In today’s digital age, where much of our work is conducted on computers, the keyboard plays a crucial role in ensuring our comfort and productivity. Computer usage may involve uncomfortable positions, repetitive motions, static load, and contact stress, all of which can contribute to musculoskeletal issues. Poor postures during keyboard utilisation include shoulder elevation, elbows positioned away from the body, neck and head flexion or extension, mid-back flexion, and wrist bending in various directions (flexion, extension and or side bending). However, with the abundance of wrist rest options available, determining whether you truly need one and, if so, which type would be most suitable can be challenging. The answer lies not only in the design of the keyboard and wrist rests but also in understanding the fundamentals of proper typing posture and technique.

Understanding Typing Posture

Before delving into the specifics of wrist pad selection, it’s essential to grasp what constitutes good typing posture. Maintaining good typing posture helps to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.

Firstly, to achieve a neutral hand and wrist posture, adjust your chair height so that your elbows form a 90-120 degree angle when resting on the desk. This positioning ensures that your wrists remain in a neutral position, preventing tilting upwards, downwards, or sideways. Additionally, this positioning helps to relax your shoulders, reducing the risk of shoulder and neck tightness. Ideally, position the keyboard directly in front of you, horizontally aligned between you and your monitor, with the “b” key lined up with your belly button. This setup promotes optimal comfort and reduces strain on your shoulders while minimising deviations in your hand and wrist positions.

The Role of Typing Technique

Efficient typing technique is another crucial factor in reducing strain on the upper limbs. Familiarity with the keyboard layout and proficiency in typing can significantly enhance productivity while minimising the risk of repetitive strain injuries.

Typing with only one or two fingers or employing a restricted set of fingers results in repetitive overuse of these fingers, leading to muscle strain. Additionally, limited finger use often prompts individuals to look at their hands while typing, encouraging head and neck flexion (looking downwards) and middle-back flexion, increasing the risk of neck, shoulder and middle-back discomfort.

To mitigate these risks, it’s essential to practice touch typing and become acquainted with appropriate hand placement and home key positions.

Keyboard Wrist Rests

Many DSE (display screen equipment) users opt for keyboard rests in an attempt to alleviate discomfort and prevent wrist injuries. However, the effectiveness of these rests depends largely on their positioning and design.

Typically, keyboard/wrist rests are positioned beneath the wrists, offering a cushioned surface for support. While initially appearing advantageous, this practice can inadvertently exacerbate discomfort by compressing down on the delicate wrist area and increasing hand deviation as the hands rest on the wrist rests while typing.

Additionally, using rests that are incompatible with the keyboard can exacerbate ergonomic issues rather than alleviate them. Therefore, it’s crucial to consider the size of the wrist rest, as a too thick wrist rest can increase wrist flexion and pressure on the wrists, heightening the risk of wrist and forearm injury.

Selecting the Correct Wrist Rest -What Should I Look for? 

Prioritise Adjustments

Begin by adjusting other workstation components, such as the chair and keyboard positioning first, to ensure the wrists maintain an in-line, neutral posture.

Check Forearm Comfort

Ensure your forearms do not dig into the edge of the desk when resting. This indicates correct chair height adjustment and relaxed shoulders.

Keyboard Accessibility

Keep the keyboard within easy reach to prevent overreaching, tension in the neck and shoulder area, and wrist extension and compression.

Assess Comfort

If you’ve achieved a neutral hands and wrists positioning with the above adjustments and typing feels comfortable, it’s unlikely that you will benefit from a wrist rest.

Match Wrist Rest Dimensions

Match the wrist rest to the width, height, and slope of the front edge of the keyboard to maintain straight wrist postures.

Allow Freedom of Movement

When typing, your hands should hover just above the wrist rest to allow freedom of movement and maintain neutral hand/wrist positioning. Allow your wrists to have freedom of movement when typing to maintain neutral hand and wrist positioning otherwise it will encourage wrist deviation.

Proper Resting Technique

When resting (not typing), the base of the hands (not the wrists!) should rest on the wrist support.

Trial Period

If unsure about using a wrist rest, you can roll up a small cloth to match the height of the front edge of the keyboard and trial it for a day or two.

Additional Considerations for Optimal Typing Ergonomics

Importance of Regular Breaks

It is crucial to emphasise the importance of taking regular breaks from typing to allow muscles to relax and prevent overuse injuries. Continuous typing without breaks can lead to muscle fatigue and strain, increasing the risk of musculoskeletal injuries. Incorporating short breaks into your work routine can help alleviate tension in the hands, wrists, and arms. It is essential that you take micro-breaks every 30 minutes to an hour, during which you perform simple stretching exercises or shake out your hands and wrists. These brief pauses not only provide physical relief but also promote mental refreshment, enhancing overall productivity and wellbeing in the long run.

Importance of Awareness

Paying attention to any discomfort or pain experienced during typing is crucial. Persistent discomfort should not be ignored, as it may indicate the need for ergonomic interventions or professional advice. It’s important to proactively listen to your body and seek assistance if necessary to address any ergonomic concerns effectively. By fostering awareness and proactive behaviour, you can prioritise health and wellbeing, reducing the risk of long-term musculoskeletal issues associated with poor typing ergonomics.

While wrist rests can offer support and comfort during typing, their effectiveness depends on proper selection and usage and in many cases they are not essential when other issues are corrected first. By prioritising neutral wrist alignment, ergonomic workstation setup, and practicing efficient typing techniques, you can minimise discomfort and reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries.

At Ergonix, we are dedicated to helping individuals and organisations create safer, healthier, and more productive work environments through our Fully Managed DSE Services, DSE (Display Screen Equipment) Workstation Assessments, Accredited DSE Training Courses and Wellbeing Workshops.  Together, let’s continue to prioritise the wellbeing  of workplaces where physical and mental health matters.

If you’d like to learn more about how our services can support you and your organisation’s workplace wellness initiatives, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.