Ergonomic Keyboards For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

 

Ease Your Pain With a Better Keyboard

 

Symptoms of wrist pain and tingling, burning or pain in the palm of your hand (especially the thumb and index finger) may mean you have carpal tunnel syndrome. 

CTS, also known as median nerve entrapment or median nerve compression may happen when a nerve swells, the tendons become inflamed, or something causes swelling in the carpal tunnel.

If you spend a lot of time on the computer, an ergonomic keyboard could help alleviate your symptoms.

 

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

 

CTS can develop for various reasons. However, it is more likely to occur if the person frequently uses extremes of wrist motion, if they are exposed to vibration, or if they repeatedly use their fingers, for example when typing. And while it is often linked to computer use, it can be caused by anything that squeezes or irritates the median nerve in the carpal tunnel space.

 

 

Known risk factors for CTS are: having a family history of CTS, pregnancy, health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes, wrist injury, being female, and, of course, performing repetitive and strenuous work with your hand.

However, often, it simply isn’t known why the median nerve has become compressed.

Regardless of the cause, if you are someone who spends a lot of time on the computer, you may want to look into an ergonomic keyboard to help minimize the discomfort.

 

Why Use an Ergonomic Keyboard?

 

According to the Occupational and Safety Health Administration, your wrists should be straight and in-line with your forearms. However, as the Department of Labor group explains, traditional set ups “may cause you to bend your wrists sideways to reach all keys.”

 

That’s why some people swear by ergonomic keyboards — you know, those curvy, wavy, angled and sometimes downright weird keyboards you sometimes see. If you spend several hours a day in front of a computer, though, it might be worth making the switch.

Ergonomic keyboards are designed so that they allow your hands and wrists to rest naturally during long typing sessions. The idea is that spacing out your hands and working at the correct angle can help reduce strain on your neck, back, and shoulders, and perhaps prevent repetitive stress injuries to your hands and wrists like carpal tunnel.

In addition, once typing becomes more comfortable, users say they are able to be more productive and type faster and more accurately than they did before.

It’s important to note that there are no definitive studies that prove ergonomic keyboards can do all that. However, millions of typists who’ve made the switch swear by their effectiveness.

 

You May Not Need One if …

 

Just about anyone who spends a significant amount of time typing should consider trying out an ergonomic keyboard. If you already experience pain or numbness in your hands and wrists, though, it’s probably best to consult with a medical expert who can recommend the best options for you.

As for people who won’t benefit from an ergonomic keyboard?

 

If you’re more of a “hunt and peck” user, meaning that you look at the keyboard and use one or two fingers when typing, then an ergonomic style will not really help you.

 

Features to Consider

 

  • Split design – Most ergonomic keyboards literally split the keyboard down the middle, leaving space between TGB and YHN and the space bar, to help reduce wrist pain and discomfort. In some products, you’ll actually have two halves of a keyboard.

 

  • Customizable – Some ergonomic keyboards feature what’s called vertical “tenting,” which is the ability to adjust the angle of the keyboard halves. In some models, you can also tilt the entire keyboard up or down.

 

  • Wrist/palm support  – Many ergonomic keyboards have padded palm rests at the front of the keyboard; some are more cushioned than others.

 

  • Key type –  Do you prefer keys that are clicky, springy, and mechanical when you type? Or do you like working on keyboards that require less keystroke effort, and make for a more quiet typing session? Another thing to consider is that some ergonomic keyboards don’t features keys in a straight line, but in more of a wave or contoured pattern.

 

  • Extras –  Just like with traditional keyboards, some are wireless and connect to your computer via Bluetooth, some are backlit, and there are a variety of special customizable function keys. You might also think about if you want a separate number pad (if you do a lot of calculating, it’s a must).

 

  • Warranty – Most keyboards have between a one- and three-year warranty, which is more important if you’re going with a higher-end model.

 

So, with all that in mind, here are my top picks for the best ergonomic keyboards available today.

 

Best Ergonomic Keyboards for Wrist Pain

 

 

 

Best Overall Ergonomic Keyboard

Widely recognized as the best ergonomic keyboard on the market, Microsoft’s Sculpt for Windows computers is a standout choice for all-day comfort.

The split keyboard design immediately assists in positioning your wrists into a more natural position rather than the straight-on approach most keyboards favor. The domed design helps maintain positioning throughout the day, keeping your wrists at a more relaxed angle, which helps to eliminates the discomforts that come from other models.

