Laptops are a double-edges sword. They are great for portable productivity, but perhaps not the best ergonomic medium for typing. And for people like me who need to type for long periods of time, they may start to experience pain in their wrist as a result of poor typing hygiene.
The main reasons why you have wrist pain from typing on a laptop is because people do not type with their wrists in a neutral position. And because the workspace in which you choose to type with your laptop affects how you type. Read on to learn more why wrists ergonomics is important and how to reduce pain in your wrists.
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Why do my wrists hurt when typing on a laptop?
When typing on a laptop, your wrists may start to hurt because of the way you are applying pressure on your wrists. You’ll end up applying unhealthy amounts of pressure to both wrists if you hold the laptop in your lap improperly while typing, and if the positions of your arms, forearms and hands are not ergonomically aligned with the laptop keyboard while typing.
You have to understand that laptops are not designed for comfortable typing, per se. Laptops are designed for portability. That’s why you’ll find many laptop lacking in quality when it comes to a comfortable typing experience. Using a laptop keyboard feels like you are trying to type directly onto a hard surface, like a desk.
So you shouldn’t be surprised that your wrists become sore after long sessions of laptop typing.
Compared to a laptop’s keyboard, typing on a mechanical keyboard is like a dream. You’ll know what I am talking about if you’ve used a mechanical keyboard before. Not only can you properly feel out each key, but also experience the pleasurable tactile feedback when typing on a mechanical keyboard.
The only laptop that I know of with a satisfying typing experience is Lenovo’s X-1 Carbon.
And you should be concerned if your wrists start to feel painful after typing. That’s because the pain can become a bigger complication, like repetitive strain injury, carpal tunnel and tendonitis.
Ergonomic Alignment of Your Wrist is Important
A major issue is the alignment of the laptop keyboard to the rest of your upper upper- specifically the upper arms, forearms, wrist and hands.
So there are several different types of arm & wrist alignments that you need to consider. First imagine that you are sitting with your laptop on a desk. Such that your bicep is aligned with your chest, and that when you are typing your elbows bend close to a right angle to reach the keyboard.
In this position, sometimes your forearms are elevated compared to the location of the elbow. Sometimes your forearms are lower than the elbow point. And sometimes the forearms are close to 90 degrees perpendicular to the elbow joint, and this one is called the neutral position.
In the neutral position, your wrists will be straight and therefore relaxed and in the best ergonomic position.
When your forearms are in other than the neutral position, you will experience wrist discomfort when typing from your laptop.
That’s because when your forearms are elevated, your wrists need to bend downward such that your fingers can reach the keys. And when your forearms are angled downward, you wrists need to bend upward to reach the keys.
This awkward bending of the wrists while typing causes significant amount of strain to the carpal tunnel that carries your median nerve and the flexor tendons that allows your fingers to move. This strain is multiplied if you type everyday on your laptop in other than the neutral position.
You should be worried because this type of wrist strain leads to carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and RSI.
Different Workplaces Causes Wrist Strain
Now that you know the importance of keeping the wrist in a neutral position while typing, consider that the alignment of your wrist depends on the workplace that you choose. Because laptops are designed to be portable, for computing on the go. You might be traveling, riding an airplane or train, or settling to work at a desk at unoptimal heights.
So the first scenario is finding a desk to use your laptop. Like I mentioned before, you want to find a desk that allows you to keep your wrist in a neutral position. If the desk is too low, you have to prop the laptop up from underneath or lower the height of the chair. If the desk is too high then perhaps you can use a seat cushion to maintain a neutral position for your wrist.
Another scenario, which ends up being the default without a desk, is to place the laptop on your lap. And you know, laptops seem to be designed for being used in our laps. But this is not the case when it comes to long typing sessions.
What you have to understand is that the wrists themselves aren’t designed to hold things, especially when you are typing.
So when you are using the laptop in your lap, you end up using your hands, palm and wrist to hold the laptop in place. Moreso when you are carry the laptop in your lap while leaning forward. This places a significant amount of strain on your wrists, which will results in wrist pain after hours of typing.
And if you do this day in and day out, for hours on end, don’t be surprised if you suddenly find yourself with pain in your carpal tunnel and tendons.
So the best way to keep your wrist straight and strain free while typing with your laptop in your lap is simply be reclining back a bit. That way, you can make the laptop sit in your lap properly without using your wrists to hold it down.
How Can I Reduce Wrist Pain From Typing on a Laptop?
If you’ve already damaged your wrists from typing improperly at your laptop, there are a few more measures that you can take to insure that you suffer less wrist pain and that the wrist pain eventually heals.
To re-iterate, you can reduce the amount of pain that you feel from your wrists by keeping your forearms in a neutral position and by not holding the laptop with your wrists while you are sitting down.
Furthermore, you can try voice typing instead so that you do not have to type as much with your hands. Although you may have to go back through the written text that you typed to change typos here and there, the amount of work required out of your hands is reduced, and thereby your wrist experiences less strain.
You can also try a set of wrist, hand, and finger stretches to reduce the amount of strain that you put on them from typing, to help reduce pain and promote their healing from repetitive strain. Here’s a good video showing you how:
Another options is to use an external keyboard and mouse that you connect to your laptop. Ideally, the mouse and keyboard should both be ergonomic to support the wrists and allow them to heal.
If you ask me, I would definitely invest in the best ergonomic mouse and the best ergonomic keyboard in order to keep my wrists healthy and to avoid the medical issues that end up costing more to fix than to prevent. That’s why I spent many hours researching what the best keyboards and mouses are for ergonomics; I linked the articles just right above if you want to check them out.
And that’s it. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below & I will try my best to find a solution for you. Also, I have written a lot of information about computing & workspace ergonomics, if you want to learn other ways to stay pain & surgery free.