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Should you rest your wrist on the keyboard while typing?

Proper hand and wrist positioning when typing is important for avoiding pain and injury. Some people rest their wrists on the keyboard or wrist rest while typing, while others keep their wrists elevated. So what is the best technique? Here is an in-depth look at the pros and cons of resting your wrists while typing.

The Pros of Resting Your Wrists

Resting your wrists on the keyboard or a wrist rest while typing can have some potential benefits:

  • It may reduce strain on your shoulders, arms, and hands by providing support
  • Your wrists remain in a neutral, straight position instead of bending up or down
  • You may be able to type for longer periods without fatigue or discomfort
  • It provides stabilization and can minimize extraneous movement

For some people, resting their wrists feels more natural and comfortable compared to hovering their hands above the keyboard. The support helps take pressure off the muscles and tendons in the hands and arms.

Using a Wrist Rest

A wrist rest or palm rest can provide cushioning and support if you choose to rest your wrists while typing. They are typically padded and raise your wrists slightly to maintain a neutral alignment with the keyboard. Wrist rests are commonly built into keyboard trays or can be purchased separately to use with desktop keyboards.

The Cons of Resting Your Wrists

However, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider with resting your wrists on the keyboard:

  • It may contribute to hunching the shoulders forward and rounding the back
  • The pressure against the underside of the wrists can reduce circulation and lead to swelling
  • Resting the wrists can make the hands and arms more stationary, which may increase tension and stiffness
  • There is conflicting research on whether it increases or decreases risk for repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome

Keeping the wrists elevated, on the other hand, allows for more neutral shoulder positioning and freer movement of the arms. The risks of pressure and constrained blood flow are also avoided when the wrists hover above the keyboard. However, holding the wrists up without support can lead to fatigue and tension in the shoulders and arms.

Ergonomic Recommendations

Ergonomics experts have varying opinions on wrist positioning during typing. Here are some of the common recommendations:

  • Keep wrists straight and neutral – avoid bending them up, down, left, or right
  • Hover wrists just slightly above the keyboard with gentle support from a wrist rest
  • Don’t press wrists down firmly into the wrist rest – allow them to glide along it naturally
  • Use a soft, cushioned wrist rest to avoid applying pressure
  • Get up and stretch regularly to increase circulation
  • Make small adjustments to wrist position periodically

The goal is to find a balanced wrist position that allows the arms, shoulders, and hands to be relaxed rather than tense. This helps prevent discomfort, fatigue, and overuse issues like carpal tunnel syndrome.

The Bottom Line

There is no definitive right or wrong answer – some typists prefer resting their wrists, while others do not. The most important factors are listening to your body, avoiding any pain or numbness, and taking regular breaks to move and stretch.

Changing hand position intermittently allows different muscle groups to rest. Whether your wrists are hovering or resting on a padded support, keep your wrists relatively straight and your shoulders relaxed. Proper posture and keyboard technique can go a long way in preventing injury.

Tips for Healthy Typing Posture

Here are some additional tips for maintaining good posture and technique while typing to prevent pain and discomfort:

  • Sit up straight, don’t slouch, and keep your elbows at about a 90-degree angle
  • Position the keyboard directly in front of your body with wrists straight and neutral
  • Adjust your chair height so your forearms and wrists are level with the keyboard
  • Use a document holder positioned at eye level to avoid neck strain
  • Keep shoulders relaxed, not hunched up near your ears
  • Avoid awkward twisting of the wrists – keep them straight
  • Make micro-movements and adjustments to wrists and arms periodically
  • Stretch fingers, hands, arms & shoulders routinely while typing

Exercises to Prevent Typing Injuries

No matter your wrist positioning, it’s important to take frequent breaks from typing to stretch and move. Here are some beneficial exercises:

Wrist Stretches

Rotate wrists clockwise and counter-clockwise, bend hands up and down gently, and spread fingers wide.

Finger and Forearm Stretches

Open and close hands into fists, press fingers against each other, and stretch one arm across your body using the other hand to gently pull the wrist.

