Wrist Rests: Issues and Products 


Reprinted from The RSI Network - Issue 31 - September'98

Scott Wright, MS-HF&E
Editor, The RSI Network

Ergonomic theory instructs computer users to type with their hands floating over the keyboard, like trained, disciplined typists. However, many of us were never trained to do so and have developed lazy habits that allow our wrists to sag to the table surface while typing. This forces the wrists to bend upward in hyperextension, which strains the forearm muscles and exerts pressure on the nerve and tendons that run through the wrist. Over time, this can cause swelling, discomfort, and injury. A second issue concerning resting one’s wrists on the table is that its hard surface and sharp edge press against the bottom of the wrists and can compress the soft tissues of the hand, adversely affecting the nerves and blood vessels.

Stationary Wrist Rests

A wrist rest typically is a raised strip of cushioning that fits in front of a keyboard or pointing device (mouse, trackball, etc.). Wrist rests come in varying shapes, padding materials and types of covers, which will determine how comfortable they are to use and their effectiveness. Wrist rests should be well padded, with no sharp edges, and provide a soft support that conforms to the wrist and palm heel. The height of the wrist rest should be at about the same level as the computer keyboard's front edge or spacebar (this is typically 3/4 to 1 inch for modern, low-profile keyboards). Keyboard wrist rests usually are around 20 inches in length, and some are as wide as 28-30 inches to cover the pointing device as well.

The primary purposes of a wrist rest are to keep our wrists in a straight (not flexed or extended) posture at the keyboard, provide a softer surface to rest on, and help support the weight of our arms. Wrist rests should be used as a guide to keep our wrists straight and provide a soft place to rest between periods of typing. Avoid pressing into or leaning on the wrist rest, pinning the wrist into the wrist rest while typing, and depending on your wrist and fingers to do gymnastic feats reaching all the keys. Your whole arm, starting at the shoulder, should be used to reach for keys far from the home row.

Moving Wrist Gliders and Supports

There are also several different products for the wrist and arm that rest on the table and move with the arm during mouse use. These products provide continuous support while pointing (sometimes keying) and can help in relieving shoulder discomfort. However, you should not lean or put excessive force on them. These mobile palm supports can be a better choice, as they move with you instead of being something to drag your arm across, or over, while using a mouse or a trackball. Below is a sampling of products of this type:

aergonomic's Wrist Rest ($6.00/pair)
Applied Ergonomic Research, (800) 640-1786, http://www.aergonomics.com
aergonomic Wrist Rest arm supports are mobile, air-cushioned pads that support your arms, allowing you to relax while you key. These are small, puck-shaped supports that glide with you during keyboard and mouse use.

Comfort Point ($24.95 ea.)
AliMed, (800) 225-2610, http://www.alimed.com
Comfort Point lets you control a mouse or trackball with your fingers and arm, not your wrist. An ergonomically contoured, ultrasoft paddle supports both wrist and palm, and can be adjusted at negative, positive, and neutral angles to cradle and support your wrist. Glides smoothly with mouse for continuous support. Mac and PC mouse and trackball compatible.

Ergowrist ($9.95 ea.)
Ergolink Ltd., (800) 990-9319, http://www.ergowrist.com
Ergowrist is movable to allow arm-control of the mouse. Its autopositioning includes a flexible, spring-loaded tether that connects to the mouse, allowing the Ergowrist to park behind the mouse when you remove your hand. The tether is sensitive to allow finger control.

Ergowrist Palm ($19.95 ea.)
Ergolink Ltd., (800) 990-9319, http://www.ergowrist.com
Ergowrist Palm is a movable hand pad that supports the weight of your palm on an adjustable, elevated platform to allow your hand to relax in its natural, arched posture, without interfering with arm or finger control of the mouse. (May not work well with highly contoured mice.)

Launch Pad ($49.95 Std., $69.95 Pro.)
ErgoSpace Corporation, (206) 739-8880, http://www.ergospace.com
The Launch Pad uses a stationary, saddle-like, contoured palm cushion that is suspended over the front edge of its mouse pad. The black "SureTrak" mouse pad has a special surface that promotes accurate tracking and can actually clean debris off of mice tracking balls.

Mouse Nest ($23.95 ea.)
AliMed, (800) 225-2610, http://www.alimed.com
The Mouse Nest glides with the mouse, completely supporting the hand in a natural, neutral position. Its contoured surface helps the hand "grip" the Mouse Nest for easy maneuverability, eliminating excess finger gripping and wrist tension.

Palm Glider ($49.95 Std., $69.95 Pro.)
ErgoSpace Corporation, (206) 739-8880, http://www.ergospace.com
The Palm Glider uses the same foam saddle as the Launch Pad, but moves with the mouse to allow both arm and finger movement. It looks a little like a mouse chariot, as the mouse is attached to the Palm Glider by strips of velcro.

PowerPaw ($24.95 ea.)
MedExcel, Inc., (800) 335-PAWS (7297), http://www.powerpaw.com
The PowerPaw protects the soft-tissue areas of the wrist and forearm and may help to reduce the pressures associated with such repetitive strain injuries as carpal tunnel syndrome. Based on advanced gel and polymer technology, the PowerPaw provides flexible, mobile support, while the rounded contours adapt to any user position. The PowerPaw’s gliding base allows effortless and continuous freedom of motion.

Wrist-mice ($29.95 pair)
AliMed, (800) 225-2610, http://www.alimed.com
A pair of Wrist-mice support each wrist in angled, padded cradles, letting your wrists slide along the table from keyboard to mouse in an easy, unrestricted gliding motion.

Wearable Forearm Supports

The following two products attach to your forearm(s) to provide support that stays with you at the keyboard, pointing device, and/or calculator. Note: If your keyboard is at the front edge of the table or support surface, these devices have no surface to rest on.

The WristThotic ($7.50 ea.)
WristThotic, 1-888-565-9101, http://www.wristthotic.com
The WristThotic is an inflatable ergonomic product made of light-weight vinyl with a comfortable, nonallergenic cloth backing. It attaches with velcro straps to the forearm, near the wrist, and is designed to elevate and support the wrist on a cushioning air bed approximately one inch above the desk surface.

MOPAD ($35.00 ea.)
AliMed, (800) 225-2610, http://www.alimed.com
Mopad is a contoured, foam cushion that supports, elevates, and protects the area from wrist to elbow. It is covered with a slippery fabric that glides across the work surface, and attaches to your wrist with an elastic strap, so it moves with you.l

Related Website Resources

Typing Injury FAQ - Wrist Rests (more descriptions and photos of products)

Pros and Cons of Various "Ergonomic" Office Equipment
http://www.ur-net.com/office-ergo/pros&.htm#Wrist Rests

IBM Healthy Computing - Palm Rests

AliMed - Wrist Rests: Why Important

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Last Updated: 01/11/02