Beyond its split design, the natural arc keys mimic the curved shape of your fingertips to create a more natural look and feel, which increases overall comfort.

Rounding out its ergonomic design is a cushioned palm rest that allows your wrists to relax and form a completely natural feel from your fingertips to your wrists. A separate number pad allows you to choose its position for an ideal comfort level beside the Sculpt keyboard.

 

 

Best Split Ergonomic Keyboard

 

 

A split keyboard is one that can completely separate adjust to match any shoulder width, and the Kinesis Freestyle2 is among the best in that category.

You can also find your ideal comfort zone by adding lifters, which attach to the base to provide tenting angles of 5, 10, or 15 degrees.

This is particularly a strong choice for those who prefer quiet, low-force keystrokes, and who don’t want to make the transition to curved or wavy key layouts.

The Kinesis Freestyle2 is the Mac Daddy of ergo-keyboards. Not only has the keyboard been split in half, you can adjust the splay (the horizontal plane angle) to any degree of separation that the tether will allow.

And with the addition of the VIP3 accessory kit, you can adjust the tent of the keypads. The tent refers to the tilt of the keyboards. You can go from flat to roughly 10 to 15 degrees. You can even have each keypad at different tent angles and different splay angles.

 

 

 

The only downside to the Freestyle (with or without the VIP) is the learning curve your fingers will have to go through. Some of the keys (in particular the Delete, End, and Home keys) are not in their standard locations or reach. Outside of that, the Freestyle is the ideal candidate for anyone suffering from pain associated with poor keyboards and improper use.

This model is for PC, but there is a Mac version you can choose as well. Charge it via USB.

 

 

Best High-End Ergonomic Keyboard

 

 

 

If you can get past the very unconventional look of this keyboard (and it’s high price point), Kinesis Advantage2 loyalists agree that it just might be the best ergonomic keyboard that money can buy.

 

 

 

The extreme contours of the keys will take getting used to, but that’s what ultimately sets this keyboard apart. That, and its low-force mechanical keys, which is something that many typists swear by. The convenient thumb buttons are also strategically placed with hard-core gamers in mind.

 

 

If you can pay the price for one of these keyboards, your arms and wrists will thank you for it. So will your back, and your shoulders, and your neck!

The Kinesis Advantage2 keyboard forces you to use good habits. The keypads are on the outer edges of the physical keyboard and rest in a scooped-out hollow, forcing your hands to work in a near-perfect position.

 

 

Best Portable Ergonomic Keyboards

 

1) iClever Wireless Folding KeyboardIf you need a full-sized keyboard on the go, or to use when working from your tablet or smart phone, you can still choose an ergonomic design, thanks to the iClever Wireless Folding Keyboard.

 

 

With Bluetooth connectivity, it connects to any device you’re working from, and offers a 166-degree angle split, said to be ideal for hand placement. The big draw, though, is that it’s super lightweight and folds up so you can slip it into your bag when traveling.

 

 

2) Goldtouch Go2!

 

The Goldtouch Go2! is another the ideal external keyboard for on-the-go users; it has a tiny footprint with keys nearly the same size as those on a 14″ notebook.

With the added ability to splay and tent, it’s like you have an ergonomic laptop. And unlike the Kinesis Freestyle, the Go! can actually adjust from 0 degrees all the way to a 30-degree tent. That is some serious angle that will accommodate nearly any hand position need.

 

 

Best Keyless Ergonomic Keyboard

 

 

When you first look at this piece of hardware, you’ll think, “There is no way I could use that.”

Yes, the OrbiTouch Keyless Keyboard does take some getting used to, but it truly is a revolutionary way to interface with your computer. Instead of using your fingers to type, you use your hands and arms to manipulate two domes that slide into various positions to type numbers.

 

 

 

This keyboard has made it possible for users with physical barriers to be able to “type.” Each dome moves approximately 7mm into eight positions.

Obviously, the learning curve is much steeper than for other keyboards, but this keyboard has enabled quadriplegics to use a PC.

 

 

Best 3-D Ergonomic Keyboard

 

The SafeType V902 looks like it came out of a Star Trek Next Generation episode. It’s a full-on 3D keyboard that completely eliminates extension, ulnar-deviation, and pronation.