Shoulder Rolls

Lift shoulders up toward ears, roll them backward, then down and forward in a continuous motion.

Neck Stretches

Gently tilt head from side to side, turn to look over each shoulder, and bend ear down toward each shoulder.

Making Ergonomic Adjustments

You can also make some adjustments to your workspace setup to accommodate either wrist resting or hovering:

  • Use a keyboard tray that can be positioned at the right height for you
  • Raise or lower your chair so your wrists are level with the keyboard
  • Use a padded external wrist rest that fits your keyboard and space
  • Replace keyboards with either built-in or no wrist rests
  • Angle the keyboard slightly to allow for a straighter wrist position

Optimizing the ergonomics of your typing posture is a process of experimentation. Try alternating periods of wrist resting and hovering to see what feels best for your body.

Risk Factors for Typing Injuries

Certain factors can put you at increased risk for hand, wrist, or arm pain when typing. These include:

  • Typing for prolonged periods without breaks
  • Bending wrists up, down or sideways while typing
  • Gripping the mouse tightly or pressing firmly while clicking
  • Hunching shoulders forward for long periods
  • Having wrists angled inward or outward while typing
  • Repetitive hand, finger, or thumb motions like ctrl+c/ctrl+v
  • Typing on a keyboard that is too thick or thin
  • Having wrists pressed firmly down or rested on a hard surface

Paying attention to any signs of pain, numbness, or tingling and taking proactive steps like stretches, breaks, and adjustments can help reduce the likelihood of developing an overuse injury.

Signs of Potential Typing Injuries

Be on the lookout for any of these symptoms, as they may indicate an ergonomic issue or overuse injury:

  • Dull, aching pain in wrists, hands, fingers, or forearms
  • Sharp or shooting pains, especially in thumbs and wrists
  • Soreness, tightness, or tenderness in muscles and joints
  • Numbness or tingling in hands, especially thumb and first 3 fingers
  • Weak grip strength or difficulty carrying objects
  • Clumsiness, feeling of lost coordination
  • Noticeable decrease in typing speed and accuracy

Carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, muscle strains, and repetitive motion injuries can arise after prolonged typing in a suboptimal position or environment. Addressing symptoms early can help prevent long term issues.

When to See a Doctor

See your doctor promptly if you experience:

  • Consistent or worsening pain, swelling, numbness or tingling in wrists, hands or fingers
  • Nighttime wakening due to hand pain, numbness or tingling
  • Weakness or clumsiness that causes you to drop objects
  • Reduced range of motion, difficulty moving wrists or fingers

A doctor can evaluate your symptoms, rule out underlying conditions like arthritis or nerve damage, and refer you to specialists for further diagnosis if necessary. Conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome may require imaging tests and ultimately surgery if conservative treatment fails to relieve symptoms.

Prevention Tips

Use these strategies to help prevent typing-related injuries:

  • Take 5-10 minute breaks every 30-60 minutes during prolonged typing
  • Perform stretching exercises for fingers, wrists, arms & shoulders regularly
  • Adjust your seat, keyboard, mouse, and wrist rest for better ergonomics
  • Use keyboard shortcuts like ctrl+c instead of mouse when possible
  • Avoid typing with bent wrists – keep them straight & neutral
  • Limit typing on mobile devices and use two thumbs instead of just one
  • Get a headset if you transcribe often to avoid neck strain
  • Check posture regularly and correct slouching promptly
  • Ask your doctor about splints or braces if you have persistent pain

Treatment Options

If you develop symptoms of an overuse injury, prompt treatment can help manage the condition. Options may include:

  • Rest – Take frequent breaks from typing and computer use
  • Ice or heat – Use ice packs or heating pads to help reduce pain and inflammation
  • Braces or splints – Immobilize and support the wrists to allow healing
  • OTC medication – Anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen can ease pain
  • Stretching and exercises – Gentle stretches and exercises can help restore range of motion and strength
  • Ergonomic equipment – keyboards, mouse options, wrist rests to improve typing position
  • Injections – Cortisone injections to reduce inflammation for conditions like carpal tunnel
  • Surgery – Release compressed nerves or remove inflamed tendons if nonsurgical treatment fails

Your doctor can help guide appropriate treatment to manage your symptoms and improve your condition.

