We already wrote about on how to avoid wrist pain after long hours of gaming in this blog, and one of the key components to avoiding carpal tunnel is proper hand and arm positioning while using your computer.
It can be troublesome to remember to hold your arm in the same posture and keep your wrist straight. Is there a way to make it easier? Well, yes, by buying a specialized ergonomic keyboard.
What are ergonomic keyboards?
An ergonomic keyboard is a keyboard built to reduce the muscle strain on your hands, arms, and wrists of having to type or play in front of your computer for hours at a time.
Their layout is usually quite different than that of a typical keyboard. They are built to force your hand and body posture into a position that reduces the level of stress in your muscles, and you adopt a more "natural" stance while using it. This is done by changing the key arrangement, the overall shape of the keyboard, and by adding a padded wrist rest to keep your hand straight.
The problem with these keyboards it´s not so much that they don´t work or that they are of inferior quality to regular keyboards. The issue, which probably explains why they aren´t more widely adopted, is that they take time to get used to. Since the layout and posture are essentially different, there will be an adjustment period before you can get comfortable with them.
But, once you get comfortable, you will find that they will reduce drastically the amount of pain and discomfort you can get after long hours of computer use.
Do note that reducing the strain is not the same as eliminating it completely. These keyboards will help hold your hand at an optimal posture to reduce strain, but any repetitive motion or even keeping your muscles still for too long will damage your hand. Breaks every few hours and some stretching exercises are still recommended if you spend hours on end typing on your computer.
Now, you might notice that there are several types of ergonomic keyboards on the market. They all help you reduce muscle strain in different but similar ways.
What's the difference between an ergonomic keyboard and a normal one?
Well, depends on the type of ergonomic keyboard. There are two main types, the regular ergonomic keyboard, and the split keyboard.
An ergonomic keyboard is basically a more or less regular keyboard with some changes to make it more ergonomic. A lot of them don´t follow the QWERTY key layout and instead use the DVORAK layout, as typing in the latter configuration requires less hand movement and stretching to reach the keys you most commonly use.
Another advantage that ergonomic keyboards often have is the elevation. One of the most important things to avoid having carpal tunnel is to stop bending your wrists downward while writing. Having a keyboard an elevated keyboard or one with a padded wrist rest avoids having to bend your hand to type on your computer.
Finally, you might have noticed that a lot of ergonomic keyboards are angled at a weird V shape. This is done to keep each of your arms straight while typing. If you notice, you tend to bend your hands when writing on a normal keyboard, and this can cause muscle strain after hours of use.
If you want a regular old ergonomic keyboard, Microsoft has a good option at an affordable price. Especially if you want a keyboard that has most of these features but keeps the QWERTY layout.
Split ergonomic keyboards:
While normal ergonomic keyboards are shaped at an angle over to reduce how much you have to bend your arms to write, split keyboards take this line of thinking to its logical conclusion. These are keyboards that are split in two to allow you to dedicate a hand to each half so that you don´t have to bend your arms to write sentences.
This allows you to sit with your wrists and forearms perfectly aligned, improving your overall posture and reducing the movement and strain on your muscles. In addition, this kind of keyboard usually comes with all the other advantages of the ergonomic keyboards, like the wrist rest that lets your hand rest more easily after writing.
In the past, we talked about using this kind of keyboard when it came to finding ways to play some PC games with a mouse, but that's not their only use. If you are interested in a more ergonomic way to play, this can be a solution. Using only the left (or right if you are a leftie) half of the keyboard along with a mouse is also another good way to reduce wrist strain and keep your posture straight.
For a good quality split keyboard, you can try a Digma Raise. They are a bit pricy, but they have everything you need on an ergonomic keyboard. At the end of the day, regardless of what brand you buy, the keyboard will probably still be cheaper than the treatment for carpal tunnel if the worst comes to pass.
And of course, don´t forget to buy a stand if your monitor is too low. It doesn´t matter if the keyboard is ergonomic if you are still hunched over your back to read the screen.