SafeType claims that most ergonomic keyboards simply move the stresses placed by normal keyboard use to other locations in the body (the shoulders, neck, and elbows, primarily).

Extensive research has gone into creating a typing position of the SafeType V902; it has near zero negative effects on the structures of the arms and wrist.

 

 

 

 

Best Backlit Ergonomic Keyboard

 

 

The Adesso Tru-Form 150 3-Color Illuminated Ergonomic Keyboard is for those who don’t want to pony up for a Kinesis keyboard but need as much of the benefits as possible at a lower price.

This keyboard has what seems like the standard split and contour of the Microsoft Natural Wave keyboard. However, when you use it, you realize it has taken the idea of the Natural Wave and improved upon it greatly – the split and the contour are much more in line with the natural typing position.

 

 

One feature you will greatly enjoy is the added trackpad beneath the space bars. This will keep you from having to use your mouse, which is another culprit that adds to the wrist/arm issues. It also offers both USB and PS/2 connections.

Although not as good as the Kinesis keyboards, at it’s lower price point, the Tru-Form is the best of the standard Wave keyboards.

There is one problem with the Tru-Form: The keyboard sits at an incline from the space bar, which can put you in an unnatural position.

You can alleviate this problem by propping up the side of the keyboard closest to you by about an inch. This changes the position enough to bring your arms and shoulders into a much more normal, ergonomic position.

Keyboards that light up are pretty cool, and a godsend for night owls who work after dark.

The Adesso Tru-Form not only lets you choose between red, blue, and green backlighting, but it’s ergonomically-friendly layout and gentle slope is comfortable for weary wrists.

The reasonable price point makes it an attractive option, too.

 

 

 

Best Budget Ergonomic Keyboard

Budget priced with premium comfort, the Fellowes Microban split design keyboard offers more natural comfort without breaking the piggy bank.

Part of the Microban family of products, the antimicrobial protection will help keep your keyboard clean while still offering a more natural hand and arm position.

 

 

Created with Windows machines in mind, the Fellowes includes seven hot keys dedicated to controlling multimedia playback, as well as one-touch access to open a Web browser.

The dedicated number pad on the side reduces the need for external hardware and having to look for the numerical numbers at the top of the keyboard.

While there’s undoubtedly an adjustment period to any ergonomic keyboard, the immediate benefit of reduced pain and stress combined with the Fellowes Microban’s outstanding wrist support will quickly have you asking why you didn’t switch to an ergonomic keyboard sooner.

 

 

Best Wave Style Ergonomic Keyboard

Logitech’s Cordless Desktop Wave Pro layout and cushioned palm rest offers the best of both worlds — reduced strain on your keyboarding hands, but more of a “normal” typing experience if the other ergonomic choices are too extreme for your taste.

The Logitech Cordless Desktop Wave Pro probably has the lowest learning curve of all the ergonomic keyboards.

What this keyboard suffers in range of position, it makes up for with a multitude of multimedia and special buttons that keep the user from having to reach from mouse to keyboard and back again. So if your biggest problem is pain from using a mouse, this keyboard might be a great replacement — and it won’t have you pulling out your hair trying to figure out where the keys are. The price won’t break your IT budget, either.

Although it’s wireless, this keyboard boasts a fairly long battery life — up to three years. Bonus: With an already budget-friendly price point, it comes with a contoured mouse, too!

 

 

Best Ergonomic Mouse

The Logitech MX ERGO Advanced Wireless Trackball mouse is a popular top pick for best ergonomic mouse of 2018. Its innovative tilt feature, sculpted design and intelligently placed buttons make this the most comfortable horizontal mouse you’ve probably ever experienced.

What makes the Logitech ERGO punch out to lead the pack?

It’s all in the adjustable hinge that lets you tilt the mouse up to 20 degrees on its side for the most natural, comfortable position. This slight change in angle may not seem like much, but overtime it makes a huge difference for a lot of people. By minimizing any unnatural twists to your wrist while you use the mouse, you greatly reduce your chances of developing common ailments such as nerve pain, stiffness in the fingers and arms, and even carpal tunnel syndrome. No other horizontal mouse we’ve reviewed so far has this feature.

