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View Full Version : Ergonomic Keyboards: Do They Work?



Luggy
July 19th, 2006, 01:38 AM
Since I spend most of my time working on keyboards at work, school and home it obvious to see why my wrist has suddenly started to hurt.

I got myself a wrist brace for it and I'm probably going to go to the doctor to get it checked out but another thought that crossed my mind is getting an ergonomic keyboard. I'm sure that anyone in a position to sell me one of these keyboards will tell me that "yes they do work" but some how I'm skeptical.:???:

I figure I'm probably not the first person to suffer from 'coder's wrist', so I was wondering if anyone can tell me if ergonomic keyboards will actually help. I'll also gladly accept any other hints people might give me.

Thanks bunches!

Stew2
July 19th, 2006, 01:53 AM
Yes they do help. They keep your wrists and hands in a more natural postition. They do take a little getting used to though because you are so used to holding your hands in an unnatural position! :) Posture while sitting at your desk is important as well. I'm not a coder but I type lots! :)

Regards,
Stew2

aysiu
July 19th, 2006, 01:55 AM
An ergonomic keyboard works, but it's not the only thing.

Make sure you're seated in such a way that you aren't reaching up for the keyboard. Ideally, your elbow should be roughly even with (but slightly above) where your wrists are.

Also, taking a break and stretching every ten minutes or so will make a big difference.

vertigo
July 19th, 2006, 02:11 AM
I use to have problems with my wrists, changing to an ergonomic keyboard and trackball instead of a mouse certainly helps, but as Stew2 and aysiu said the way that your sat at your desk also has a lot to do with it.

If you can change these things then you are sure to notice a difference although it may take a bit of time.

It is also a good idea to see your doctor in case there is something else wrong.

K.Mandla
July 19th, 2006, 03:15 AM
I can't speak to their effectiveness, but I know I find them terribly annoying. I occasionally have to use one at work, and I feel like I'm typing on a basketball.

That being said, typing on a basketball is better than RSI. :)

fuscia
July 19th, 2006, 03:43 AM
your wrists are weak. do deadlifts with no wraps and go as heavily as you can.

briancurtin
July 19th, 2006, 03:55 AM
^ that is the best recommendation probably ever

chickengirl
July 19th, 2006, 04:07 AM
I have an RSI in my right wrist. If I use my ergonomic keyboard, it only acts up once in a while. If I use a regular keyboard for any length of time, it's almost guaranteed to act up.

henriquemaia
July 19th, 2006, 05:14 AM
There are severall things that can help more than the keyboard itself.

Follow aysiu's advice.
Also, install Workrave (http://www.workrave.org/) (it's in the repositories) and comply with the micro-breaks and rest breaks you set. If you have a bad RSI, set to have a lot of micro-breaks and make them longer. Do the same with rest breakes.I used to have a little RSI and I was never bothered again since I started to use Workrave (as a side note, Mark himself suggests the use of Workrave on the second episode of go-open).

Luggy
July 19th, 2006, 05:51 AM
Thanks for the advice guys.

I took some of your advice and rearranged my desk a bit so that my arms can lie on the top, before I just had my arms hanging off, supported by my wrists on the keyboard. Luckily my desk at work is much more confortable then my desk here.

I'm also going to give workrave a shot and see if that helps. However I think I'm going to hold off on the ergonomic keyboard for just a bit, I'd rather not spend the extra cash on the keyboard if I don't have to.

Skia_42
July 19th, 2006, 06:21 AM
Learn the classical guitar and your fingers, wrists, hands and arms will be able to handle anything.

henriquemaia
July 19th, 2006, 06:48 AM
Learn the classical guitar and your fingers, wrists, hands and arms will be able to handle anything.

Or you'll get a big tendinitis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tendinitis). That's not straightfoward as that. I know severall musicians that had tendinitis.

Bezmotivnik
July 19th, 2006, 07:16 AM
They are very awkward to get used to -- but once you do, I think you'll have less problems.

I just replaced my old ergonomic with a new Microsoft one that Amazon.Com had for $12 after rebate. Incredibly, all the special keys work in Linux. I have it shared via KVM with the main office XP box.

Unfortunately, I do most of my work on the notebook, which is decidedly unergonomic. :(

Skia_42
July 19th, 2006, 07:31 AM
Or you'll get a big tendinitis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tendinitis). That's not straightfoward as that. I know severall musicians that had tendinitis.

