Here are my top 10 picks for ergonomic health that can help reduce the risk of carpal tunnel and other repetitive injury pain when working at the keyboard.
1. An Ergonomic Keyboard – Positioned with a wedge-shaped inverted “v” (also described as a “gable”), the split-keyboard places the wrists in a more neutral position than smaller, standard keyboards. A keyboard that tends to get consistently high reviews is the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard. In addition to the gable, this keyboard offers a zoom slider, five programmable favorites keys for launching documents and applications, forward & backward keys located in the center of the keyboard, hotkeys, and the standard enhanced function keys. Available at Amazon.com.
Microsoft Natural Ergo Keyboard 4000
2. An Ergonomic Mouse – The Evoluent Vertical Mouse and the 3M Ergonomic Mouse are two styles of mice that place the forearm in the “handshake position” easing stress and tension on the muscles, tendons and nerves of the arm. Available at Amazon.com.
Evoluent Vertical Ergonomic Mouse 3 - Right Hand
3M Ergonomic Mouse SMALL/MEDIUM
3. An Adjustable Under-the-Desk Keyboard Tray – Allows you to easily position your keyboard at the appropriate height. A must for any workstation, at home or in the office, that has multiple users. Many trays now also adjust for keyboard tilt allowing improvement for wrist angulation. Available at Amazon.com.
Keyboard Tray, Articulating Arm, Tilt, Swivel, Lock, Black
4. An Adjustable Monitor – Allows you to easily position the monitor at the appropriate height easing neck and shoulder pain. Once again, a must for any workstation that has multiple users. Available at Amazon.com.
Fellowes monitor arm
5. Computer Glasses – Anyone who wears glasses, especially bifocals, is at high risk for neck and shoulder strain while working on the computer. Purchase a new pair of glasses that is prescribed specifically for computer use. Available through your local optometrist.
6. A Stretch-Break Program – You can not over-stretch while working (as long as you respect pain when performing the stretches). A program such as StretchSmart can cue you to take stretch breaks. You can customize the frequency and duration of the stretching sessions. You can also set the program to provide stretches for your specific high risk pain areas.
7. A Copy Holder – Eases neck strain caused by looking repetitively from the monitor to the desk while working from copy. If working with thicker stacks of copy, an on-the-desk model that fits in front of the monitor works well. Single sheets of copy can be placed directly to the right or left of the monitor. Available at Amazon.com.
VuRyte Vision Vu Document Holder
Swivel Clip Copy Holder
8. An Ergonomic Pen – The majority of people who I see for ergonomic assessments have a tendency to hold their pens too tightly causing thumb and hand pain when writing. Hold the pen lightly, using a roller-ball or felt-tip pen so less force is needed. See A Review of Ergonomically-Designed Pens for additional information.
9. A Good Chair – Your office chair should be adjustable for height, seat-depth and seat-tilt. It should have adjustable arm rests and good lumbar support. For petite women, a full-length lumbar back support may be helpful to improve the fit of the chair. Available through your local office equipment vendor.
10. A Good, Durable Cold Pack – We all have aches and pains now and again. The key is to keep an injury from progressing and settling in. Have a good cold pack readily available for use at the first sign of inflammation or pain. The ElastoGel Cold Packs are a clinical therapeutic favorite. They are durable, will not leak, and conform comfortable around bony areas. A cold “wrap” comes with Velcro straps attached that allow you to strap on the pack when you are on the go.
Elasto-Gel Hot/Cold Wrist or Elbow Wrap
Marji Hajic is an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist practicing in Santa Barbara, California. For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit Hand Health Resources.