Try out our office supply recommendations to take some stress off your wrists.
If you work in an office, it’s likely that a few of your colleagues suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). In fact, the Centers for Disease Control estimate that 1.9 million people experience CTS. If you haven’t been diagnosed with CTS yet, now may be the perfect time to think about preventing it by working ergonomically smart. Likewise, if you’ve already been diagnosed, keeping ergonomics in mind will reduce the recurrence & severity of your CTS symptoms.
|The wrong posture can create too much stress on your hands and wrists, leading to CTS pain.|
What causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)?
Repetitive hand and finger movements, especially typing and data entry, can cause tissues to swell and press on the median nerve, which travels through the wrist and extends into your hand. Tingling, burning or itching sensations in your hand, along with weakness in your hands, fingers and wrists, are early signs. Initial effects of CTS can be reversed, but if left to progress, the the nerves may become damaged. Addressing the comfort of your workstation should help in warding off the painful symptoms.
Getting started: Setting up your workstation & posture to be ergonomically-correct
Ergonomics is all about using the correct posture, and setting up your workstation with tools/furniture that allow you to work comfortably and prevent work-related injuries. If you’re working while standing, ensure that you’re wearing comfortable shoes, preferably on a cushioned mat, and that your back and shoulders are straight. Try to keep your arms as unbent as possible to reach the keyboard, mouse and office supplies on your working surface. If you’re working while seated, adjust your chair or desk so that you don’t bend or put too much pressure on your wrists when you use your keyboard and mouse. The more relaxed your elbows and wrists are, the more beneficial blood flow is reaching your hands and fingers, and the less your tendons will strain while performing repetitive motions. During a busy work schedule, it can be easy to lose your relaxed alignment. Many people lean in, draw their arms up high, lay their palms on their desks, and use equipment that requires too much strain to operate repetitively.
Try these products to maintain an ergonomically-correct work environment:
Palm and Wrist Rests
Palm and wrist rests will provide support and encourage appropriate posture as you navigate with your mouse or type on your keyboard. To use this type of pad correctly, rest the heels of your palms (not your wrists) on the cushion.
Consider specially-designed gloves that are worn while you are at the keyboard, correctly positioning your hands, increasing circulation, and cushioning the underside of your wrist. There are many out there to choose from, but our staff liked the Mueller Wrist Stabilizer, Wellgate for Women PerfectWrist Support, and Thermoskin Carpal Tunnel Braces with Dorsal Stay.
Ergonomic keyboards keep your wrists and hands in a natural position, promote proper typing habits, and they come in a variety of builds & styles to fit your needs. Before making a decision, make sure to visit an electronics store’s keyboard section to test out the style that’s right for you.
Most inexpensive keyboards use rubber domes beneath the keys to register when one has been pressed, resulting in a quieter sound and cheaper construction, but this gives the user more resistance, forcing them to push the keys harder, and giving the finger joints more unpleasant, CTS-inducing feedback.
Mechanical keyboards use switches that register a key press almost immediately. The keys can be lightly touched to type, making their use considerably more easy on the fingers and joints. The only problem is that they “click” more loudly than rubber dome boards, and they tend to be more expensive.
Most people (especially those with arthritis, CTS, and similar issues) who spend a few days with a mechanical keyboard never want to go back. Their ease of use and tactile responsiveness actually have garnered a “cult-like” appreciation, and it’s easy to find groups of people raving about them on the internet.
There are multiple switch types, as well, with different levels of responsiveness & noisiness. “Topre”, “Cherry MX Red” and “Cherry MX Brown” key switches in particular are loved by CTS-sufferers, for the feather-light touch required to press them, in addition to being among the quietest types of switches.
To help with your journey into discovering the best mechanical keyboard for you, make sure to check out our picks: the affordable Rosewill Cherry MX Red Mechanical Keyboard, the quiet Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth Edition with Cherry MX Brown Switches (pictured), and the extremely comfortable Topre Type Heaven Keyboard.
Ergonomic Vertical Mice
Though they look strange at first, an ergonomic mouse that’s the right size and shape for your hand provides an easier grip and offers better hand support. It glides easily and puts your wrist into a natural position so that you don’t have to twist your forearm. The only problem is that they can be tricky to find in stores, so it’s usually easiest to find them online.
Under-Desk Mounted Keyboard/Mouse Trays
Installing a keyboard/mouse tray under your workstation, adjusted to the correct height and tilt for your wrists, will help you keep your posture relaxed. The tray will also keep things from shifting out of position, and can neatly be tucked away when not in use.
In case your desk or workstation didn’t come with a tray, you can install one yourself in just a few minutes. These were selected by us for their ease of use, functionality, and installation: the 3M Sit/Stand Easy Adjust Keyboard Tray (pictured), the Fellowes Professional Series Compact Keyboard Tray, and the wall-mounted Ergotron LX Wall Mount Keyboard Arm.
Pens with Ergonomic Grip
Ergonomically-designed pens help reduce writing stress and fatigue. Wide-barreled with a cushioned grip, these pens reduce the force needed to hold the pen and are available in ballpoint, gel-ink, rolling ball or a combination mechanical pen-pencil. Look especially for pens that have balanced weight distribution.
There are a number of luxury pens/pencils out there, but our more affordable picks include the popular Pilot Dr. Grip Center of Gravity Retractable Ballpoint Pen (pictured), the fancier Paper Mate PhD Retractable Ballpoint Pen, and the rOtring Rapid PRO Technical Drawing Mechanical Pencil.
Employing the proper ergonomic office equipment, whether you suffer from carpal tunnel sydrome or not, is a smart way to reduce or avoid pain induced by repetitive movements. A relatively small investment now can prevent years of bothersome symptoms.