I’ve been on an adventure as of late. More of an obsession, if I’m being honest. You see, I have this little problem with getting old as hell–whoops, I mean–I have this little problem with ergonomics.
A couple months back I noted that my right hand and wrist were sore pretty much all the time. I know its due to repetitive stress injuries from sitting at a computer all day for both my work and my hobby. Always typing, always using the mouse, etc. It’s taxing in a way I never thought I’d have to deal with. I mean, my dad was a carpenter after all, and I did my share of hard labor jobs when I was younger. I came up to understand that if you’ve been cut or hurt, you wrap some duct tape around and just keep going. So to say, ow, my hand hurts from typing all day? No way.
Well, it does hurt, so I’ve had to tell my inner critic to eff off.
Truth told, I started experiencing wrist and hand pain quite some time ago. I’ve been using an ergonomic keyboard (the Microsoft Natural Ergo 4000) since I lived in Chicago, which was what, thirteen years ago? But that keyboard just wasn’t cutting it anymore. The pain went away for awhile, for years in fact, but it has come back hard.
This post is to tell you a little bit about my journey into deeper ergonomics, but more specifically to give you the benefit of my experiences if you’re in the market for anything ergonomic at your desk.
It all started with noting my right elbow was hovering in space. I’d be using the mouse like we all do, and then I’d reach over to start typing and find that my right elbow came off the armrest and was just hovering. It put a lot of strain on the muscles in that area, in particular the forearm. So I thought I should look into a split keyboard, which would allow me to leave my elbow on the armrest while typing. I’m a touch typer, so this would be no problem for me. If you’re a hunter/pecker or if you just have a lot of bad typing habits, this may be difficult for you, though I’d still recommend it.
As an aside, I one took a prototype engineering class in college–Justin Gilbert, holler if you hear me (he was in the class, too)–where one of the other prototyping teams created a split keyboard. I made fun of it in secret, and in class questioned its product worthiness by stating no one would ever need such a thing.
Well, here I am, and I hope the guy in my class that was so passionate about that split keyboard has followed his vision, because I’m eating a plate of crow about now.
The other massive benefit for a split keyboard would be that it has a split spacebar, of course. Not a huge deal until you consider that you can reprogram one of them (for me, the left) to be a backspace key instead of a space key. This means that I don’t have to use my overworked pinky finger to backspace anymore. And really, isn’t it kind of crazy to think we use the hell out of our weak little pinky finger, but one of our big strong thumbs does pretty much nothing all day? Well, not anymore… at least for me.
Once I started researching split keyboards I started noticing the price difference between the keyboards I’ve been using (approx. $40) and the split ones (approx. $200). I was like, why? Because… drumroll please… mechanical switches.
If you don’t already know:
So now I had a new area of ergonomics to think about. How much pressure should it take to press down a key? How much of my wrist and forearm pain can be attributed to crappy key switches underneath the key caps on my crappy keyboard? I had to know, and the only way is to actually feel it, so I went ahead and ordered a split keyboard with mechanical switches.
I’ll fast forward through some stuff here, so as not to bore you to death. But just note – I went through six different keyboards and spent waaaay more money than I should have over the last several weeks, but learned a whole hell of a lot about keyboards, keys, switches, and everything else. What I settled on was this masterpiece:
It’s bananas. The way the keys feel, the wrist rests, the tenting angles, the fact that I can use my left spacebar as a backspace. All gold. Never mind that I can put my coffee BETWEEN the keyboards, people. Booyeah!
So, my arm started feeling a whole heck of a lot better, as well as my shoulders and neck. However, as this journey continued I started noticing other issues. It was easy to mask a little bad habit I did everyday when I was already full of so many bad habits. But now that I was erasing the major issues, minor issues were coming to light. Number one was that reaching for my mouse caused instant pain now. Not as bad as the major pain, but still.
My first move was to put the mouse between my keyboards (along with my coffee), allowing me to simply put my hand on it instead of reaching out for it. Huge difference. But still, there was some pain… so I started researching mice.
Four mice later, this is what I have:
The available buttons and how you can program them is just crazy. The scroll wheel… good lord, it’s just amazing. You just can’t know how awesome it is until you try it. I can perform a myriad of things with simple clicks of the mouse. Saves a ton of movement and pain.
In an effort to keep this post from being a mile long, and in an effort not to sit here gushing about keyboards and mice all day, I’ll just say this – if you’re having ergonomics issues, definitely consider the choices I’ve listed here. I’ve been through a bunch of options, and I can say you just can’t go wrong with these. It may be a little expensive in the end, but if you plan on working in an office until you retire, it’ll be money well spent. In my case, these things have been a dream come true.
Dig my setup:
It’s a little wiry, I’ll admit, but the benefit outweighs the cost.
Also, don’t hate on my Plackers.