A Split Keyboard May Help You Avoid a Splitting Wrist AcheYou've probably seen some of the fancy computer keyboards on the market. Split keyboards are just one of the many innovative styles available today. They come in two sections that divide the keyboard in half. By angling the two sections just right, your wrists are able to stay in line with your forearms, so they don't bend outward as you type. Are these keyboards just showy office accessories, or do they really make a difference to your wrists?
In this study, 11 experienced women typists tried out four different keyboard setups. One setup was a split keyboard with the keys lined up like a regular keyboard. The three other setups used were split keyboards that had the two sections separated by different distances and angles. While the women typed, researchers recorded the position of their wrists, as well as their typing speed and accuracy.
The typists worked with the same speed and accuracy at each of the keyboards. However, they kept a much healthier wrist position when the two sections were angled compared to when they were lined up like a regular keyboard.
Lots of wrist problems can start when the wrist bends outward. This awkward strain can irritate and inflame the wrist tendons (tendonitis) and the covering around the tendons (tenosynovitis). The further the wrist bends outward, the greater the pressure inside the carpal tunnel. This can put the median nerve inside the tunnel at risk. A mere 20 degree wrist angle can pump the pressure twice as high as the amounts that can cause harm to the median nerve.
All the typists said they felt equally comfortable at all of the workstations. They experienced a little more neck discomfort at the regular keyboard than at the split keyboards, but this difference was so slight that it wasn't felt to have much practical significance.
Looks like those fancy keyboards do make a difference after all. If you don't have any wrist or carpal tunnel problems, you can use a split keyboard to ease strain on your wrist and perhaps avoid future wrist problems from using your keyboard. More research is needed to find out if the split keyboard can be arranged just right to help people who've already been dealing with severe wrist problems.
Richard W. Marklin, PhD, and Guy G. Simoneau, PT, PhD. Effect of Setup Configurations of Split Computer Keyboards on Wrist Angle. In Physical Therapy. April 2001. Vol. 81. No. 4. Pp. 1038-1048.
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