Here are some tips on how to prevent soreness, pain and injury that can be caused from long days of sitting at your desk and animating for many, many hours. All tried, tested and true.
Watch these great videos on preventing tendonitis here and here.
I can't stress enough the importance of stretching your hands, and forearms every morning and every evening, spend 5-10 minutes going through a stretching routine. These are very easy to do, and it takes little time to do them.
It's VERY common in all animation studios for soreness or mild injuries to gradually develop over time. The most typical one is Repetitive Strain Injury. It's a prevalent condition resulting from overusing the hands to perform a repetitive task, such as typing, clicking a mouse, writing, and of course drawing. In simple medical terms, repetitive strain injury (RSI) stems from prolonged repetitive, forceful, or awkward hand movements. The result is minor damage to muscles, tendons, and nerves of the neck, shoulder, forearm, and most commonly hand and wrist, which can cause pain, weakness, or numbness.
If you're feeling some pains, tingles, weakness, or numbness in the wrist/forearm; one of the best ways to heal quickly are 'Contrasting Baths'.
What crazy voodoo am I speaking of?
A couple different physiotherapists and massage therapists had recommended this technique to me several years ago, and for anyone I knew that tried it, they all say the results are fast and effective.
Commonly used by carpal tunnel sufferers, it's a method of treating muscle soreness, swelling and inflammation, it's also known as 'Hot/Cold Immersion Therapy'.
You can use the double sink in your kitchen at home, if you don't have one, then get your hands on two very large identical bowls, it needs to be big enough to submerge your entire forearms from wrist to elbow.
Fill one up with ice cold water, with a few dozen ice cubes floating in there (something to prepare in your freezer the night before). The other with very warm water, not tea-kettle boiling hot water, just hot tap water, or as warm as you can handle, no sense in burning yourself of course.
Use a stopwatch app on your phone or have a clock ready, and submerge your arms for 30 seconds in the hot, then switch to doing 30 seconds in the cold, and repeat a few times back and forth, 30 seconds a piece. After only a few times you'll notice the hot water getting colder and the cold water getting warmer, so then the technique grows to be less effective, but by then, the job is done.
See this video showing the technique.
Also important, some videos on correcting forward-head posture; here, here, and here.
Animators, visual effects artists, compositors, CG artists, digital painters, and all those who do long, long, long hours sitting at a desk using a pen tablet, your posture can suffer greatly if you're not conscious of your sitting position. You're looking into a monitor, hands on a keyboard, or gripping that Stylus Pen for large amounts of time while sitting at a computer, barely moving all day long, it can make your neck and back sore.
Leave sticky notes within your sightline to remind yourself to sit up straight, pull your shoulders back, pull back your neck straight. We all sit for long periods of time, deeply focused on our work, not thinking about our postures or the grip on the pen. Eventually we all slouch down, our heads and necks sticking out in front of us, whether we work with a tablet-and-monitor, or looking down at an angle on a Cintiq or some other graphic monitor system, or down on a flat table using good 'ol paper and markers. It gets worse as the day goes on.
So the big thing is to take breaks, get up and walk around, because the main cause of your neck sticking out, your shoulders rolling in, your eyes getting dry & sore, and your back curving forward is from many, many hours of sitting motionless at your workstation.
So get up and stretch your hands, arms and back, walk around, give your eyes a rest, just for a few minutes, a couple times a day. Don't forget to do some of the exercises shown above, at a minimum of once every evening. It will help with blood circulation, prevent some strain on your back and neck, and help correct your spine from buckling.
From the book DRAW STRONGER:
Being stuck at home, sitting on your butt, not moving, painting BGs, and animating, or drawing all day is not good for your heart or muscles. Bodyweight exercises can be just as effective as the moves you do with equipment. With the help of a little gravity, your own body is an amazing tool for challenging your muscles.
All you need is your body weight to get 'er done.
I’d suggest a stool, bench or solid chair, and a yoga type mat will help to keep you from slipping.
