Keyboard tilt is a major ergonomic factor that strongly influences the comfort and health of the wrists. Keyboard tilt can generally be categorized as positive, neutral, and even negative tilts. In this article, I will be explaining the pros and cons of each, and how ergonomic they are for typing. In terms of ergonomics, the different types of keyboard tilts have a bit of nuance that needs to be explained, but generally speaking the tilt of the keyboard that allows you to keep your wrist in a neutral angle or in a straight line in respect to the forearm is the best one.
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Positive Keyboard Tilt
Positive tilt keyboard tilt is usually achieved by flipping up the feet of a keyboard. But the question is, should you flip up your keyboard feet or not?
Well, you first have to understand that the main function of keyboard feet is to enhance the visibility of the key for a non-touch typist, because swinging the feet up on a keyboard helps you see the letters more easily. But if you are a touch typist, then there really isn’t a reason for you to use a keyboard in a positive tilt.
In fact, using a positive keyboard tilt can lead to wrist soreness and problems like RSI, tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. That’s because the tendons, carpal tunnel and median nerve traveling through it in the wrist are stressed when you bend the wrist. It’s worse if you keep your wrist in a bent position. And even worse if you try to type while keeping your wrist in such a bent position.
The best way to type ergonomically is by keeping your wrist in a neutral angle so that you don’t strain your wrists. So that means you should avoid using a positive keyboard tilt and you should avoid flipping up the feet of the keyboard.
The only way to use positive keyboard tilt in an ergonomic fashion is to recline back into the chair that you are sitting in. That way, your forearms naturally form a straight line while raised up. Such that if you flip up the keyboard feet, you are still keeping your wrists in a straight line with your forearms.
Neutral Keyboard Tilt
The standard keyboard tilt that is most common among typists is the neutral keyboard tilt, or in other words simply keeping the keyboard flat on the table. You can keep your keyboard in a neutral tilt simply by keeping the feet tucked in.
A neutral tilt is one of the better ergonomic options for keeping your wrists comfortable & strain free. A neutral tilt yields a wrist that is close to a neutral angle, which allows the tendons, the carpal tunnel and its median nerve to travel in a straight path from the forearms through the wrists. A wrist that is straight is the best position to type in with the least amount of strain, allowing the median nerve to glide easily in the carpal tunnel and the tendons to have a full range of motion.
Of course I’m saying this because I am assuming that you have already figured out the correct ergonomic sitting posture, such that if you use a neutral keyboard tilt it yields a neutral wrist angle for comfortable typing. If not, you may need to read up a bit more on postural ergonomics for computing.
But to lay it out for you, you should either be sitting up straight or be slightly reclining while sitting for a neutral keyboard tilt to benefit you the most.
Another matter to consider is that some keyboards are designed to have a positive tilt to them. If the positive tilt is to a small degree, than its most likely not a problem, unless you feel strain in your wrists while you are typing.
If the positive tilt is quite aggressive, then you can neutralize the tilt by raising the keyboard from the front. This can be achieved with a separate keyboard feet-stand, some cardboard or the like, or an adjustable keyboard tray.
Negative Keyboard Tilt
Finally, a mild negative tilt is perhaps the most ergonomic option for typing.
The reason why a slight negative tilt is the best ergonomic option because it accounts for the total shape of the hand. Normally when you using a keyboard flat, the wrist may have a slight upward bent to it. That’s because your fingers need room to press on the keyboard keys. And that slight upward bend on the wrist still puts unwanted pressure on the tendons & carpal tunnel.
Having a mild upward bend in the wrist normally isn’t a problems if you type infrequently and for short duration. But if you are a typist by trade, or if you find yourself in situations where you type for long periods of time frequently, you will find that after a while your wrists have become painfully sore.
That’s why many people will find that a mild negative tilt relieves their wrist pain & discomfort, and feels more natural on the wrists.
You can achieve a negative keyboard tilt by raising the keyboard from the front with a separate keyboard feet-stand or a keyboard tray. In general, I believe a keyboard tray that slides under your table is the best option, given that raising your keyboard from on top of the table may cause an awkward position for forearms to be in, depending on the height of the table & your sitting posture.
Should I Tilt My Keyboard While Gaming?
So another important question is if you should tilt your keyboard while you play video games. This trend has gained some traction after people have seen pro gamers tilt their keyboard to one side during competitive play.
Now, when I say tilt in this context, I mean turning the keyboard sideways while it still being flat on the table.
And the reason why professional gamers slant their keyboard to one side is because in LAN parties, there tends to be very little room to keep full a full sized keyboard and mouse on the table. And so slanting the keyboard helps to provide additional room for the proper usage of the mouse. But this comes at the expense of ergonomic comfort, if you ask me.
Therefore, I highly suggest that you avoid slanting the keyboard during the gaming, especially if you find that your wrist feels strained out during the gaming session. Doing this frequently may strain the tendons in the hand & fingers, leading to RSI pain in the long run.
I’ve played video games before, and I know from experience that I find the most comfort when the keyboard is facing straight forward instead of slanted to one side. So to circumvent the issue of a lack of space, you can bring along during LAN events a compact 75% mechanical keyboard that sacrifices the number pad, or even 60% mech if you don’t need the extra function keys. Compact keyboards take up a lot less space than a full-sized mechanical keyboard, and will give you sufficient room for you to use your mouse.
Additionally, a compact keyboard is more comfortable because it allows you to keep both of your hand closer together in alignment to the shoulders, whereas a full length keyboard will force you to push your mouse hand off to one side, which usually leads to shoulder pain in the long run.
And if you have any unanswered questions or remarks, please feel free to share them in the comments below. You can also read my articles on the best ergonomic mouse and the best ergonomic keyboard in order to prevent health issues from manifesting due to extended computer use. Thanks!
One thought to “The Best Keyboard Tilt for Reducing Wrist Pain to Zero”
The original MS ergonomic keyboard had a flip down lift that provided negative tilt. I found it very comfortable. I bought one years later once one of the modifier keys (alt/ctrl/shift) started giving me guff and the new one had a flip down designed to provide positive tilt which I disliked.
One other thing not mentioned here is arm lengths – I have short arms but broad shoulders, that means on most standard (even 104 layout) keyboards, home row puts a nasty kink in my wrists (pinch on the outside on both sides). An ergo keyboard can really help that.
As to gaming, nowadays you can get separate number pads of varying sorts that can support up to 32 or more programmable keys with one hand (I think half of them use a modifier switch as they seem to have 12-16 keys) and those can be set to individual keys used in games or macros. (I can’t think of any games where I use more than 24-26 keys and mostly I’d say 10-12 is about right plus mouse and button)