We’ve all been there: sitting in a cramped cubicle at work, cramping your fingers to type away on the keyboard. The ache in your wrists and fingers is already starting to develop, but you still have another hour before it’s time for lunch. You dig around for a bottle of water, only to discover that you have one more assignment left – and without any access to your drinking fountain. Before long, you’re drinking from an old coke can that has been collecting dust on the windowsill just outside of the break room door.
You may have heard that drinking from cans or bottles can be bad for your health, but you’re lucky if you ever hear anything about the dangers of typing on a keyboard all day, too. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent this problem – and not just by taking breaks.
What Are Some Health Problems From Using Your Keyboard?
There are a few health problems that can be caused or worsened by your keyboard. They’re usually only a problem if you cannot take breaks and use the tools available to keep your wrists ergonomically healthy. Here are a few of the most common:
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: If you have ever played a gig or been on tour, you will have heard about this one. The most common symptom in musicians and regular users is a burning sensation in the wrist, sometimes traveling up the arm. It’s basically when your right wrist gets tired from constantly holding down those keys, causing it to cramp up and start getting painful. The solution is to use ergonomic techniques and take frequent rests.
Tendonitis: If you have ever played any sport or done work with your hands, you have probably heard of this one as well. It’s basically what happens when you overuse your hands to the point where they ache and hurt all the time. This can be very painful, so make sure to take breaks. Some ways of fighting this are ergonomic techniques, wearing gloves to keep germs off your hands, using pen grips for writing instruments, dry-needling, or acupuncture.
Repetitive Strain Injury: If you’ve ever had an injury like this before, you know how annoying it can be. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing the guitar, typing on the keyboard, or even using a sewing machine – RSI is caused by overuse. This can cause pain and coyness behind your neck; it’s usually excruciating to type (and will only worsen over time), but there are ways to fight it, like using ergonomic tools and taking frequent rest periods.
The Problem With Keyboards
There are several ways in which your keyboard can negatively impact your health. Like many repetitive actions like jamming an air-guitar or using a sewing machine, the constant movement of the fingers on the keyboard can cause severe pain and injury if gone unchecked for any length of time. From carpal tunnel syndrome to tendonitis, there are plenty of ways that you can mess up your hands.
The solution is simple: take breaks. It may seem like a hassle at first, but it starts to feel more natural after a while. The easiest thing to do is leave your desk for a few minutes every hour or so – this gives your hands time to rest and makes the transition back much easier on you. Stretching, moving your wrists around, and other similar techniques should be used as well.
The first thing you can do is replace your keyboard with one that is more ergonomic. There are plenty of adjustable keyboards available, many of which have wrist rests and special switches to ease the aches and pains from typing. There are also permanent solutions that are just as easy to slip into everyday life or enforced by employers or other officials.
Alternatively, you can invest in a separate set of ergonomic tools for your hands. There are now keyboards made from silicon, gaining popularity as an alternative to traditional plastic models. The problem with these rubber keyboards is that they’re a little harder to clean – but it’s a small price to pay if it means you don’t have to deal with pain or injury long term.
Tips for a Healthy Life
The best way to prevent work-related injuries is to take breaks and use the ergonomic tools available. There are also a few other things you can do to keep your hands in tip-top shape:
Try stretching every few hours – just as you would before a workout. It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s very effective, and it’s worth remembering that everything from typing to playing the guitar can cause the muscles in your arms and hands to tighten up. This is especially important if you’re an avid keyboard user. Keep yourself hydrated – drinking plenty of water plus other liquids like sports drinks, and Gatorade will make your muscles much better able to function. Not only will this help prevent dehydration, but it’ll also keep your hands from cramping up.
If you work with your hands, keep them away from the bottom of the keyboard – that’s where all the nasties are. Electronic devices are notorious for soaking through keyboards with smelly liquids – and nasty smells can be very distracting. If you can’t avoid touching the keyboard itself, make sure to use a healthy barrier between typing surface and your fingers. One popular product is silicone-based gloves – they’re highly durable and easy to clean, and comfortable to wear.
No matter what your job or lifestyle is, there are solutions to prevent repetitive stress injuries. Just make sure to use them! There are plenty of ways you can keep yourself healthy and injury-free from your keyboard – from using specialized tools to taking frequent breaks.