I've had several ergonomic keyboards over the years, some costing as much as $300, eep. An ergonomic keyboard was actually the first thing I tried when I started having hand problems. (Yeah, I'm one of those folks who never thought of anything ergonomic until after I started having pain.)
I've since learned (several keyboards later) that a keyboard may not be the answer for everyone. In fact, equipment may have little to do with your problems at all.
Hours at the computer and our posture while there can play a big role in our problems. Heck even our typing style may be the problem (or at least part of it).
Do you have a problem typing style?
Here are some common typing/mousing techniques that can lead to repetitive strain injury problems:
- Resting the base of your hand on the wrist rest or desk -- this places pressure on the now infamous carpal tunnel and also isolates the small hand muscles, forcing them to do work that's better off shared with the larger shoulder and elbow muscles.
- Leaning your elbow on the desk or chair arms -- this puts unnecessary pressure on the elbow's ulnar nerve.
- Gripping the mouse too firmly -- unless you're surfing the web on a particularly turbulent airplane flight, that mouse isn't going anywhere... don't hold on tightly or use excessive force for gripping.
- Pounding on the keyboard -- This can lead to tingling in the finger tips and joints (or in my case, all around achy hands). I blame this one a bit on keyboards, as some require an undue amount of force to depress the keys... I can always tell these guys because my hands will ache after a short time using them. I imagine that they can be troublesome even for healthy hands. If you're pounding or clacking, see if it's your keyboard or just a bad habit.
- Extending your thumb or pinkie finger -- Do you tend to stick one finger out stiffly when you type? Maybe one of those ones that doesn't get used that often? Separating these fingers from the rest can cause strain on the tendons of all the fingers.
Okay, enough on the wrong ways to type. What does an ergonomically correct typing style look like?
Proper typing technique
- When typing, keep your fingers relaxed and slightly curled as if over a ball (Remember taking piano lessons as a kid? Similar stuff!)
- Avoid a wrist rest or only use it as a guide that the wrists slide over (rather than laying on)
- Keep your fingernails short (that means you too guys!) so you can type with the pulps of your fingers.
- Hold the mouse loosely and move it with the larger elbow and shoulder muscles rather than just the wrist.
- Use the whole arm to reach keys that are farther from home row (don't stretch fingers awkwardly).
- Keep the wrist in a neutral position (your hands shouldn't tilt up to reach the keys)
- Don't stretch the fingers awkwardly to perform shortcuts that require hitting multiple keys at once (instead use a finger from each hand).
Just take some time and be aware of how you're typing on a daily basis. You might be surprised at how much tension you hold in your shoulders, neck, wrists, and arms. If you need to, take breaks to stretch at your desk (if you can, get up and walk around and get all your muscles moving) and get the blood flowing a bit. This can help ease some of that tension that gathers over a day of computing.
Remember, just getting an ergonomic keyboard probably won't fix your hands if the problem is with the way you type!
Source: Typing Style