Does your wrist feel strained as you type for a few hours? Are you feeling a stabbing pain in your forearms lately? Do you feel slumped and exhausted? Those may be symptoms of a sprain or injury caused by typing on a non-ergonomic keyboard. It comes as no surprise. Your standard keyboard does not work naturally with your body.
What you need is an ergonomic keyboard that positions your hands so that you can type in a more natural position. In doing so, you are less prone to injuries, your typing posture improves, and you become faster and more efficient in your work.
Let’s learn more about ergonomic keyboards.
To understand the design of an ergonomic keyboard, let’s first define what ergonomics is. Ergonomics, sometimes referred to as human factors, refers to the application of physiological and psychological principles to the design, engineering, and functionality of products, services, processes, and systems. Ergonomic design aims to increase productivity, lessen human error, improve safety, enhance comfort, and prevent health problems while the person is using or interacting with that item.
Thus, an ergonomic keyboard is a computer peripheral designed to reduce fatigue, muscle strain, and other health problems. At the same time, the ergonomic design helps enhance comfort and increase productivity while you’re using the keyboard. Often, the keyboard is designed so that your hands, forearms, and shoulders are resting at a more natural angle and position while you type.
At its core, ergonomic keyboards serve the same function as any other keyboard. It acts as a peripheral to interface with your computer by pressing the keys.
The keys of most conventional keyboards are arranged in a perfectly horizontal position, forming a long rectangle across the unit. At first, this arrangement seems nothing out of the ordinary. However, you’ll notice that your hands and wrists are actually bent when you type. That means your fingers are pointing straight forward, but your wrists are pointing at an angle.
Because your wrist and hands are not aligned straight, this position is strenuous and unnatural. Prolonging this unnatural position can cause problems such as fatigue and arm strain, impeding your work. Worse, it may cause repetitive strain injury or carpal tunnel syndrome.
This is what an ergonomic keyboard aims to address. The keys in an ergonomic keyboard are arranged so that your hands, wrists, and forearms are placed in a natural alignment while you type. A combination of an ergonomic keyboard and mouse, an ergonomic workstation, and the proper typing posture all help reduce physiological problems such as sprain, fatigue, and injuries.
The main feature of an ergonomic keyboard is its unique key position. There are many brands and models of ergonomic keyboards. However, their design often falls into one of three categories:
A contoured keyboard has a curved wave-like pattern with a small peak right at the center. This design puts the keys in two depressions that are positioned at shoulder width. The wave shape forces your hand to align straight with your wrist. In addition, the configuration drastically reduces the movement of your wrists and arms while you type.
A split keyboard is designed so that the keys are arranged in two or more sections, each section corresponding to the group of home keys “assigned” to each hand when typing normally. Each group of keys is angled away from each other to help space your hands correctly, align your wrist properly, and enable smooth typing motion.
Basic split-type keyboards are fixed. However, some of the best ergonomic keyboards can be physically split into two parts. This allows you to tailor your keyboard’s position and angle. For example, if you have a broad chest and big arms, you can position the two halves of the keyboard farther from each other so you won’t squish your elbows together while using the keyboard.
An angled keyboard is similar to a split keyboard. However, the center is tented, with both halves angled up and forming an “A.” This keeps your hand and wrist aligned in a straight, natural resting position with your index fingers higher than your pinkies.
There are also other types of less common ergonomic keyboards out there. For example, wireless ergonomic keyboards allow you to work or play without the tangles, limitations, and inconveniences of cables. There are handheld ergonomic keyboards intended to be held like a game controller; obviously, this is ideal for gamers. Finally, some ergonomic keyboards have a trackpad or trackball that allows you to move your cursor without using a separate mouse.
An ergonomic keyboard offers several advantages
* Because your hands and wrists are naturally positioned and aligned, there is more resting place for your forearm when you type. This enables a more comfortable and less strenuous position. Because of this advantage, ergonomic keyboards are preferred by writers, typists, programmers, and developers who tend to spend a lot of time in front of a computer.
* The natural positioning reduces the risk of typing-related injuries such as wrist sprain, repetitive strain injury, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
* By taking into account human physiology in keyboard design, you’re able to type faster and longer. Typing becomes easy and accurate once you get used to the placement of your fingers.
* Pressing two- or three-key combinations is easier and faster.
* In keeping up with the product’s function of making typing more efficient, an ergonomic keyboard may have hotkeys that can be programmed to execute a sequence. This is quite useful in gaming.
However, there are also drawbacks to using ergonomic keyboards:
* An ergonomic keyboard is often bigger than standard keyboards. This means it takes up a lot of space in your workstation.
* If you’re used to working with standard keyboards, it will take some time before you get accustomed to using ergonomic keyboards.
* Ergonomic keyboards are more expensive than regular keyboards. Basic ones can cost you around $100, while those with more features can cost you twice.
* For some reason, many ergonomic keyboard brands are not compatible with operating systems that are not Windows, causing errors and driver install failures. While basic functions may still work, the keyboards’ extra functionality keys may not be compatible with non-Windows systems. Make sure you choose an ergonomic keyboard that is compatible with the system you’re using.
Here are some frequently asked questions regarding ergonomic keyboards.
An ergonomic keyboard is named so because it puts the human factors, or ergonomics, into consideration in its design. Thus, an ergonomic keyboard works with your body, not against it.
Using an ergonomic keyboard can minimize physical strain, increase efficiency, and reduce risks of injury. However, it’s important to understand that using an ergonomic keyboard is a preventive measure. It’s not meant as a cure or therapy for typing-related injuries.
If you have an existing hand, wrist, or arm injury, consult your physician first before using an ergonomic keyboard.
There is no single definition of an “ergonomically correct” keyboard. The right kind of keyboard depends on factors such as your physique, posture, and typing style. However, there are three main indicators to consider when choosing the right ergonomic keyboard for you:
* Your keyboard should be positioned right in front of you.
* The keys’ layout should allow you to relax your shoulders. Your elbows should be close to your body.
* The keyboard’s design should allow your hands, wrists, and forearms to be straight and aligned.
Having an ergonomic keyboard is a good investment. Not only does it allow you to type more comfortably and efficiently, but it also promotes a healthy working posture and helps prevent typing-related injuries. Thus, if your forearms feel painful, strained, and tired, it might be time to change your old keyboard to a better, more ergonomic one.