Yeah, I know some people who have Tendinitis. You need to be pretty dedicated to your guitar practicing to get porblems like tendinitis though...

Bezmotivnik
July 19th, 2006, 07:38 AM
You need to be pretty dedicated to your guitar practicing to get porblems like tendinitis though...
It's mainly a matter of age...and/or bad technique.

Luggy
July 19th, 2006, 02:45 PM
They are very awkward to get used to -- but once you do, I think you'll have less problems.

I just replaced my old ergonomic with a new Microsoft one that Amazon.Com had for $12 after rebate. Incredibly, all the special keys work in Linux. I have it shared via KVM with the main office XP box.

Unfortunately, I do most of my work on the notebook, which is decidedly unergonomic. :(

From what little snooping I did at ergonomic keyboards I noticed that almost all the ergnomic keyboards were made my Microsoft. Does anyone know of any other companies that make decent ergnomic keyboards?

djsroknrol
July 19th, 2006, 02:53 PM
I have an original MS ergonomic keyboard that has served me well..I think it does make a difference. On a slightly different note, I'm a "southpaw", and when I switched the mouse to the other side of the keyboard a while back, it made a bigger difference for me.

Brunellus
July 19th, 2006, 03:26 PM
I hate most 'ergonomic' keyboards for a number of reasons:

1) The obvious reason: key placement. I learned to type on regular, 101-key, full-sized QWERTY keyboards. My fingers are pretty much used to it. On a 'bent' keyboard, the letters aren't really much of a problem, but typing numbers can be a pain for me. Also , in the interests of "ergonomics," they tend to change the layout of the other keys: arrow keys, for instance, become a cross of smaller keys rather than an inverted T of standard-sized keys.

2) Key touch. Maybe I've just been exposed to cheap "ergo" keyboards, but the key touch on them is usually horrid. The irregularly-shaped keys (space, control, alt) are usually sticky. In fact, in any such layout, the underlying switches are really no different from a non-ergo keyboard...only the keytop is bigger. If you don't strike the key in the center, it's significantly harder/clunkier to press.

3) ergonomics. Huh? I don't like where the ergo keyboads put my elbows, wrists, and fingers.

I think a great deal of bad keyboarding RSI is due to bad technique on the keys. I play the piano (even if poorly), and note that I type faster and with less fatigue if I type the way I know how to play the piano (fingers curled, and so forth).

G Morgan
July 19th, 2006, 04:03 PM
your wrists are weak. do deadlifts with no wraps and go as heavily as you can.

Not sure about that, if people who don't train often go heavy without protection they can hurt themselves and end up wishing they had RSI. A proper weight training schedule will leave you with no RSI troubles granted but the first 6 months for an unpracticed trainer will make RSI seem like paradise anyway.

Not only this but if they use bad technique for deadlifts (arched backs and such) then they can get a curvature of the spine which wouldn't be pretty or comfortable.

So yeah over a long period weight training can leave you wondering what this RSI stuff is all about but you should do a complete program (full body basics twice a week would be more than enough) and if you use bad technique you can do a lot of damage and the pains from successful work will be worse than RSI for 2 months and it won't be 'comfortable' for at least 6 months. After that no RSI's ever.

Engnome
July 19th, 2006, 04:39 PM
My MS natural ergonomic keyboard arrived today :D very nice! Feels a little weird giving my money to them but they do make some quality hardware. Still havent gotten used to it but i really needed it. It isn't the most important aspect when considering how ergonomic your workspace is but if you already have a good working position it won't hurt :)

Also the special keys work, I can even assign them to different things them to different stuff than they are made for:D No driver needed either. But strangely the buttons that are made to be programmable aren't :confused: :mad:

monkieie
July 19th, 2006, 04:45 PM
It's mainly a matter of age...and/or bad technique.

I disagree - We've had a "MS Natural Pro" at home for the best part of two years now and I would never part with it again. I have never suffered from any kind of problems due to keyboard usage but simply the feel of thing when typing is - once you have of course gotten use to it - much much more comfortable than the bog-standard one. Besides which, I can type a lot quicker with the natural than with the older type. :p

Brunellus
July 19th, 2006, 04:48 PM
if you want good keyboard feel, get an IBM Model M, or equivalent.

