Skip to Content

Is wrist rest good for you?

A wrist rest is a pad that sits under the wrist while typing or using a computer mouse. Wrist rests come in different shapes and materials, but their purpose is to provide support and comfort for the wrists during prolonged computer use. But are wrist rests actually good for you? There are arguments on both sides of this issue. Some claim wrist rests prevent injury and pain, while others argue they can do more harm than good. This article will examine the pros and cons of wrist rests and whether current evidence suggests they are beneficial for computer users.

What is a wrist rest?

A wrist rest is exactly what its name implies – a rest for your wrists while typing or using a computer mouse. Wrist rests sit on the desk surface below the hands and extend a few inches horizontally to provide a soft, cushioned area for the wrist to rest on. Wrist rests can be made from various materials including foam, gel, memory foam or plastic.

There are two main types of wrist rests:

Keyboard wrist rests – These run horizontally below the space bar to support both wrists while typing. They are designed to be the same width as a standard keyboard.

Mouse wrist rests – These are padded mousepads that provide a soft surface for the wrist and heel of the hand to rest on during mouse use. They are a more narrow rectangular shape.

Some keyboard trays have built-in wrist rests for ergonomic support. There are also some mouse pads and keyboard trays that have gel or memory foam wrist rests for extra cushioning.

The intended purpose of a wrist rest is to raise the wrists slightly so they remain straight and do not bend down or up while typing or mousing. Keeping the wrists in a neutral position reduces strain on the tendons and nerves running through the carpal tunnel of the wrist.

Do wrist rests prevent injury?

The rationale behind using a wrist rest is that raising the wrists while typing is thought to prevent:

Carpal tunnel syndrome – Compression of the median nerve running through the carpal tunnel space in the wrist.

Tendonitis – Inflammation of the flexor tendons on the palm side of the wrist.

Nerve irritation – Impingement of nerves in the wrist due to prolonged flexion.

Muscle strain – Of the extensor muscles in the forearms which raise the wrists and fingers.

By keeping the wrists straight and supported, wrist rests aim to alleviate the issues above caused by prolonged wrist extension or flexion. Some research studies have found wrist rests can help in this regard:

– A 2001 study found wrist rests improved comfort and reduced wrist extension when mouse tasks were carried out for over 10 minutes.

– A 2003 study had participants use different computer mice with and without wrist supports. Using a wrist rest was found to reduce wrist extension and discomfort.

– A 2015 study found that wrist supports helped reduce muscle activity and wrist extension when using a computer.

Therefore, there is some evidence regular use of a wrist rest may place less stress on the wrists and prevent issues caused by prolonged awkward wrist postures while typing or mousing.

Do wrist rests cause problems?

Despite the potential benefits, many ergonomists and healthcare professionals argue wrist rests can actually do more harm than good in some situations. Some of the potential issues caused by wrist rests include:

Pressure points – The edge of a wrist rest pressing into the sensitive nerves around the wrist/hand can compress nerves.

Restriction of movement – Fixed wrist rests force the hands to remain in one position, preventing changing posture.

False sense of security – Wrist rests do not fully prevent awkward postures that cause injury.

Tension – Gripping wrist rests while typing creates tension in hand muscles.

Reduced circulation – Excess pressure of the wrists on rests can impede circulation.

Contact stress – Direct pressure against hard surfaces increases contact stress in the wrist.

Because of these issues, many health professionals argue properly designed workstations that allow changing hand and wrist positions are better than fixed wrist rests at preventing injury.

Potential risks and disadvantages

Here is a more in-depth look at some of the main drawbacks and risks associated with using wrist rests:

Nerve compression

The wrist contains a number of important nerves and blood vessels running through a small space. Resting the wrists against a hard edge can press and irritate these nerves over time, leading to soreness or numbness in the wrists and hands. Softer gel-filled wrist rests are less likely to cause this nerve compression.

Restricted movement

Wrist rests may force computer users to hold their wrists still in an unsupported, suspended position for prolonged periods. This static posture can increase tension in the wrist over time. Allowing the wrists to move and change positions while typing is healthy.


Relying on wrist rests to support the wrists during computer work may cause computer users to become dependent on them. This means they are unable to type comfortably without a wrist rest. It is healthier for wrists if users can type freely without needing external support.

False security

Wrist rests only support the underside of the wrists. They do nothing to prevent poor posture in the fingers, hands, elbows and shoulders which also contribute to injury from prolonged computer use. Using wrist rests may provide a false sense of protection against problems like RSI.

Raised shoulders

To make room for an attached keyboard wrist rest, some users raise their arm and shoulder position. Elevated shoulders can lead to stiffness in the neck, shoulders and upper back. It is better to keep the shoulders relaxed while typing.

