Wrist pain when typing is an increasingly common problems, as more and more jobs require work at the computer to get things done. Unfortunately, this pain is more than just an annoyance. Repetitive stress injury, the technical term for this type of pain, can lead to far more serious problems down the line. So what can you do to prevent or alleviate wrist pain while you're typing?
1. Gentle stretching
When you type, think of your fingers as tiny runners. Sometimes, your fingers need to be sprinters, hammering out a letter in a few minutes to make the postal deadline; sometimes they need to be marathoners, trudging tirelessly through a 30-page grant proposal. Just like real runners, your fingers rely on gentle stretching to maintain top performance and avoid injury. Before you begin typing each day, take a few moments to gently massage your wrists, and stretch all of the joints in your hands and fingers. Stretching joints will improve blood flow and increase lubrication, helping your fingers function easily.
2. Adjust your keyboard
Unfortunately, most modern computer keyboards force the hands into an unnatural position that actually encourages wrist pain to develop. On a normal keyboard, the hands flex outward against the wrist, and inward towards the thumbs as the elbows point away from the body. This position creates tension and strain, which can lead to pain. If you're suffering from wrist pain during typing, consider investing in an ergonomic keyboard. These keyboards are gently sloped in the middle, with keys set at an angle for optimal ergonomics. Even if you primarily use a laptop, there are keyboards which plug directly into your USB drive.
3. Take frequent breaks
It's no secret that frequent small breaks can help you work faster and more efficiently at work. But did you know it can also help your hands? At least once every hour, try to give your hands a short break – about 5 minutes – away from the task of typing. During your hand break, completely remove your hands from the keyboard and mouse. This break is an excellent time to read that new internal memo that just got dropped on your desk, catch up on some filing, or make a phone call.
4. Sit up straight
It can be tempting to think of wrist pain as a localized problem with a localized solution; however, more often than not your entire monthly column contributes to your discomfort. To help curve your pain, make sure not to slouch, and try to maintain a downward slope from your arms to the keyboard. Adjust your chair height, or invest in a chair with better ergonomics if necessary.
5. Use a wrist wrap
Sometimes adding a little extra support to your wrists can help prevent or alleviate pain. Wrist wraps and bindings come in a variety of sizes and styles, and there really is no one-size-fits-all option. Experiment with different support options until your find one that's right for you. For typing, it's usually better to steer clear of wrist supports with built-in splints. A soft bandage-style wrap is usually a more effective option.
6. Pay attention
Severe wrist pain does not happen overnight. Repetitive stress injuries happen over time, and it's likely you experienced a period of mild pain before your symptoms became severe. Unfortunately, this pain pain or discomfort is easily brushed as unimportant – but remember, if you're experiencing slight wrist pain today, the conditions are already present to create much bigger problems down the line. Listen to your body, and treat even minor cases or wrist pain with the gravity they deserve.