Bezmotivnik
July 20th, 2006, 06:09 PM
> It's mainly a matter of age...and/or bad technique.

I disagree - We've had a "MS Natural Pro" at home for the best part of two years now...

I was referring to tendinitis from guitar playing, in response to the post immediately before mine.

In this case, I know what I'm talking about, unfortunately.:(

monkieie
July 20th, 2006, 06:39 PM
I was referring to tendinitis from guitar playing, in response to the post immediately before mine.

In this case, I know what I'm talking about, unfortunately.:(

oh right, sorry :-k

is it something that you can get rid of then, tendinitis?

Bezmotivnik
July 21st, 2006, 04:42 AM
is it something that you can get rid of then, tendinitis?
Time.

Lots and lots of time.

At this stage in my life, by the time I even notice a problem, it will take me 12-36 months of complete layoff from the activity to be rid of it. It's really an age-related thing, but tendon pain stays around nearly forever even for young people. When I was in my mid-twenties, I got pain from my achilles tendons from running. It was about ten years before I was fully free of it. :(

I had some really nasty RSIs from about six daily hours of computer use and heavy writing years ago, and it was probably three years or so before it went away after drastically cutting back on time spent at the keyboard and improving the ergonomics involved.

Cortisone may help, may not.

Good luck to anyone with these problems! The rest should be very careful not to develop them. [-X

fuscia
July 21st, 2006, 08:58 AM
Not sure about that, if people who don't train often go heavy without protection they can hurt themselves and end up wishing they had RSI.


i didn't say "go heavy", i said "go as heavily as you can". when one begins doing deadlifts, the grip is weak. if one uses wraps, the grip will remain weak.


A proper weight training schedule will leave you with no RSI troubles granted but the first 6 months for an unpracticed trainer will make RSI seem like paradise anyway.

6 months? what are you talking about?

asimon
July 21st, 2006, 11:44 AM
I had some wrist problems 8 or 9 years ago. Since then I always used ergonomic "natural" keyboards. So far I never had any wrist problems again. So for me they work great. Getting used to the new layout goes really fast, after a few days I was as fast with the new keyboard as before.

And as aysiu said, a good typing posistion is very important. A good keyboard won't help if you are sitting bad and have to align the wrists in a straining way. For example it's important to not use the keyboard elevators (sorry, I dunno the right word for them) at the back underside of the keyboard. Most keyboard can be elevated at the back to that they are low at the front and higher on the back. That's very very very bad for your joints. The right thing is to have the keyboard in a position such that the front is high and the back is lower, so that your wrists are in a more natural position. An example for a keyboard which can be set higher at the front instead of the back is the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 which I use currently (my good acient Natural Pro broke last year). So far I am very happy with the keyboard.

Engnome
July 21st, 2006, 11:47 AM
I had some wrist problems 8 or 9 years ago. Since then I always used ergonomic "natural" keyboards. So far I never had any wrist problems again. So for me they work great. Getting used to the new layout goes really fast, after a few days I was as fast with the new keyboard as before.

And as aysiu said, a good typing posistion is very important. A good keyboard won't help if you are sitting bad and have to align the wrists in a straining way. For example it's important to not use the keyboard elevators (sorry, I dunno the right word for them) at the back underside of the keyboard. Most keyboard can be elevated at the back to that they are low at the front and higher on the back. That's very very very bad for your joints. The right thing is to have the keyboard in a position such that the front is high and the back is lower, so that your wrists are in a more natural position. An example for a keyboard which can be set higher at the front instead of the back is the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 which I use currently (my good acient Natural Pro broke last year). So far I am very happy with the keyboard.

Same one I Got! Sure felt weird with split key and higher on the front but now I'm used to it.

BTW are your keys very stiff? After using my laptop keyboard these keys feels like they need very much power to push down, annoying!

asimon
July 21st, 2006, 01:51 PM
BTW are your keys very stiff?
I hammer them so hard, they have no time to be stiff. ;-)

Well, they are not very stiff but not very soft either. I think the are just right, somewhere in the middle. But this is a personal perference. Of course there are keyboards which are more soft, but I was never a big fan of keyboards with very soft keys. Someone above mentioned the old IBM keyboards. Well those ancient keybords had a great feel (IMO), the MS keyboard is surely much softer then those.



