I have had pain in my wrists in the past, and as someone who types all day, I was wondering what are some keyboards or mice that have helped for this sort of pain.
Update: Many answers have recommended examining chairs/desks for ergonomics. As someone who isn’t able to work from home and therefore doesn’t have a lot of control over this; is ordering my own chair/desk (whether my employer or I purchase it) a solution that’s really realistic?
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I use the microsoft ergo keyboards, they help immensely, but the chair is of much bigger consequence, in relationship to the peripherals for ergonomics.
I found, after using ergonomic peripherals for a long time, that it was really my chair, that was really making my life worse.
I have my own chair, at my employers offices. Works great, just ask the person in charge of that thing, just so they know it wasn’t purchased without their knowledge. Our hr person got a bit miffed, because she didn’t want to authorize the jealous purchase orders, she got over it.
No matter what keyboard / mouse combo you get, you can’t replace proper posture, a good desk and chair with the correct height and other ergonomic features – AND – have a break from typing and using the mouse – at least five or ten minutes every hour.
I really hate to admit this, but in general Microsoft does have some of the best natural keyboards and mice around.
I’ve personally used:
I’ve found both to be quality, comfortable, and smooth to type on. Although I will note that the first does not hold up well to water spill.
I agree as well. Something else, if you have a doctors appoint sometime soon, tell you doctor and ask about checking your thyroid level. Sometimes the problem is because of low thyroid levels.
In terms of keyboards I have always liked the IBM/USB Keyboard with UltraNav.
I like it because it forces my hands to be close together, very important in order to minimise RSI.
I can choose to use the TocuhPad or the TrackPoint so whicever one I prefer I can use the one I like (or the same that I have on my laptop)
I found that a lot of my wrist pain was actually due to neck / shoulder issues.
Try asking someone very nicely for a few neck/shoulder massage and see if that helps.
I find it fits my hand well. It has adjustable sensitivity and adjustable weight as well.
I prefer to use a trackball (specifically the Logitech TrackMan Wheel). I’ve found that this vastly reduces discomfort in the arm and wrist after prolonged use. It takes a while to get used to using it but the payoff is great.
The Fingerworks Touchstream is the best. It’s two giant super touchpads that can resolve individual fingers, so you need not use any pressure. The right side doubles as mouse/touchpad, and you can use the same motions on the left for cursor keys.
Unfortunately, they’re no longer made, as Apple bought Fingerworks to get the technology. They run in the several hundred dollar range on E-bay.
A coworker if mine has this problem, and a former coworker corrected and manages this problem successfully. Here’s what he said when I asked for advice:
here is the mouse. I’ve used it ever since: http://preview.tinyurl.com/5cv3gu
when times were bad, the kinesis keyboard was mandatory. i’m a great typer, but this keyboard took me almost a month to get used to, but it’s worth it.
Now that I have it in check, the standard Microsoft “natural” keyboard works fine. But going to a standard keyboard and mouse hurts starting in less than 5 minutes.
Kinesis (EXPENSIVE BUT BETTER THAN SURGERY!) http://preview.tinyurl.com/6b3l26
MS Natural Keyboard (When things get better, use this cheaper keyboard on the computer that isn’t your main one.
At the beginning, I took high dosages of the stuff that is safe to take in high dosages. I went to GNC and bought
MSM 1500: around 5 at breakfast, 5 at lunch, 5 at dinner, and 5 before bed. Glucosomine 750/Condroiin 600: Can’t remember, I think I took one or two at each interval above. B-Complex 100: One a day (DO NOT OVERDOSE ON B-COMPLEX!)
Not sold at GNC: Take in-between meals not close to meals. Bromelain 1500 – http://www.evitamins.com/product.asp?pid=3820
Over time I didn’t need to take ANY 🙂
I asked this question of an ergonomics adviser that we had at work. Her advice was:
Use a good office chair that suits your height and build. It is preferable to use one without armrests but adjustable armrests are acceptable.
Ensure that your arms sit comfortably at the height of your desk. This means adjusting your desk rather than your chair. (chair adjustment is done to suit the length of your legs)
Adjust your screen height so that when you look straight ahead that you are focused at approximately 1/3 height of your screen.
