In past Ergonomics Wednesdays, I got to rhapsodizing on the ergonomics of sitting comfortably. I did this because modern chair design seems to be a contest to see who can best recreate all the comforts of medieval torture devices, while charging the highest prices.
I followed up on my general thoughts on sitting with a bit on setting your driver’s seat to make it ergonomically friendly for your back, posture and general well-being.
Having covered sitting, let’s return to where it all began, setting up your desk. Since I’ve already spilled a bunch of pixels on your desk and chair, let’s get more specific and talk about your keyboard and mouse.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that a misspent youth has come to haunt my middle years. Heck, that is what drove me into fixing my bad back and posture, and on into health and wellness blogging.
Well, my misspent youth didn’t just wreck my back (and knees, and hip, and shoulder, and elbow, and…) it wrecked my wrists. I don’t know if it was poor wrapping for heavy bag work, or too many years of wrist grappling arts like jujitsu and aikido, or some combination thereof, but over time I began to have carpal tunnel and osteoarthritis problems in my wrists.
One thing I noted early on was that typing on a laptop keyboard began to hurt within about a few minutes, and I could go ½ an hour at most before I had to take a break. For someone writing documentation and training procedures, this was a serious problem for my productivity.
I compared the position of my wrists when typing on the notebook keyboard, to typing on a full, external keyboard and found that my wrists were bent outwardly (in the plane of my palms) and back.
The solution to the problem was simple; get an external keyboard.
Now, this being work, IT had a cupboard full of unused keyboards, so I got one and problem solved, right?
Ehh, not so fast.
Actually, I only partially solved the problem. I still had the damage of a misspent youth to deal with, and even a full sized workstation keyboard put my wrists in an uncomfortable position. I could type for much longer before my carpal tunnels began to complain, but complain they did.
Funny thing, the full solution to my problem was on my desk at home. I’ve been toting a Microsoft ergonomic keyboard around for 20 years. This bad boy is so old it has PS2 connectors, for God’s sake.
10 years ago I had to buy a USB input converter to keep using it, but keep using it I do.
Because it puts my wrists into their natural positions with respect to my body.
Here’s a little test for you:
- Stand up
- Let your arms dangle loosely by your sides
- Raise your hands by rotating your shoulders
- Keep your wrists straight as you do so
- Let your elbows move naturally, just let them do their own thing
- Do this until your forearms are level
What is the position of your hands?
Whatever it is, this is the natural, anatomic position of your hands, and is the best position for you to type. As it happens, my old keyboard allows me to create this position almost perfectly, and I can type all day long in comfort.
When shopping for a keyboard, do this little test, and get a keyboard which allows you to type as comfortably as mine allows me. Who knows, you might be lucky and find, as a friend of mine did, that the straight, flat keyboard of a notebook is just fine, and you save yourself a few bucks.
On the other hand, if you need a fancy, ergonomic, adjustable keyboard, get it. Here’s a simple Amazon.com search for “ergonomic keyboard” (don’t fret, I make no money from this, I just want you to live pain free). Spend the money, because what price do you put on a pain free life?
And here I realize that I promised you keyboard and mouse, but that I’ve run on long enough just on keyboards. Alrighty then, ergonomic mice next week.