I'm typing with one hand in a wrist brace. I woke up yesterday morning to terrible tendinitis from my right thumb across my wrist. I guess there's the possibility that I slept on it funny, or that this is some sort of RSI from typing at work. (I switched keyboards on Monday, and am finding the new hardware tough to get adjusted to) More likely though is that this is irritation caused by the very different riding position of my new motorcycle.
I went from a BMW G650GS, which is a very upright bike, to a Kawasaki Concours 14, a bike with much more leaned-over ergonomics. The old bike was comfortable for riding hours on end with no pain, but the new bike is not. I think there are some modifications I can make -- new handlebars, or handlebar risers, a lower seat -- that will make it workable. I noticed the amount of weight that the bike puts on the wrists during the demo ride, but I figured I would get used to it, or be able to inexpensively modify the bike to be more comfortable. I hope I wasn't wrong.
Ergonomics of old bike:
Ergonomics of new bike, before modification:
Ergonomics of new bike after modifications:
Cycle ergonomics courtesy of http://cycle-ergo.com/
I wrote before about the motorcycle, and have addressed this issue with an after market "bar riser" that lifts the handlebars 2" up and 3/4" back. This really makes riding much more regal, (and less jockey) and much more comfortable.
I didn't spend a lot of time talking about the keyboard in my last post. At the beginning of last week I got a Microsoft Natural ergonomic keyboard, and started using it immediately full time for coding at work. My old keyboard was an apple aluminum keyboard, the kind with the very shallow key stroke and the chiclet keys.
Demonstration of neutral posture while typing
In theory, the ergonomic keyboard, with a neutral posture, where the wrists and tendons are in their natural typing position, would be advantageous. In actuality the differences between the new keyboard and the old were not all beneficial. Working against the posture change are:
- Dramatically increased key press effort
- Much thicker and taller keyboard
- Funky, and often non-functional key-mappings
- Small arrow keys in different arrangement than previous keyboard
The key press effort means that over the course of the day, there was a perceived significant amount of effort, and therefore stress on my hands. At first I didn't like the apple keyboards short key throw, but now, compared to the Microsoft keyboards more tactile click, I feel that the apple design is actually superior. It's sort of a matter of taste, but I feel that once you know the touch of the apple keyboard, everything else feels like more effort to press the keys -- amplified by thousands of keystrokes throughout the week.
The thickness and height of the keyboard was the real issue, as it changed the angle of my hand, through my wrist, to my forearm in a way that wasn't comfortable. A coworker cited needing a taller chair to use a similar keyboard.
The key mappings were largely a function of my setup, and probably something that could have been remedied. A minor/major annoyance.
The arrow key design on the Microsoft keyboard was odd. It was almost as if they minimized the keys so much that they were trying to encourage the typist to use another method of input. This meant that I really had to think about their usage, and it required much more physical re-alignment (out of the precious neutral) than it should have.
All in all, my hypothesis is that using an ergonomic keyboard enough to get used to one is probably beneficial. Doing this before acute pain is required, because by the time you hurt switching keyboards is probably only going to exacerbate the problem.
One other conclusion that may not be more or less obvious is that I truly believe that a fair amount of ergonomic engineering goes into keyboards like the apple keyboard that don't otherwise look ergonomic. I believe that the key travel on the apple keyboard is as intentional as the funky looking split on the Microsoft, and that both are key ingredients to good ergonomic health.
 Image courtesy of 'To Write or Not To Write' blog. http://towriteornotto.blogspot.com/2007/08/best-position-for-your-hands-while.html retrieved 10/18/2011