Behind the buttons: Ergonomics and keyboards

21 November 2022
Anita Bons

You will come across it on almost every desk: the keyboard. Next to the mouse, it is the most frequently used tool in screen work. Our typing behaviour also causes many RSI complaints. But how exactly do these complaints arise? And what ergonomic alternatives are there to the ‘normal’ keyboard?

Ergonomics and typing

Over the past 50 years, there has been increasing evidence and recognition that prolonged typing is related to RSI complaints. After all, in screen work, we spend almost a third of the day sitting with our fingers poised over the keyboard. Typing puts dynamic, repetitive strain on your small muscles and tendons (in the hand and wrists), and static strain on your large muscles (shoulders and neck). 

Normal keyboards

Incorrect typing posture is mainly due to the shape of your keyboard. For example, a normal keyboard has 4 major drawbacks:

  1. Twisted forearms:

    Because the forearms are continuously twisted while typing (with the palms facing down), the forearm muscles can become overstretched.

  2. Twisted wrists:

    Due to the kink in the wrists while typing (hands turned towards the middle in front of your body), the tendons in the wrists can become strained.

  3. Raised hands:

    Most standard keyboards are quite high. This creates an unnatural angle while typing. Lifting the hands causes continuous strain on the tendons running through the wrists.

  4. Large reaching distance to the mouse:

    When using a right-handed mouse, a normal keyboard requires you to reach to the side. This can lead to strain in the shoulder and wrist.

Ergonomic alternatives

If you have RSI complaints, or want to prevent them, it is smart to switch to an ergonomic keyboard. Various scientific studies have shown that a suitable ergonomic keyboard subconsciously helps you type in a healthy, natural way. Complaints are thus easily prevented and/or reduced. 

How does it work? Ergonomic keyboards are designed based on these 3 principles:

  1. Natural posture:

    The design of the keyboard ensures that the hands and wrists are in a natural, relaxed position while typing.

  2. Minimum reaching distance:

    The keys can be operated with slightly flexed fingers, with minimal reaching distance.

  3. Minimal muscle strain:

    Operating the keyboard requires minimal muscle strain in the tendons of the hand and muscles in the forearm.

To achieve this, ergonomic keyboards often have a rather different shape from the standard keyboards we are used to. For instance, there are compact, split and even vertical keyboards.

What is the best ergonomic keyboard?

Curious about the ergonomic variants? In our new white paper, we have listed the pros and cons of the most common forms of ergonomic keyboards for you. Download it below and see for yourself which variant could be the best option for you (or your client)! 

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