You’ll also love the sculptured design of the Logitech MX ERGO. It basically lets your hand fully rest on the mouse when in use, instead of clinging to it like your last hundred dollar bill. By conforming to your hand, the mouse eliminates the unconscious gripping and tension in your fingers that gradually leads to nerve pain and other repetitive strain injuries. The soft rubber coating on the top of the MX ERGO is also a nice departure from the cold plastic found in other mice.

Logitech’s own study shows a 20% reduction in muscular strain and effort using the ERGO Wireless Mouse compared to other mice, and I’m not surprised. As someone who experiences the occasional stiffness in the hand after a long day on the computer, I was shocked at just how rested my hand felt even after a full day with the Logitech MX ERGO Advanced.

 

 

The mouse weighs just 5.7 ounces, and the added bluetooth connection (on top of Logitech’s unifying receiver) for two different ways to wirelessly connect your mouse is a welcomed addition for users that never seem to have enough USB ports to go around.

Another standout feature of the Logitech MX ERGO Trackball mouse is the thumb controlled trackball. If you’ve never used a trackball before, it might take some time to get used to it, though from an ergonomic standpoint, it makes sense. Instead of physically pushing the mouse across a surface to move the mouse cursor, a trackball minimizes this strenuous action by letting your thumb do the walking instead. By reducing the distance traveled and wrist movement involved, you greatly reduce your chances of wrist related pain and inquiry over time. Plus you always still have the option to move the mouse like a traditional one depending on what you’re working on.

All in all, the Logitech MX ERGO Advanced Wireless is your best bet for a comfortable mouse that masters the art of ergonomic design.

One of its greatest strengths, however, the trackball, may also be its shortcoming for you …

Some people simply will simply never get used to a trackball, especially a small segment of gamers or CAD users that are conditioned to move pixels by physically moving the mouse.

A trackball is also prune to sampling your last meal or snack binge, attracting grease and dirt that requires more cleaning than the average mouse for a smooth experience. If you can keep your hands clean, however, the trackball is a durable component that translates into a mouse that should last you many years.

 

Pros

  • Innovative 20 degree tilt feature minimizes wrist bending when using mouse.
  • Sculpted shape supports most hands comfortably and lets it rest on the mouse instead of clenching to it.
  • Trackball for maneuvering cursor greatly reduces wrist and hand related movements that could lead to inquiry
  • Both Bluetooth and Unifying Receiver connectivity with stellar battery life (rated 4 months normal use) on lithium battery.

Cons

  • Trackball requires more maintenance than regular mouse to clean
  • Not everyone can get used to a trackball
  • Right hand users only

 

 

Final Thoughts

When carpal tunnel is caused by repetitive use,  the best ways to prevent it are to invest in ergonomic products, and to take more stretch breaks.

While carpal tunnel can always arise from overuse, you’re at much greater risk when you’re using equipment that forces your body into awkward positions and that causes you to operate in less than ideal ways. 

An adjustable ergonomic keyboard, on the other hand, allows you to type in the position that feels most natural to you without wrenching your wrists too far in any one direction.

And when you’re typing, remember to take a stretch break at least every 45 minutes or so.

Take the time to stand up and do the prayer stretch and a few wrist stretches. Doing so will help relieve tension in your muscles, increase blood flow to the right area, and get your muscles moving in new ways. You can also do wrist stretches right at your desk whenever you have a non-typing moment.

 

Prayer Stretch

 

  1. Start with your palms together in front of your chest just below your chin.
  2. Slowly lower your hands toward your waistline, keeping your hands close to your stomach and your palms together until you feel a mild to moderate stretch under your forearms.
  3. Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

 

Wrist Flexor Stretch

 

  1. Extend your arm in front of you with your palm up.
  2. Bend your wrist, pointing your hand toward the floor.
  3. With your other hand, gently bend your wrist farther until you feel a mild to moderate stretch in your forearm.
  4. Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

 

Wrist Extensor Stretch

 

Repeat steps 1 through 4 of the stretch above, but begin with your extended hand palm down.

 

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OCTeam

Thank you for taking the time to research these devices. I had no idea that there are so many ergonomic styles of keyboards available to help correct carpal tunnel syndrome. I have been suffering from Right shoulder pain and lower back pain for more than a year now. I have not experienced an injury to develop shoulder pain, therefore after reading your article, I am wondering if I have developed a version of RSI from sitting at the computer and using the mouse incorrectly.

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Thanks for your comment, OC!