The 10 Best Ergonomic Keyboards
10. Goldtouch Adjustable
9. Microsoft Surface
8. Kinesis Freestyle2 Wireless
7. Microsoft Natural 4000
6. Kinesis Advantage2
5. TeckNet Heavy Duty
4. Perixx Periboard
3. Microsoft Sculpt
2. Adesso Tru-Form
1. Logitech Wireless Wave
The Woes Of Long Term Typing
The use of the computer and keyboard has dramatically increased the speed at which a person can accomplish almost any task, including writing, researching, accounting, and so much more. And of course that's to say nothing of the myriad activities that didn't even exist before the computer, such as programming, computer game play, and many types of graphic design work, to name but a few.
However, with the many benefits of modern hardware and the software with which we interact using our keyboards, mice, and joysticks come a host of issues, as well. The anatomy of the human hand and wrist was not designed for hours of repetitive minute motions, such as those involved with typing for hours on end, day in and day out. Far too many writers, programmers, gamers, and other regular computer users can attest to this physiological reality.
The most common issues associated with protracted typing and mouse clicking are Repetitive Strain Injuries, often referred to in their abbreviated form as RSIs. Just as a Major League pitcher can damage his shoulder after throwing too many fastballs in too many games, so too can you damage your fingers and wrists by too much use of hardware.
One of the most common specific maladies caused by extensive computer usage is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The Carpal Tunnel is a narrow passageway in the base of the palm formed among the ligaments and bones therein. Through the tunnel runs the median nerve, a nerve that connects the forearm to the palm and to every finger except the pinky. Extended pressure, such as that caused by a wrist resting on a desk or keyboard, can cause the carpal tunnel to compress, which therefore puts pressure on the nerve.
The symptoms can be as mild as a faint tingling in the hands and wrist or as acute as a painful burning sensation accompanied by a lack of full fine motor control of the hands. Advanced Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can even make it hard for the fingers to properly perceive certain sensations, such as hot and cold.
While all people are at risk of developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome under the right circumstances, women are more likely than men to be afflicted with the condition. Treatment for advanced cases can involve everything from pain management and physical therapy in hopes the condition mends itself to surgical intervention. The best move, though, is to avoid this and any other RSI in the first place by practicing proper posture, correct hand positioning, and by using hardware designed with ergonomics in mind.
Why An Ergonomic Keyboard Makes Sense
Ergonomic keyboards come in many shapes and sizes, which should come as no surprise to the thoughtful consumer, as hands and wrists come in all shapes and sizes, too, and what is comfortable for one might not be so for another. All ergonomic computer hardware shares the same underlying design inspiration, however, and that is to help a user maximize their working (or playing) efficiency while minimizing the amount of strain put on their bodies.
A good ergonomic keyboard makes it easy for you to reduce the pressure put on the base of your palm and your wrist, the very spot of that Carpal Tunnel discussed above. By easily allowing this overworked joint area to remain stabilized and straight, an ergonomic keyboard reduces pressure on the median nerve.
Ergonomic keyboards also reduce the side to side shifting of the hands caused by most standard keyboards, which can further reduce wrist strain, as well as easing the pressure put on the refined but tiny muscles and tendons in your fingers themselves.
There is an irony at play with most typing that an ergonomic keyboard helps to overcome. The irony is that the less your hands move, the less strain they suffer, unless in fact your hands, wrists, and arms are remaining largely immobile while your fingers are doing the moving, straining to reach keys. By placing more keycaps in easy reach of a still, supported hand, ergonomic keyboards rectify this dilemma.
Be prepared for an awkward period of adapting to an ergonomic keyboard, as their use initially feels highly unusual -- know that with patience, these units will come to feel not only comfortable, but natural.
Choosing The Right Ergonomic Keyboard
When choosing an ergonomic keyboard, first assess the current condition of your own body. If you already suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, tendonitis, or any other type of Receptive Stress Injury, the time to buy an ergonomic keyboard has ling since arrived, and you should consider top of the line models that can almost entirely curtail hand movement. You owe it to your future health to invest in a piece of hardware that will preclude any further damage and that will help allow your body to start healing itself.
If you are considering an ergonomic keyboard more as a preventive measure, hoping to prevent future damage and to make your day to day computer use more comfortable and potentially more efficient, you have multiple designs at your disposal, including models that look and feel almost like standard keyboards. Of key importance is making sure your wrists and hands are properly supported and not bent when you are using your keyboard.
As for other considerations, go ahead and look into ergonomic keyboards that are backlit for convenient use at night or in low light conditions, and don't be afraid to indulge yourself with a dramatically colored or patterned keyboard. Your computer and its hardware are often a veritable extension of your self, and should reflect your style and personality.