6, 2009 @ 21:13

    If people are so lame that they need to be reminded of stuff like this, how long before they upgrade the app to “don’t forget – it’s time to pick your nose”, “go to the bathroom”, “fart”, “eat”, “sleep”, “breath”, etc. Talk about creating a solution for a problem that does NOT exist (at least for someone that can still rub a brain cell or two together).

  • Arun Bagul Nov 24, 2009 @ 3:53

    Hi! Vivek,

    Nice tool.. I am using it….

  • Gamliel Fishkin Dec 13, 2009 @ 16:58

    It is useful, but Linux (at least Gnome at Ubuntu) already has such a feature: in the keyboard settings.

  • Ganga Dec 31, 2009 @ 19:28

    Hello Vivek,

    Wow…that s is a nice piece of software saving programmers! :p

    Do u know any piece of code that tracks amount of time spent by user on a web-browser ( or a particular application) and and does warning by a popup window similar to workrave?

    Keep on good work! Happy new year!

  • Sathiya Jan 1, 2010 @ 11:33

    Addicts like me definitely require this..

    Long before i came to know about this and used it in my office, but however am not able to follow it and disabled it.

    Now i installed in my laptop, Hopefully i should be able to enable it for some months atleast.

  • deepinlife Feb 21, 2010 @ 9:31

    @M.S. Babaei
    thx , i have faced the same problem on suse 10.2 with xorg version 1.6.5
    i couldn’t find xorg at first , but after regenerating it and commenting as u mentioned , it worked

    • M.S. Babaei Oct 8, 2010 @ 15:09

      ur welcome πŸ™‚

  • Robert Lamb Apr 22, 2010 @ 21:42

    For the ones using Windows, I think the better options are still Speech Recognition. I tried to use another program (RSI Shield), but in the end it just annoyed me, and I had to disable it when I was in the middle of solving some problem.
    With speech recognition, there is no such problem, since I am not even using the hands.
    For the ones that can´t pay for Dragon NatSpeak, I would suggest Windows Vista or Windows 7 with built-in speech recognization.
    The only drawback of Windows is its way of moving the mouse by voice, which requires a lot of commands. For this issue, I found a tiny program called Voice Finger , that does a wonderful job at moving the mouse around and clicking with the voice.
    Now my RSI is much better, and I hope soon I will be completely healed.

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