If your daily job involves hours of sitting at a computer, you have no doubt heard of carpal tunnel syndrome. You may be surprised to learn that this syndrome is not limited to typists.
Approximately five percent of adults suffer from this repetitive stress injury. Carpal tunnel Syndrome is also known as CTS or even just wrist pain.
The best way to solve this pain is to avoid it completely. In this post, we will examine one simple way to do just this. Read on and learn about the ergonomic keyboard for carpal tunnel syndrome.
What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when there is pressure on the median nerve. This nerve runs down the arm to the hand, passing through a passage in the wrist called the carpal tunnel.
Pressure on this nerve causes pain in the wrist. It also causes tingling and burning in the fingers, and may lead to numbness.
These symptoms typically present in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and the thumb side of the ring finger. The pain may also radiate up the arm on the affected side.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Although it is commonly associated with typists, this debilitating disorder can also be caused by trauma, or by any repetitive movements. Certain diseases can also cause it and it even occurs sometimes in pregnancy.
When the median nerve is compressed, either through injury or as a result of repeated movement, carpal tunnel syndrome develops.
Carpal tunnel pain is particularly prevalent in people who use computers for long periods. It is also common with those who use equipment that vibrates, such as construction workers, and people participating in any other occupation that involves repetitive movement.
How Long Does It Continue?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome will not go away unless the problem is addressed. It is likely to progress slowly, but it will continue to deteriorate unless action is taken.
It usually commences with pain at night which is gone by morning. As long as the cause continues, the symptoms will worsen.
First, they will start to occur during the day as well, showing up with various situations that involve repetitive movement. Hand weakness will follow.
Next, the patient may experience difficulty with fine motor coordination, causing clumsiness. With further progression of the disease, certain repetitive activities such as drawing, certain hobbies, or playing video games will become increasingly difficult.
In more advanced stages, symptoms can continue to get worse, and atrophy of the thenar muscle can occur. This is often the point at which a patient will show up at the doctor’s room, with a disfigured and painful thumb.
Unfortunately, although a measure of relief may be found, by the time the muscle atrophies, the condition is irreversible.
Other Causes of Wrist Injuries
Before further exploring the options for treatment of this painful, debilitating condition, let’s take a brief look at other possible wrist problems. Not all wrist and hand pain are caused by carpal tunnel syndrome, although many are associated.
Other conditions worth mentioning include
- Trigger finger where one finger or thumb joint locks uncomfortably and makes even simple movements difficult
- Gardening involving many repetitive tasks that can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome
- Hand injuries including sprains or falls
- Avocado hand when a person cuts themselves and damages muscles or tendons
- Hand sports injuries which often occur at both professional and amateur level
- Musicians often experience forms of hand injuries including carpal tunnel strain
- Fracture of the arm or elbow or even a broken finger
- Snowboarding where your hand and wrist are easily injured
Carpal Tunnel Treatment
There are a vast number of things you can try to relieve carpal tunnel pain. Just remember, what works for your neighbor may not work for you.
Whether these are helpful also depends on how severe your symptoms are. They will also be influenced by the causal factor.
You might decide to try:
- Lifestyle changes cutting back on the activity that caused the problem
- Exercises to help the nerve move better within the carpal tunnel
- Immobilization through wearing a splint or a wrist guard
- Medication: your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs or steroids
- Surgery to release the size of the tunnel and ease the pressure on the nerve
Looking at Keyboards
If your carpal tunnel problem has been caused by typing, your keyboard may be the most important issue you should be addressing. It certainly beats surgery as a first try.
Let’s look at some of the main factors to take under consideration.
The Best Typing Position
According to ergonomic experts, the best posture for typing is to have the keyboard below your elbow height when seated. Your wrist should be straight and not planted on the desk surface.
A wrist pad is not generally recommended, but if it is used, it should be flush against the keyboard and not used to support your wrists. Take a look at this diagram to see the ideal typing posture.
The Conventional Keyboard
This is the traditional flat keyboard that comes with most computers and all laptops. These present many health and financial risks to both employees and employers.
The design for this keyboard hasn’t changed much since its invention in the 19th century. When you type on this keyboard, your wrist is forced into an unnatural position which can cause immense damage over time, not to mention severe wrist pain.
Repetitive Stress Injuries
The traditional keyboard causes pressure on your muscles and tendons. This leads to Repetitive Stress Injuries also known as RSIs as well as to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
It’s not only your wrist that is affected either. Poor positioning of your forearm leads to discomfort in your upper arm and on into your upper body and neck.