Alternate the hand you are using for your mouse. I’ve found that using a wireless mouse is the easiest as I can swap from one hand to the other without problem.
Make sure that your keyboard is flat. You want to ensure that your wrists are as flat as possible, so retract the keyboard tabs. An angled keyboard will tempt you to angle your wrists.
Personally I’ve noticed more wrist soreness when I’ve been overusing the cursor keys. Assuming that I’ve got correct posture, normal typing doesn’t seem to be an issue. But I’ve seen that it’s very easy to have appalling hand and wrist position when using the cursor keys.
I use a standard non-ergonmic keyboard as I actually find this most comfortable. For pointing, I use the Logitech Marble Mouse (trackball) at home, and the Microsoft Trackball Optical at work. I find the logitech one is much less sensitive the amount of gunk that builds up around where the ball rolls. I’ve also found that after 4 years of heavy use, the scroll wheel seems to be crapping out. However, in general I find that trackballs are much better for my wrists then mice. I can put them in one spot, and they always stay in a comfortable position.
I love the Microsoft split keyboards… I wish my new MacBook Pro had such a thing. Honestly, I think I would use a secondary split keyboard even for a laptop.
One word to the wise: try switching the mouse to the other hand. It isn’t really that hard (after a while) and rests your dominant hand. I have a completely unfounded theory that it also helps with neuro cognition 😉 It definitely gives a slight bit of security to your work area (esp. if you don’t switch the buttons) because no one can use your computer properly.
I have arthritis in both my wrists. Typing on a normal keyboard is quite painful for me. Every laptop I use must have an external MS natural keyboard plugged in. Even when I travel I take them with me (and get lots of wierd looks).
I currently use the Natural Keyboard Elite. It is the most reasonably priced I have found for ergo keyboards, and it works well. I think because I carry them around so much they take a beating though, most don’t last me more than a year before keys start popping off. Overhead bins are not kind to the keys though…
A couple of things I did that greatly helped me.
- Remove the arms from your chair
Remove the arms from your chair. Most people lean on their arms to get up or adjust position. That extra pressure hurts your shoulders and cuts off the flow of blood to your hands. Add to that the Ulner nerve runs through the pointy part of your elbow and you end up with numbness and tingling in your pinky fingers.
- Foot rest
Get a foot rest. You can get a cheap one for $20. Keeping your feet on a little pad helps you keep your posture better, and releases pressure on your lower back. I don’t use mine all the time, but it does help.
- Lightweight Mouse
Lightweight mouse – get the lightest touch mouse you can find. I can’t use a normal mouse for very long before my wrist hurts. Going to a laser mouse with a very slick mouse pad helped me a lot. The heavier the drag on the mouse the more sideways force your wrist has to take. Trackballs can help since they use different muscles, but I can’t use them all the time. Try to draw a GUI with a trackball… Yikes.
- Weights by your desk
Weights by your desk. Lift weights? Yep. Keep small 2.5-5 lb weights and use them during the day. Lift your hands up and out. Do presses over your head. Repeat this 5-7 times a day. It will build up your tone in those muscles, but it also improves blood flow to your arms while sitting. Yes, it looks a little girly but what the heck.
And of course your workspace needs to be ergonomic. If your company won’t pay for a keyboard tray to get it at the correct height, go buy one and install it yourself. The $20 is a small price to pay for comfort. I have bought chairs, trays, keyboards, etc for companies I have consulted with in the past. If my hands hurt I can’t work, that means no income. Spend a little to save your downtime and pain.
Change your workspace to make yourself reach a little for things as well. The stretching can help get you up out of the chair as well.
I started using wrist braces and it works wonders. Keeps my wrists from bending. Takes a bit to get used to but once you are used to it they are great. And you can take them to and from work with you easily.
Consider switching hands with the mouse. I am naturally right-handed, but switched to left-handed mouse usage 10 years ago because of pain in my right hand. It has evened out the “wear” on both hands and eliminated the pain. It really didn’t take long to become proficient.
As an added bonus, all your co-workers will give you a strange look when they try to use your mouse and discover the buttons swapped 🙂
I’ve been looking at the evoluent line of mice. I however want to actually try one before dropping 120$ or so on one.
