Many people invest in gel-filled wrist rests to ease the strain of typing on their keyboards. But is it a good idea?
From an ergonomics perspective, opinions are mixed. Evidence shows that gel wrist rests can help alleviate tension in the neck and shoulders and provide a comfortable alternative to a hard desk edge. But if contact between the wrists and the rests is too frequent or too heavy, the pads can cause excessive pressure on wrist tendons.
Eric Hyer, occupational health coordinator at Tidelands Health, says the rests can be beneficial if used properly.
“If the employee uses only light pressure onto the thicker pads of the hand and they are able to maintain a relaxed, neutral wrist position – and the employee feels the item would be helpful – then I support them,” Hyer says. “If the wrist rest eliminates the employee placing the wrist on a hard desk or keyboard edge while typing, I support the idea as well.”
However, Hyer says, if the rest creates an awkward wrist angle or someone experiences pain from putting too much pressure on the soft part of the wrist, people should remove the rest and retrain their hands to float while typing.
“Unfortunately, if someone has not practiced typing with hands floating, it can be exhausting and often leads to neck and shoulder fatigue in the beginning,” he says. “It may get better with time and practice.
“As with everything in ergonomics, reducing repeated muscle strain, excessive pressure and awkward positioning is the key.”
The aim when typing should be to keep your wrists in a neutral position, rather than bent up or down, and to move your hands and wrists freely. Gel rests should touch the heel or palm of your hand, not your wrist.
“Gel rests, if used, should be incorporated into the overall design of your workstation,” Hyer says. “If you have questions about how you’re using them or if they’re good for you, the best approach is to seek out advice from an ergonomics expert.
“If you don’t have an expert on staff at your job, talk to your supervisor or human resources department about a consultation or contact your physician.”