Reduced circulation

Resting the wrists firmly against a surface for prolonged periods can potentially impede blood circulation through compression of the blood vessels running through the wrist area. This is especially true with thicker, plusher wrist rests.

Increased muscle tension

Gripping onto a fixed wrist rest requires sustained low-level muscle tension in the hands and forearms. This can cause fatigue in these muscle groups with extended computer use. Frequently relaxing the hands can offset this.

So while wrist rests provide support for the wrists, there are also valid concerns about their use contributing to additional problems in some keyboard users if used improperly.

When should you use a wrist rest?

Here are some best practices on when and how to use a wrist rest to maximize benefits and minimize risks:

– Use a wrist rest for additional support during long typing or mousing tasks over 30 minutes where some wrist support is helpful. Avoid overuse for short tasks under 10 minutes.

– Choose a well-padded, contour shaped wrist rest with a soft, rounded front edge to minimize contact stress. Thick memory foam or gel designs are best.

– Position keyboard wrist rests so the front edge aligns with the space bar, not the keys. This prevents reaching that strains wrists.

– Allow the wrists to rest very lightly on the surface. Avoid gripping the rests tightly or putting full pressure on them.

– Frequently move hands from the wrist rest to change position. Avoid continuous contact for over 30 minutes.

– Stop using the wrist rest if it causes any tingling, numbness or soreness in the wrists or hands.

– Set keyboard height correctly so wrists remain straight while typing. Do not rely solely on wrist rests to achieve a neutral wrist position.

– Perform regular wrist and finger stretches. Wrist rests do not negate the need for good stretching and posture.

– Use wrist rests alongside other ergonomic practices for computer use like taking breaks and varying tasks.

In summary, wrist rests should complement good workplace ergonomics and posture rather than act as a substitute for it. They provide supplemental support but have limitations on their own for injury prevention.

Alternative ergonomic products

Rather than rely on basic wrist rests, some alternative ergonomic products can provide dynamic support for the wrists, hands and fingers:

Split keyboards – Split keyboard designs can be tented or angled to position wrists naturally without a rest.

Forearm supports – These support the forearm rather than just the wrist for a more natural typing angle.

Vertical mice – Grip mice in a vertical neutral handshake position. Reduce ulnar deviation.

Finger rests – Special rests for fingers between keys relax grip and reduce tension.

Hand cushions – Cushions support both palms and improve circulation.

Wrist braces – Offer adjustable support and limit wrist movement. Can treat existing injuries.

Alternative keyboards – Ergonomic keyboards like the Kinesis or ErgoDox place hands and wrists in natural relaxed postures.

These products provide ergonomic support through improved design rather than relying on fixed wrist rests. They may suit some computer users better than standard wrist rests.

General typing posture tips

Here are some overall tips for maintaining good hand, wrist and arm posture while typing without a wrist rest:

– Keep your elbows by your side, not extended out. Pull keyboard nearer if required.

– Align keyboard directly in front of your body with the B key under your chin. Don’t reach to one side.

– Ensure your shoulders are relaxed. Don’t hunch or raise them up.

– Position the back of your hand parallel to the floor rather than angled up or down.

– Keep your wrists straight as you type rather than bending them up/down or side-to-side.

– Type with a soft touch on the keys instead of overexerting pressure.

– Adjust your office chair height so your feet are flat on the floor and knees equal to hips.

– Avoid holding tension in your neck, shoulders or hands. Stay relaxed.

– Change hand position frequently rather than keeping a fixed typing posture.

– Do light stretches for your fingers, hands, arms and shoulders throughout the day.

With good posture and proper typing technique, wrist rests are not always necessary to prevent aches and pains. But they can provide helpful additional support when used properly.

Ergonomic guidelines for wrist rest use

Here are some key general guidelines from ergonomists for effective use of wrist rests while typing:

– Wrist rests should only be used for periods of 10 minutes or greater during keyboarding or mousing tasks. Avoid prolonged use when not needed.

– Lightly rest the wrists so they do not bottom out. Allow the hands to float just above the wrist rest.

– Ensure keyboard and mouse height is suitable before using wrist rests. Set the height so wrists are straight.

– Position keyboard wrist rests centered inline with the alphanumeric keyboard with the front edge near the space bar.

– Use a low profile keyboard wrist rest no thicker than 0.75 – 1 inch to minimize wrist extension.

– Choose wrist rests with a soft, rounded front edge and smooth surface to prevent pressure points.

– Avoid using excessively cushioned wrist rests which can compress nerves and blood vessels.

– Allow the wrists to move and change position periodically. Avoid static postures for long periods.