I strongly recommend the Kinesis Maxim keyboards. They are incredibly sturdy, more adjustable than the MS Natural Keyboards and use a compact design that minimizes the distance to the mouse. I had some wrist RSI that the Natural Keyboard fixed but they didn’t help with the shoulder/trapezius problems I was getting from having to extend my arm far enough to reach the mouse (the MS Natural keyboard is very wide and pushes the mouse far to the right). The Maxim has been a godsend. It also features a (narrow) keypad layout on the right that is a very natural fit for navigation of text files (e.g. programmer’s code).
The only drawback is that they are a bit expensive. However, if you ever use one, you’ll know immediately that the thing is absolutely built to last (and last). So, you’ll probably use it for far longer than a less expensive keyboard.
Personally, I’ve found that it’s using the mouse, rather than using the keyboard, that causes me pain in the hands. I’d suggest using keyboard shortcuts as much as possible, and trying using the mouse in your left hand (assuming you’re right handed) as suggested earlier.
I went way beyond the wrist pain and deep into the territory of surgery, disability, half a year of near-total inability to use a computer, and am finally back to what most people would call a ‘normal’ life.
I work for a games company and am at my desk about 50 hours per week. On top of that, I spend another 20-25 per week on a computer at home. Add in some Playstation time, some XBox time, and a smattering of a musical instrument… and it’s amazing that I am back to nearly 100%. How do you go from useless to lead programmer in a year or so?
You asked about equipment, so I’ll get to that, but dropping bucks on hardware won’t make it all go away. When my surgeon told me to get away from the computer 4-8 times per day for 3-5 minutes of circulation-restoring activity. Well, I took up juggling, but 1) you may not take to my brand of physical therapy and 2) your company may not either.
Get some exercise. Seriously.
NOW I’ll deal with equipment. What they say about the ergo layout of your desk is subject to the 80/20 rule, just like everything else. You get 80 percent of the benefit from 20 percent of the layout. The placement of your hands is the big one. I still slouch, I sit on my feet, and my keyboard is up on the desk, but I’m still getting most of the benefit for the least discomfort.
The really important bits – get a keyboard that straightens your wrists AND doesn’t force you to tension your tendons to elevate your fingers. That right there means a contoured keyboard. I love both the kinesis and the maltron, but the kinesis’ function keys drive me crazy. Since I have the keyboard on the desk, I prop its rear up about an inch so my wrists are straight. I also use an evoluent mouse, and that really helps when I am spending an hour or two… or ten… mousing.
Your hands are your future in this business, so don’t *#(@ around. Get your layout set up so that you’re comfortable and take some time off – away from the computer, the texting, the game controller, the DS, and everything else that makes your fingertips tingle, and get on the ibuprofen for a while. During this time, see a professional and insist upon getting an EMG. My hands hurt like hell, but I never thought it was that bad until I found that my nerves weren’t working the way they should.
Oh, and make sure that you opted in for the full disability benefits plan at your company. Best decision I ever made. Well, I also switched to Dvorak, but you may not be that crazy.
I use a SafeType keyboard and I like it a lot. If you’re a touch typist, the regular typing is completely the same as before, in spite of the weird position. And they provide wing mirrors to see the numbers and symbols, although sometimes you need to swing your head around the keyboard to see the symbols that aren’t on the top row.
When my wrists are really hurting, I use a set of those wrist braces from the drug store – the ones with the metal strap inside it. I can rest my wrists against the edge of the desk and the metal strap spreads the force out over your entire palm and upper forearm instead of just on the wrist.
I started having pain in my wrists several years ago that was serious enough to affect my productivity and even my sleep. I wrote several articles about this on my old blog. My initial stop-gap measure was to simply reduce the amount of time at the computer by not using it for anything except work. Particularly gaming is really hard on the wrists.
Looking for a long-term solution, I tried various alternative ergonomic keyboards and mice. I used the Microsoft Natural Keyboard for some time with some success, but eventually the problems came back and got even worse.
The setup that eventually solved things for me is to use the DataHand instead of a keyboard, and a large Microsoft Trackball instead of a mouse. I have no more pain and can work at the computer all day long as before.
