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Ease Typing Strain and Pain with Ergonomic Keyboards

Ease Typing Strain and Pain with Ergonomic Keyboards

wrist injury office worker

Whether you’re typing your 100-page thesis, a report for work, or just doing everyday email and word processing, the repetitive strain of typing on a traditional computer keyboard can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, and other repetitive strain injuries.

Designers have created special keyboards that are more comfortable and easier to use, based on how you type and how you are built. They’re designed for comfort and convenience with many people finding them to be a helpful alternative to traditional 128-key keyboards. But buyer beware, there are many keyboards on the market that are labeled as ergonomic that may not actually provide the benefits they promise.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to the many different types of ergonomic keyboards for general typing.

What is a traditional keyboard

Traditional keyboards are rectangular in shape and often have adjustable feet allowing you to tilt the keyboard towards yourself. On a standard keyboard there are 128 physical keys that can be broken down into 8 different types of keys. There are 3 types that are important to consider when choosing what keyboard is right for you

  • Alphanumeric Keys or Typewriter Keys: These are the keys you use to type letters or numbers or symbols.
  • Navigation Keys: These are the keys that let you move the text cursor on the screen (arrows, page up, page down, etc)
  • Numeric Keypad or Ten Key: These are the number keys on the right side of the keyboard
QWERTY keyboard layout

What is wrong with the standard keyboard layout

Most people end up aligning themselves so that they are centered on the alphanumeric keys. This often results in the keyboard extending out beyond the shoulder width of the user on the right side. Most people have the mouse positioned on the right side and thus demonstrate excessive external shoulder rotation when accessing their mouse. This can result in rotator cuff tendonitis and pinched nerves which often have symptoms that radiate down through the arm into the hands and fingers. It also has the potential to lead to awkward wrist postures and movements when mousing which can contribute to carpal tunnel symptoms.

The straight layout of the keyboard can also create awkward wrist postures. Generally individuals who type with the home row method, meaning people who rest their hands on the middle row of alphabet keys: a-s-d-f and j-k-l-; respectively, are more likely to demonstrate ulnar deviation (slight side bend toward the pinky) at their wrist. This can result in pain or discomfort along the wrist joint.

What are alternative ergonomic keyboards

Ergonomic keyboards help you maintain a more neutral typing and mousing posture, avoiding too much extra stress on your body. These alternative keyboards can come in a variety of different configurations each to address specific concerns. This makes it important to choose the right one for you based on your specific needs.

Compact keyboard:

Eliminates the numeric keypad and integrates navigation keys into the alphanumeric layout. Allows for a more centered typing position and reduced lateral reach to the mouse. Ideal for those who rarely use the numeric keypad. The Evoluent Essentials Full Featured Keyboard is a common recommendation by MoveSafe consultants but many major brands including Logitech offer compact keyboards.

Compact financial keyboard:

Integrates the numeric keypad into the alphanumeric layout, making the keyboard shorter than standard but longer than compact keyboards. A compact financial keyboard can be a little bit harder to find but the Logitech K585 keyboard is good option

Split keyboard:

Divides the keyboard into two separate halves, allowing the user to set an optimal angle and distance to establish neutral wrist posture. Can be tented for further comfort. The Kinesis Freestyle2 keyboard with its VIP3 accessory kit is one of the most popular split keyboards on the market.

Attached split keyboard:

Retains a single-piece design with a space in the middle for angled alphanumeric keys. Many keyboards marketed as ergonomic will be of this style but will still maintain the navigation keys and number pad found on traditional keyboards. Look for models with detached numeric keypads for improved ergonomics. The Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard has long been a favorite of the MoveSafe consultants however Microsoft has recently pulled out of the keyboard and mouse market. The Lenevo Go Keyboard has been the closest alternative to become available, but keep any eye out for a Logitech option in the future.

Are ergonomic keyboards worth it

Ergonomic keyboards offer improved comfort and may help prevent typing-related injuries in the long run. While they may have a higher upfront cost, they are a worthwhile investment in your health and productivity. By choosing the right alternative keyboard for your needs, you can enjoy a more comfortable typing experience and reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries. Are ergonomic keyboards worth it? Absolutely. Invest in your health and upgrade to an ergonomic keyboard.

Having an ergonomic keyboard is still only part of the solution to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries. It is important that this keyboard is set-up at an optimal height and distance to ensure neutral postures. Our Online Office Workstation Self-Assessment Tool can help you optimize the fit and layout of your computer workstation in 30 minutes or less ensuring you maximize the benefits of your ergonomic keyboard.

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