Hunt and Peck Typists
These typists are non-touch typists. They do not know the keyboard layout, although if they’ve been doing it for a while they are probably fairly adept at finding their way around.
However, they rely on being able to see the keys which will cause them to hunch over the keyboard. This can contribute to neck and hand pain, plus other forms of discomfort.
These typists find it extremely difficult to adjust to the ergonomic keyboard, and it may be better for them to remain with the old traditional one. Better still, they could learn to touch type.
And so that brings us to the best type of keyboard for your computer: the Ergonomic keyboard.
The Ergonomic Keyboard for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
In view of the fact that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by pressure on the median nerve, prolonged typing will lead to scar formation. As we’ve seen, the conventional keyboard aggravates the position of the wrist.
We need to look for an alternative solution. One that will not aggravate our wrists.
Built For Comfort
The ergonomic keyboard is far more comfortable than the traditional one. It allows both wrists and hands to take up a more natural position.
There are basically two types of design in the ergonomic keyboard, both normally allowing a split between the hands. The ideal wrist position is between straight and thirty degrees extension.
A big advantage of using a split keyboard is that you no longer suffer from repetitive stress injuries due to twisted wrists. Your wrists remain straight while you type.
Most of these split keyboards come with comfortable wrist supports, so the hands are not tilted when typing. This reduces strain on the tendons.
As typists get used to the new design, they soon notice a marked improvement in their comfort level.
Below, you’ll find two popular designs.
The Curved or Wave-Shaped Keyboard
These are angled keyboards that immediately reduce the repetitive stress on the carpal tunnel. The layout of the letters, numbers, and functions is usually the same as a traditional keyboard.
The curved keyframe places your hands, wrists, and forearms in a more natural posture. This reduces muscle strain.
There is a split that separates the keys for each hand, although they remain in one unit. The space is wider nearer the body which allows the arms to be more relaxed.
This shape does involve a short learning curve. Touch typists may discover they have developed bad habits, such as stretching for the letter G with the right hand.
However, most people adapt quickly to the change, and in no time they are typing faster than ever. People new to these keyboards must set their minds to get used to them, and they will soon adjust.
The Split-Designed Keyboards
These are particularly of value for the larger adult, and for those with wide shoulders. The keyboard separates in half.
The user can often position the two halves in a position that best suits their build and the length of their arms. This in turn decreases the angle of the arms as they reach for the keys.
Advantages of the Ergonomic Keyboard
There are a number of ways where the ergonomic keyboard is an improvement over the conventional, straight one. Let’s look at some of them.
When we use the regular keyboards, our arms are angled inwards to cover the keyboard. This tilts the wrists.
In a split keyboard, this is not a problem. The wrist can be held straight which avoids long-term muscle injuries and wrist problems.
If you’re an adult, and especially if you have broad shoulders, working at a conventional keyboard will cause you to bend over the keys. This causes endless postural discomfort.
With the split keyboard, the keys are likely to be a shoulder’s width between the halves. Again, if you have broad shoulders, the divided keyboard may be best for you.
With the traditional keyboard, your fingers are extended to reach the far-away keys. In the split keyboard, you can only press the keys within reach of each hand. As mentioned, this will take some getting used to, but it helps to correct finger fatigue.
These keyboards tend to be considerably more pricey than the traditional cheapy. So ensure you buy a reputable make of keyboard.
Ease of Connectivity
Gone are the days of the hassle of installing drivers and applications for every device. The top-quality keyboards will not require any involved installation practices.
The best keyboards are also compatible with all major operating systems. Just be sure to check the one you are looking at will work with your computer, be it Windows, Mac, Linux, or Chrome.
Is the Ergonomic Keyboard a Cure?
Sadly, this will not necessarily be the solution. But if the switch is made early on, or better still, before symptoms develop, it can go a long way to preventing more aggressive treatment or surgery for carpal tunnel.
Posture Remains Paramount
At all times, even with the ergonomic keyboard at your fingertips, you need to keep your wrists straight. Your upper arms need to be close to the body and your hands at the same level or slightly lower than the elbows.
Take Regular Breaks
It is great to own a good ergonomic keyboard. But it is still essential to use it correctly. Pace yourself, and allow regular breaks between typing sessions.
Get up and move throughout the day. You need to get that blood moving or your keyboard will have been a waste of money.
So What Now?
We hope this article has provided you with some insight into the problem of the specific repetitive stress injury caused by typing.
If you spend a lot of time at your computer, don’t delay. Please do yourself a favor and purchase an ergonomic keyboard for carpal tunnel.
If you have any questions, or if you would like to schedule an appointment with one of our top specialists, please do it straight away. We’re waiting for your call!