People often scream at the $995 sticker price for the DataHand. But unless you’re earning minimum wage in a developing country, it pays for itself very quickly. If you make $25 an hour and the DataHand allows you to work for another week, you’ve already earned it back. Most DataHand enthousiasts, myself included, are people who wouldn’t be typing at all without it.
The real problem with the DataHand is that the manufacturer has been having trouble getting them manufactured in sufficient quantities. When I asked about this situation last year, they told me the reasons were of financial nature, and that the economic crisis wasn’t helping. If you’re having a hard time with a regular keyboard, put in an order, and work with it for a few months. (It does require practice.) If you don’t like it, you can sell it on eBay for almost as much as you purchased it for.
And yes, you should get a really good chair too. It doesn’t matter if it’s $500 or $1000. It’ll properly support your back for several years, so it comes to only pennies per hour. If your employer balks at paying for your chair, offer to take a pay cut of those few pennies per hour. Your health is more important than your job. If you later decide your job sucks, you can get another one. But if your health sucks, you’ll be stuck with your damaged body.
Good and much-needed question. I just want to add something here that I found helpful. I was using a mousepad that is kind of old and its place for resting my wrist on was raised without any filling underneath I guess. My right hand started paining for some time, till I turned that pad 180 degrees so that my wrist now rests as in on plain desk if you know what I mean. Now my right hand doesn’t really complain much about being or feeling different from my left hand.
I have a Das 3, Love it.
It seems I switch to a different mouse every year or so. Each one alleviates discomfort for a while, then it eventually returns as my hand gets “used” to the new positions.
My first ergonomic mouse was the Contour Mouse, seen below. It’s large, but I loved the scroll wheel being under the thumb. I used it until the scroll wheel became gummed up. It’s also a wired mouse and now I prefer wireless ones.
I used a regular wireless mouse for about a year, then I got the Microsoft Natural Mouse. It had a good shape and feel, but eventually it, too, started developing problems with the wheel. I took it apart a couple of times to clean the wheel (I have cats), but I think it’s just cheaply constructed. It would also have intermittent problems communicating with the wireless base.
Now I’m using the Apple Magic Mouse. I love that I can use its entire surface to scroll. I’m not longer constrained to use the front-center of the mouse. I can click with one, two, or three fingers — or even my whole hand — which reduces stress on my index finger. I can scroll with one or two or three fingers. The pain that I was feeling with the Microsoft mouse has gone away. So far, it’s great!
I had thought the Microsoft Ergo Keyboard was awesome until I tried the Kinesis Freestyle keyboard with the VIP tilt package.
I’d still give the Microsoft keyboard 4-stars, but the Kinesis is easily 5-stars, hands down. I never have wrist pain anymore, which honestly would be worth thousands of dollars to me; previously to this, I occasionally had issues with things like brushing my teeth. $150ish.
A friend who had worse wrists than mine swore by the Kinesis Countoured, $250-350ish. I would drop the cash in a heartbeat if the Freestyle didn’t already work for me.
I used a natural keyboard back in college and loved it. I had been using an IBM Model M at home for several years and whatever random garbage they give me at work. However I recently just switched to using the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. In addition to having a “split” keyboard and an arc layout for a more natural hand position, it also has the option of having a 7-degree reverse slope. I find the reverse slope in combination with the integrated palm rests to be very comfortable for my hands.
As for mouse, I had been using the Intellimouse Explorer series at home for a number of years, most recently the Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer. I have hands on the larger size and I’ve found the size and weighting of the Explorer series to suit me well. I also like the hand positioning with the curvature and thumb indent. At work I’ve been using and liking the Logitech MX518 for similar reasons.
After using a co-workers WowPen Joy for several days, I’ve ordered myself one. I was considering the Evoluent Vertical Mouse but I wanted to try one before shelling out $100. I had also read complaints about the pinky dragging and recommendations that a slightly off vertical position is ergonomically superior. The WowPen Joy addresses these (potential) issues at 1/3rd the cost ($30).
I think you have RSI and no mouse or keyboard will solve it, however a touchpad is better than a mouse IMO, since in a touchpad you use larger muscles. You can also use speech recognition. I have RSI myself and use Voice Finger to control the mouse and keyboard by voice.