– Stop using the wrist rest if it causes discomfort or aggravates symptoms of an existing wrist injury.

Proper positioning and correct use is key. When used intermittently as an aid for longer tasks, wrist rests can provide ergonomic benefits without major risks. But relying on them constantly as the only ergonomic intervention is not a good strategy.

Choosing the best wrist rest

Here are some tips for selecting an ergonomic wrist rest if you do opt to use one:

– Keyboard vs mouse wrist rest

Consider your needs. Most benefit comes from using wrist rests while typing. A keyboard wrist rest is usually the better choice. If mousing bothers your wrist, look for an ergonomic mouse alternative or additional mousing surface.

– Size

Match the wrist rest width to your keyboard or mousepad. Keyboard rests should run from around F12 to Enter key. Get a full mouse pad sized for your space rather than just a narrow strip.

– Height

Aim for around 0.75 inch height so wrists float just above the surface. Thicker rests over 1.5 inches tall force wrists up and can cause strain.

– Slope

A gentle downward slope away from the user is ideal to keep wrists straight. Avoid any upward tilt which strains wrists over time.

– Cushioning

Medium density memory foam or gel provides optimal cushioning without being too soft. Ensure it molds to your wrists without excessive sinking.

– Surface

Smooth Lycra or Spandex covers prevent skin irritation. Rounded edges eliminate pressure points on nerves.

– Mobility

Non-skid pads on the bottom allow you to move the rest into the perfect position. Some keyboard trays have adjustable wrist rests.

– Value

You can find good quality ergonomic wrist rests for under $20-30. Pricier models over $40-50 don’t necessarily provide greater benefits.

Take the time to evaluate different wrist rests in person when possible. Type on a display model for several minutes to assess comfort. Don’t compromise on size or cushioning for your needs.

Hand exercises for computer users

To complement wrist rest use, doing regular hand and wrist stretches can prevent injury and reduce muscle tension from prolonged typing. Here are 5 simple exercises to incorporate into your daily routine:

1. Wrist flexions

Extend your arm out straight in front of you with palm down. Gently bend your wrist down and hold 5 seconds. Then bend it up and hold 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Do 2 sets per wrist.

2. Wrist circles

Hold your arm straight out with palm down. Slowly trace circles with your wrist, rotating it clockwise 10 times then counter-clockwise 10 times. Repeat with other wrist.

3. Finger stretches

Open your hand wide with fingers spread apart. Hold for 5 seconds. Then make a fist and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat this open/close sequence 10 times.

4. Finger curls

Start with hands extended, palms down. Curl fingers underneath into a fist one at a time from pinky to index finger. Then reverse back to open hand from index to pinky.

5. Thumb stretch

Clasp your hand around your thumb and gently pull it back towards the wrist. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds then switch hands. Repeat 2-3 times per hand.

Aim to do these stretches for 1-2 minutes every 30-60 minutes when typing for long periods. This boosts circulation and prevents muscle cramping.

Frequently asked questions

Here are answers to some common questions about wrist rests:

Are wrist rests bad for your wrists?

Wrist rests are not inherently bad if used properly and intermittently. Problems may arise from improper positioning, overuse, inadequate cushioning or using very thick/high designs. Proper use minimizes any negative impact.

Should your wrists touch the wrist rest while typing?

Lightly resting your wrists is fine during longer typing sessions but avoid putting full pressure or resting completely. Allow some space and movement rather than constant contact.

Do wrist rests cause carpal tunnel?

Good quality wrist rests may actually help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. Poorly designed or used incorrectly, they potentially aggravate it. Ensure appropriate size, cushioning, placement and intermittent use.

Are gel wrist rests better?

Gel or memory foam wrist rests conform better to the wrists and distribute pressure more evenly than solid foam. But foam can also work if firm enough to support the wrist neutral without excessive squish.

Should you use a wrist rest for gaming?

Wrist rests can help support the wrists during long gaming sessions involving a keyboard and mouse. Take short breaks every 30 mins and ensure proper positioning that keeps wrists straight.

Are thick wrist rests bad?

Excessively thick wrist rests over 1.5 inches high can force the wrists into an unnaturally raised position and cause strain. Ideal height is around 0.75 inches for most users.


While ongoing research continues, current evidence and guidelines suggest wrist rests provide a modest benefit for reducing wrist strain if used properly for appropriate tasks. For periods of prolonged typing or mousing, wrist rests can supplement good posture and work habits to minimize injury risk. However, they also have disadvantages if used constantly or as a band-aid fix for poor ergonomics. Light, intermittent use of well-designed wrist rests combined with better overall workstation setup is the ideal approach for most computer users.