After using my laptop keyboard these keys feels like they need very much power to push down, annoying!
It's a shame that they don't offer the keyboard in various "stiffness" versions so that everyone could choose his favourite. More variety in 'natural' keyboards woudln't hurt either, there not many on the market to choose from.

monkieie
July 21st, 2006, 04:55 PM
It's a shame that they don't offer the keyboard in various "stiffness" versions so that everyone could choose his favourite. More variety in 'natural' keyboards woudln't hurt either, there not many on the market to choose from.

It's probably due to lack of demand - most people that I know are put off by them and their "funny" layout. Besides which, with every budget PC nowadays you get a cheap keyboard thrown in and the majority of people would never dream of spending cash on a good alternative

der_joachim
July 21st, 2006, 06:19 PM
A few things were mentioned earlier. But I miss one good answer to RSI: doing some real sports at least a few times a week. This will greatly improve your posture and help prevent or even alleviate any RSI-induced pains.

Another low-budget tip: remove the back and arm support of your chair. Your lower back will have to work a bit harder, and you will adjust your posture once in a while. Worked wonders for a colleague of mine. My sister even has a big inflatable ball instead of a chair. They are quite comfortable too. :)

I never got used to 'ergonomic' keyboards. They feel unnatural to me.

G Morgan
July 21st, 2006, 07:32 PM
i didn't say "go heavy", i said "go as heavily as you can". when one begins doing deadlifts, the grip is weak. if one uses wraps, the grip will remain weak.

In every training regime I've ever used 'go heavy' means go as heavy as you can. Actually thats wrong, as heavy as you can implies a one rep max. Going heavy I usually think 6-8 rep sets as appropriate. Also I find the wraps don't take anything like 100% of the stress off the wrists usually only about 20%. Then again I try not to use them as total support only as a safety aid.


6 months? what are you talking about?

6 months is the period I usually find between people starting training and the point where the muscles are hardened for the work required and recovery periods have decreased sufficiently. If you aren't feeling some sort pain in the first 6 months you've either got an inordinate tendancy for fast twitch muscle fibre growth or you aren't working hard enough. Obviously it varies from person to person. After 6 months the obvious pains disappear and you get a warm sort of feeling rather than outright pain. How much of this is de-sensitisation and how much is actually due to maturity is another thing but the constrast is quite something.

benplaut
July 21st, 2006, 07:41 PM
if you want good keyboard feel, get an IBM Model M, or equivalent.
true, but the posture afforded bye a model m isn"t great.

what i do? every so often i will type backwards (hands crossed)... as well as workrave.

Luggy
July 21st, 2006, 08:12 PM
Thanks for the additional tips guys. I wasn't expecting this thread to continue on like this.

I do have one more question. My problems are in my wrists, not my back or shoulders. How much of an effect is proper posture going to have on my wrists?

fuscia
July 21st, 2006, 08:20 PM
In every training regime I've ever used 'go heavy' means go as heavy as you can. Actually thats wrong, as heavy as you can implies a one rep max.

yup. the development of 'absolute' strength has the widest application. in the case of the current topic, the stronger one is, the less an activity uses of that strength. that can mean anything from more endurance, more power to less wear. so, the stronger one's wrists, the less wear typing will cause.



Also I find the wraps don't take anything like 100% of the stress off the wrists usually only about 20%. Then again I try not to use them as total support only as a safety aid.

my idea of safety is to drop the damn thing. the last thing i want when i'm in trouble, is to have the weight wrapped to my wrist.

G Morgan
July 21st, 2006, 09:12 PM
yup. the development of 'absolute' strength has the widest application. in the case of the current topic, the stronger one is, the less an activity uses of that strength. that can mean anything from more endurance, more power to less wear. so, the stronger one's wrists, the less wear typing will cause.

Debatable that, there isn't really any consensus on the best training methodology mostly because until recently doctors/biologists have responded to the subject with 'la, la, la, not listening'. My first instinct would have been that volume might be more useful in terms of endurance for the tendons, then again I've never seen anyone train with the express goal of avoiding RSI so I have no figures to go on (not that RSI impact can be meassured easily).




my idea of safety is to drop the damn thing. the last thing i want when i'm in trouble, is to have the weight wrapped to my wrist.

Granted but I find the wraps unwind quickly enough when you give a 200K barbell a free drop. It's only your hands on the bar that keeps the wraps taught, at least the way I use them.