Linux / Windows Application For Prevention Of RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury)

Posted on in Categories Debian Linux, Download of the day, Gentoo Linux, Gnome, GNU/Open source, Howto, Linux, Linux desktop, RedHat/Fedora Linux, Software, Sys admin, Ubuntu Linux, UNIX, Windows, windows vista last updated November 4, 2009

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 serious 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 workwave to prevent RSI.
  • Regular exercise can prevent all sort of injuries including RSI.
  • Use good posture. Adjust your computer desk and/or 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 operating systems.

Install workrave

Type the following command under Debian / Ubuntu Linux, enter:

sudo apt-get install workrave

Note CentOS / RHEL / Fedora Linux user can download it software and install the same using rpm command.

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

Workwave 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. Repetitive Strain Injury: How to prevent, identify, and deal with RSI
  2. Workrave project home page.

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. He has worked with global clients and in various industries, including IT, education, defense and space research, and the nonprofit sector. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+.

14 comment

  1. 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”

    1. 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):

      [email protected] ~ $ 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”

  2. 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).

  3. Gamliel Fishkin / Гамлиэль Фишкин / גַּמְלִיאֵל פִשְׁקִין says:

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

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. @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

  7. 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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