Best Practices

To optimize your typing position, aim for the following general guidelines:

  • Keep your back straight, shoulders relaxed, and head level – avoid hunching
  • Position keyboard directly in front of your body
  • Aim for wrists to be straight and neutral – not bent up, down or sideways
  • Hover wrists just slightly above the keyboard or use a padded wrist rest
  • Don’t press wrists down firmly into the wrist rest or keyboard
  • Adjust your chair height so elbows are at 90 degrees
  • Take frequent stretch breaks – at least every 30-60 minutes

Experiment to find the right balance between resting and hovering your wrists while typing. Listen to signals from your body and respond quickly to any emerging pain or discomfort. Proper alignment, movement, stretching, and adjusting your setup can help avoid injury.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should your wrists touch the keyboard when typing?

There is no consensus on whether wrists should touch the keyboard or not when typing. Some experts recommend allowing gentle contact with the keyboard or wrist rest to provide support. Others advise hovering slightly above the keyboard to avoid pressure. The most important thing is to avoid bending the wrists and keep them relatively straight.

Where should your wrists be when typing on a keyboard?

Ideally, your wrists should be in a neutral, straight position when typing – not bent up, down, left, or right. They can hover just above the keyboard or rest lightly on the wrist rest or edge of the keyboard. The keyboard should be positioned so that your arms form about a 90 degree angle at the elbow.

Is it better to use a wrist rest or hover while typing?

Whether it’s better to use a wrist rest or hover while typing depends on personal preference and comfort. Some experts recommend using a soft padded wrist rest to support and maintain proper wrist alignment. But hovering can allow for more movement and may be preferable if wrist rests cause pain or numbness from pressure.

Can resting your wrists while typing cause carpal tunnel?

There are mixed opinions on whether resting your wrists while typing increases or decreases risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. Keeping your wrists straight in a neutral position is considered the most important factor, whether they are resting or hovering. Bending the wrists or exerting too much pressure are more likely to contribute to carpal tunnel or irritation of the median nerve.

How do you position your wrists while typing?

Everyone has a slightly different typing style, but some general recommendations for proper wrist positioning include:

  • Keeping wrists relatively straight and neutral – avoid bending
  • Having arms at about a 90 degree angle at the elbows
  • Letting wrists hover just slightly above the keyboard or rest very lightly on a padded wrist rest
  • Not pressing wrists down forcefully into any surface
  • Making small adjustments to wrist position periodically

The key is listening to your body and avoiding any sustained discomfort or strain on the wrists.

What is considered bad posture when typing?

Examples of poor posture that can lead to pain or injury when typing include:

  • Hunching shoulders or leaning forward
  • Tilting head down toward keyboard
  • Bending wrists up, down or sideways
  • Twisting wrists left or right
  • Extending arms too far forward or back
  • Sitting too low so wrists are angled up
  • Perching wrists on edge of a desk or hard surface
  • Typing with wrists turned inward or outward

The ideal is to sit up straight with shoulders relaxed, keep elbows close to body at a 90 degree angle, and avoid awkward wrist positions.

How do you position your hands when typing?

Proper hand positioning when typing includes:

  • Keeping hands low and close to the keyboard – avoid reaching up
  • Matching the angle of the keyboard with straight wrists
  • Curving fingers gently and pressing keys with fingertips
  • Allowing wrists to float just above the keyboard or rest lightly on a pad
  • Keeping tension low in hands and fingers – don’t clench
  • Not extending thumbs awkwardly – keep a natural C shape

Light tapping of the keys is ideal rather than pounding forcefully. Periodically change hand position to avoid fatigue.