Typing Ergonomics Tips: Improper Techniques Could Be Hurting You

June 06, 2019

A woman drinking coffee at her computer
Stephanie Dwilson

Practicing good typing ergonomics is more important than you might think. If you're not maintaining a healthy ergonomic typing position, you could develop pain in your hands or injuries to your wrists. Here's a look at why poor typing could hurt you, and practices you can start today to help.

Poor Typing and Posture Can Cause Many Problems

Poor typing habits can do a number on your hands. The first symptom might simply be that your hands start hurting and you can't figure out why. Over time, you may develop a repetitive strain injury (RSI) that damages your muscles, tendons or nerves.

A common type of RSI is carpal tunnel, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. This can cause numbness, tingling or pain in your hand starting around the thumb and first two fingers, and radiating up. This is caused by pressure on the nerve. Your hand might also just feel "weird," like you need to shake it. Sometimes carpal tunnel is caused by odd sleeping positions, but poor typing and other repetitive movements can also contribute.

Cubital tunnel syndrome is another danger from improper typing and posture, reports the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. The symptoms are similar to carpal — tingling, burning or numbness — but the pain is more on the pinky side of your hand, forearm and elbow.

Use Good Typing Habits at Work and at Home

To avoid these unexpected health issues down the road, start practicing good typing habits now. For example, Harvard.edu suggests that you shouldn't contort your hands to hit the Shift key + a letter or Control + Alt. Instead, use one hand and the index finger of your other hand. Resting your wrists while you type can also create contortions that hurt your hands. Keep your hands above the keyboard, moving freely, so your arm muscles are holding your hands up.

Taking frequent breaks is also important. Every half-hour, get up, stretch and walk away from your desk. If you can, take a 10-minute break every hour. And don't forget to stretch your wrists before you start typing and then periodically throughout the day.

Set Up Your Equipment With a View Toward Proper Ergonomics

Make sure your equipment is set up in an ergonomically correct way, Typing.com suggests. Your chair should be high enough that your feet can rest comfortably on the floor, with your knees bent 90 degrees and your thighs parallel to the floor. Keep a two-to-four inch gap between the back of your knees and the seat edge. Your hands should be level with your elbows and your shoulders relaxed while you type. Ideally, your monitor will be at eye level, about 16 to 28 inches from your nose, Typing.com notes.

Invest in Ergonomic Accessories

Investing in ergonomic accessories can make it easier for you to maintain a good posture while you work. When shopping for an ergonomic keyboard, look for one with a separate number pad, a palm rest that supports both hands and support for negative and vertical tilt, Wirecutter suggests. And when it comes to an ergonomic mouse, look for one that minimizes wrist motion, has thumb rests and larger grips, Tom's Guide suggests. You might have to go through a few before finding the right one for you.

An ergonomic chair can also be very helpful. They typically feature seat cushions and lumbar support along with armrests that can be adjusted to get the best angle while you type. And last but not least, a standing, height-adjustable desk is a great way to make sure your arms and your monitor are at the right height. Plus, you can raise your desk, stand and stretch from time to time, switching things up a bit.

Practicing good typing ergonomics can make a big difference in whether or not you develop pain and injury in your hands. Follow the advice here for maintaining an ergonomic typing position and you may stop any major damage before it goes too far. Of course, if you're experiencing pain in your hands or wrists today, you should visit a doctor for medical advice.

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