When shopping for an ergonomically styled keyboard there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
The first is there isn’t one style that will fix everybody’s needs and second, it may not be entirely the keyboards fault at all.
Carpel Tunnel Syndrome is of of the most common reasons why people search for alternative keyboard designs. Damage is caused by the unnatural way the “regular” keyboard forces us to operate our hands and wrists.
In addition to using ergonomic keyboards, the addition of a “negative tilt” keyboard tray might also be the answer. (Also called negative “slope”)
If you are already suffering from finger and wrist issues there is hand fitness equipment available that can help you with targeted exercise.
Comparing Ergonomic Keyboards
Most ergonomic experts say that the final goal is to have the hands working in a “neutral” position. This means that they should be straight out from your wrists so your arm to fingers are in a line. Currently it is more common to have the wrists resting on the desk and fingers up as well as hands crooked from the wrist.
One thing you can do right away that may help without even buying a new keyboard is to put something under the edge of the keyboard closest to you to “tilt” it away from you. This will help to align your hands so they aren’t flexing. The other thing is to make sure your keyboard is centered so the ‘H’ is centered to you.
Next step is to look at varying degrees of ergonomic designs and their usual application.
The more “enhanced” ergonomically designed keyboards have you re-learning the skill of typing. This is one reason why people will resist trading in their old design.
1. The first on the list is only a slight change in the keyboard. The keys are all in the same place just laid out slightly angled. This one doesn’t take up any more space than the regular style of keyboard.
2. The next one is a little bigger and considered a “fixed angle” split keyboard. This design is supposed to help because they keyboard lines up with the way your hands sit more naturally on the board. It also has a “bump” toward the middle of the board which still requires you to tilt your hands up which may be more of a negative issue. Another drawback is the larger size taking up space where the mouse usually sits. This may put the mouse off the keyboard tray altogether or put it in a spot that is awkward to operate.
3. The third step towards keyboard adjustments is to be able to split the keyboard to an angle that you want. There are a lot of happy people with this style but it still tilts in the wrong direction to correct wrist extension.
4. The contoured keyboard has more ergonomic features than the others. Although oddly shaped and will take a little getting used to, users really love it. The average time to get accustomed to this novel layout is about two weeks but it’s smooth sailing after that. Some users even boast an increase in typing speed.
5. Getting away from a keyboard altogether might be the answer too. The “keyless” keyboard has been used successfully by people suffering from carpal tunnel as well as persons with other physical adaptation needs. Designed to eliminate finger motion entirely and dramatically reduce wrist motion.
6. Voice recognition software is a great way to give your hands and wrists a rest. Learning to use the software takes a few days. You have to “teach” it to understand your voice and commands but newer versions are intuitive and adapt to formatting, abbreviations and more. You talk and it types.
How to Decide?
Choosing what ergonomic keyboard or alternative that will suit your particular situation will depend on a variety of things. The most common recommendation is to try them out. Most companies will offer a guarantee on their products.
Negative Sloped Keyboard Tray
The negative tilt allows for your hands to more comfortably rest over your keyboard without extending your wrists. This will reduce the stress caused by the regular incline of a keyboard.
In some cases being able to find tune the tilt will work better than a new keyboard and in other cases a combination of the two will be most beneficial.
Choosing an Ergonomic Mouse
An ergonomic mouse will position your hand in a more natural fashion than a standard mouse. The more natural the mouse position the less stress on your wrist and joints. If it is easy to operate and in a comfortable and relaxed position, then the wrist strain should improve over the standard mouse.
Similar to the suggestion about choosing the right keyboard is… “You may need to try it out first!”
Maybe the mouse itself isn’t the underlying problem. Your table could be too high or too low. The mouse may be too far away, or it could be in the wrong spot. If your mouse is in a place that is mostly comfortable then other factors to consider are:
The size. The mouse should fit nicely in your hand. Not too small and not so big you have to reach for the buttons. You should be able to grab it without squeezing really hard or reaching for the control wheel.
If its too small you are not comfortably operating it and you will find you are “clawing” your hand to move and click.
The Shape. The standard style mouse that usually comes with or is included your system is an ambidextrous style. This is good in the way that both left and right handed users can use it (you must configure the left and right keys for purpose). The drawback is it is rather square in shape and does not contour to the hand.
Different Styles of the Ergonomic Mouse
Performance MX mouse Logitech – Nicely holds your hand in place while your palm does the work of movement and its easy to operate the wheel.
Contour Style Mouse – is available in both right and left handed models and small to extra large to fit all hand sizes. They come with the scroll wheel on the side so you scroll with your thumb for added comfort.
Trackball Mouse – An alternative to the usual style of mouse where you have to move it around, is the option of switching to a trackball. With a centre ball it’s easy to reach and the palm piece will fit nicely to the shape of your hand.
Larger Trackball Option – Ones with a larger ball may be better for you if you are in the habit of planting your wrist and moving your fingers. The larger ball will help to prevent you from doing this movement which may be responsible for the repetitive strain type injury.
Vertical Mouse – It allows you to keep your hand in a comfortable side position where you aren’t resting your wrist and the motion is from your shoulder. This effectively takes the pressure off your carpal tunnel and nerves.
Roller Bar Mouse – The mouse is in a bar that fits up against your keyboard so the movement is in front of you instead of to the side. This works well for shoulder issues and if there is limited desk space.