First off - warm-ups and stretches:
This improves blood circulation in hands and arms.
Now here are some nice no-equipment exercises that you can do during your breaks, or first thing in the morning, or after work in the evenings, to help keep your blood circulation going. Whether you're looking for a boost of cardio or you want to work your legs, butt, core, arms, or all of the above, there's a go-to exercise for everyone to keep in their back pocket. No whistles or bells or kettlebells required:
* It doesn’t get more basic than this… Start in a high plank position with your hands flat on the floor about shoulder-width apart, wrists stacked under your shoulders.
* Keeping your body in one long line and your core engaged, inhale as you bend your arms to lower your chest to the floor. If you can't maintain a flat back or bend your arms fully so that your chest almost reaches the floor, lower your knees to the floor to do a modified push-up from that position.
* Exhale as you push back up to the starting position.
* Reps suggestion: Do as many reps as you can while still maintaining good form, and repeating for 3 to 5 sets total (resting for about 1 minute in between each).
* If even doing one of these is too challenging, no worries! Start by doing some on your knees first, do as many repetitions as you can, do them slowly, like doing just 5 sets of 5-10 reps per day -- this will slowly build up these muscles and in a couple weeks you’ll be able to graduate to the standing plank style push-ups. These are good for your heart and blood circulation.
* Lie on your stomach with your arms extended overhead by your ears.
* Lift your chest, arms, and legs off the floor and squeeze your glutes.
* Flutter your arms and legs up and down while still keeping them off the floor.
Reps suggestion: Inhale for four seconds, then exhale for four, and then repeat both again, for a total of 16 seconds. Do 3 sets, resting up to one minute in between each.
* Lie on your stomach with your arms extended overhead by your ears.
* Lift your chest, arms, and legs off the ground and squeeze your butt.
* Keeping your arms and legs off the ground, pull your elbows in toward your sides, then punch overhead. Repeat this punching motion, hovering your arms and legs above the ground and engaging your glutes the entire time.
Reps suggestion: Start with 10 seconds, and repeat for three to five sets. As you get better, try to increase the number of seconds.
* Stand with your back to your "bench." With your left foot on the floor a few feet in front of the bench, place the top of your right foot on the bench, shoelaces down.
* Place your hands behind your head and engage your core.
* Bend your knees to lower down into a split squat. Your left knee should ideally form a 90-degree angle so that your thigh is parallel to the ground, and your right knee is hovering above the floor. (Quick position check: your left foot should be stepped out far enough that you can do this without letting your left knee go past your left toes—if you can't, hop your left foot out a bit farther away from the bench.)
* Driving through your left heel, stand back up to starting position.
Reps suggestion: Aim to do 15 to 18 reps on one leg, then switch sides. Do four sets on each side.
Split Squat to Decline Push-Up
* Start in the position for a Bulgarian split squat (as shown above), with your left foot on the floor and your right foot on the bench. After bending your left knee to lower into a split lunge, bend forward at your hips and place both hands on the ground outside your left foot.
* Lift your left foot up and place it on the bench beside your right foot so you're in a decline plank, then bend your elbows to lower your chest to the ground for one decline push-up. For an even bigger challenge, keep your left foot hovering above the bench, rather than placing it down.
* You may need to walk your hands a few inches forward before doing the push-up to be able to fully extend your legs, depending on how far you are from the box. You can also bend your knees a bit to compensate for distance (as shown) so that you don't have to shuffle. Just make sure to keep your core engaged and back flat.
* Straighten your elbows to push back up, then bring your left knee in toward your chest and place your left foot back in its starting position on the floor.
* Remove your hands from the ground and stand back up to return to the starting position.
Reps suggestion: Do 6 to 10 reps on the same side, then switch sides.
Single-Leg Tricep Dip
* Sit on the ground with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, about hip-distance apart. Place your hands behind you with your fingers facing toward your body.
* Lift your hips up to bring your butt off the ground and shift your weight back into your hands, then lift your right leg toward the ceiling.
* Bend your arms so y