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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Keyboards | Special Keyboard Features and Accessories ]

Ergonomic Supports

The problem of repetitive stress injuries, especially carpal tunnel syndrome, has gained significant notice in recent years. The carpal tunnel is a narrow structure in the bones of the wrists through which the median nerve, which serves the hands, passes. (The medical name for the wrist is the carpus). Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when stress or trauma affects this nerve, leading to pain, numbness or tingling in the hands or fingers. Many of these injuries occur to those who spend considerable amounts of time typing on a PC keyboard, making ergonomic concerns something worth your attention--especially if you use your PC a great deal.

Some ergonomic issues can be addressed by paying attention to important construction matters. Ergonomic keyboards are also helpful to many, as are alternative layouts. And certainly, general posture concerns play a role. However, some of the problem is simply related to the position that the hands are in when typing.

Without support, the wrists and palms tend to "droop" down at the front of the keyboard while typing, putting additional strain on the sensitive carpal tunnel region of the wrist. To help promote better typing posture, some keyboards now include integrated supports, called palm supports, wrist rests, and a myriad of other names. There's nothing particularly fancy about these supports; they are just a flat area integrated in front of the keyboard which supports the hand and wrist during typing. There's also no need to have them as part of the keyboard; you can purchase separate supports just about anywhere, and they are very inexpensive. Some keyboards come with detachable supports, so the user can decide to use them or not (some typists find them very uncomfortable.)

A "wrist pillow", one of many different types of wrist rests available.
(Thanks to Staples for letting me take the original of this photo, in one of their stores.)

Warning: Repetitive stress injuries are often indicated by pain, numbness or tingling in the hands or fingers, especially after typing. If you suspect that you may have such a condition, go to a doctor or other suitable professional immediately, as there is a lot more to treating this problem than just changing your hardware!

Next: Keyboard Software Issues

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