“No doubt about it, the wrong mouse-and-keyboard setup can wreak physical havoc on your hand, wrist, and forearm,” explains Dr. Scott Weiss, a physical therapist and board-certified athletic trainer. Those small, repetitive motions that are causing minor discomfort in your wrists now can lead to more serious problems down the road, like carpal tunnel or worse. “Too much wrist flexion” — a fancy way of saying bending — “can undoubtedly cause pain and nerve compression,” he says, adding that a movement as simple as reaching your pinky too far out over your keyboard or mouse can, over time, damage cartilage in your wrist and cause long-term, chronic issues.
The good news is that these long-term office injuries from typing and clicking can be prevented with the right gear and ergonomic desk setup. “What you need to do is position the equipment in relation to your body in such a way that you’re not in some sort of an awkward posture,” explains Carrie Schmitz, a certified health coach who’s currently a wellness-and-ergonomic research manager at Ergotron. You want to maintain a neutral posture, meaning your joints are naturally aligned. “The neutral posture is going to be one where you have the most amount of balance and power,” says Schmitz, “which means there’s going to be less stress and strain on your muscular skeletal system.”
And though there are a lot of products on the market that claim to be ergonomic and help you maintain a safe, neutral posture while you type, not all of them are that effective. That’s why we talked with physical therapists, trainers, and ergonomists to help you find the best office gear to prevent wrist pain and carpal tunnel, from ergonomic keyboards to vertical mouses and more.
Best ergonomic keyboards
It’s a little strange looking, but Weiss says a split keyboard helps maintain your natural alignment. Because you want to keep your shoulder in line with your wrists, this keyboard lets you adjust your hand position according to the width of your shoulders. “The last thing you want is to have your shoulders curled inward for extended periods of time, as that can cause many issues and lead to chronic pain,” he says.
If you’re using an external keyboard and mouse, you may run into the issue of having to move your mouse farther out to the right (assuming you’re using your right hand on the mouse) to accommodate the keyboard’s number pad, which forces you to extend your right elbow. “What happens with mouse use, for many of us, is that over minutes and hours and days and weeks and years, we can have quite a lot of injury happening to the right arm because we’ve thrown our right arm farther over to the side,” says Schmitz. “The farther away from the waist your arm is, the more risk that you’re going to be exposed to.” While not all keyboards have number pads these days, if you regularly use one for work, Schmitz recommends looking for a keyboard with a separate number pad, like this one.
Apple purists don’t have to give up their minimalist aesthetic to achieve good ergonomics. Tyler Stalman, a photographer and podcaster, says that with the Magic Keyboard (a favorite of other creative types), “the angle of my wrist feels right,” so it’s less tiring to type.
Best ergonomic mouses
“Mice that allow for the natural internal rotation of the hand are best,” says Alice Holland, a physical therapist at Stride Strong Physical Therapy. If you have limited desk space, she likes this one, which features a large trackball for easy scrolling and a detachable wrist rest for comfort.
Holland says that this mouse, which comes in right- and left-handed versions, “allows the hand to be rotated to a comfortable angle.” It’s actually oriented vertically, with your hand in a handshake position that prevents any unnatural twisting of the wrist or arm.
Here’s another vertical mouse that’s less expensive but equally beloved among Amazon reviewers. As one writes, “This is how the mouse should have been designed from the beginning. It places the wrist and arm in so much more of a natural and comfortable position.” Like the Evoluent, it’s also available for lefties.
This budget-friendly mouse is popular among gamers, but it’d be a good pick for anyone looking for a comfortable, affordable mouse. As one reviewer writes, “It is supercomfortable in the hand, it’s large enough to provide good support to help prevent hand fatigue, and has grooves for [resting] your thumb and ring and pinky fingers.”
Best ergonomic keyboard and mouse accessories
For a cheap way to boost the comfort of whichever mouse and keyboard you’re using, Holland recommends supportive memory-foam wrist pads. She says she bought this set “for my husband, who was complaining of carpal tunnel syndrome,” and it “works great.”
When it comes to ergonomics, the position of your mouse and keyboard matters just as much as, if not more than, the specific equipment you use. “Your elbows need to be about the same height as your keyboard, and your arms should be hanging comfortably from the side of your body,” says Schmitz. “Your shoulders should be relaxed. Your wrists should not bend up or down or on either side during keyboard use.” She says you may need a keyboard tray to achieve this alignment and bring your wrists in line with your elbows. This one has built-in wrist padding and allows you to adjust the angle for perfect positioning.
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