arthritic hands

What is the best keyboard for arthritic hands?

Using a computer keyboard can place a lot of strain on your wrist and forearms, so this is magnified if you’re suffering from arthritis

Seniors use computers more often now, but arthritis can affect people of all ages, especially rheumatoid arthritis.

And that includes people who still work full-time jobs.

So that means that people aged 8 – 80 might want to use a computer keyboard but without the pain caused by the inflamed joints in their hands and arms.

Let’s see what options are available to you.

But first – ergonomics

Make sure you’re using best practices when it comes to computer ergonomics, such as sitting upright in your chair, using a wrist rest with your keyboard and mouse, your hands should be relatively flat to the surface of your keyboard, you’re not hammering the keys with your fingers, and making sure your desk height and monitor alignment are correct.

There’s little point in finding the best keyboard for arthritic hands if you’re ignoring the basics of computer ergonomics.

So do a quick check of your ergonomics before investing in new computer or assisted living equipment.

A health assessment

Be honest about the severity of your arthritis – there’s a huge difference between mild discomfort after using a keyboard for a few hours and the inability to type properly because of crippling pain in your finger and wrist joints.

You would be wise to never self-diagnose when it comes to a condition like arthritis. For example, people with either erythematosus or scleroderma often have issues with their joints that look and feel exactly like rheumatoid arthritis.

That’s why it’s always a good idea to get a professional medical opinion on your arthritis, or lack thereof before you start investing in a new keyboard or other lifestyle support gadgets.

Keyboards for arthritic hands

Let’s look at what keyboard options there are for arthritis sufferers who don’t want to give up work or maybe even their gaming time.

Wired vs. Wireless

Why would the connectivity of the device matter when it comes to arthritis? Because physical cables sometimes limit where you can put your keyboard – you’re “tied” to your computer.

A wireless keyboard, on the other hand, allows you to move your keyboard around to whatever position works best for your hands and wrists.

It would seem that a wireless keyboard makes more sense for an arthritis sufferer but the type of connectivity selected comes down to personal preference.

Membrane vs. Mechanical

This is one of the rare scenarios where you’ll find an article saying that membrane keyboards are actually better than mechanical ones.

But that’s also the truth.

Membrane keyboards – by nature of their design – provide less physical feedback when used for typing or other forms of data entry. This normally annoys people because there’s a lack of tactile “click” feedback from the keyboard.

The energy from that type of tactile feedback for arthritis sufferers goes straight back into their joints, causing pain.

Does that mean mechanical keyboards are bad for arthritis?

Mechanical keyboards can still be used by people with arthritis once they swap over to linear switches (ideally Cherry linear switches) from either tactile or clicky switches.

The reasoning behind this is that linear switches have a far smoother action, so you get to keep your favorite mechanical keyboard, but use a different set of switches.

Keyboards with wrist rests

Source: Logitech

Keyboards with a built-in wrist rest are another idea. This provides your hands and wrists with far more support.

And don’t worry, most of these wrist rests are attached magnetically, so they can be removed for cleaning or if somebody else wants to use the

My current SteelSeries keyboard came with a built-in wrist rest and I genuinely can’t imagine using the computer without it. It’s made my long hours at the computer far more bearable.

You can also buy a wrist rest separately but you have to kind of hope they’ll match up with your keyboard, and you won’t know if they do until you actually open the package and test it out.

Keyboards with a built-in wrist rest don’t have that problem.

Ergonomic keyboards for arthritis

When the first commercial typewriters became available all the way back in 1874, ergonomics was not a thing i.e. nobody knew or cared if using a typewriter could lead to long-term injury.

How times have changed, right?

Because these days you can choose from a huge range of keyboards designed with human ergonomics in mind.

Typing on normal keyboards involves holding your arms and forearms at “unnatural” angles. For somebody without arthritis, this can feel awkward, but for somebody suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, for example, this can cause them extreme pain.

Ergonomic keyboards deal with this issue by helping you position your wrists and forearms in a more natural and far more relaxed position. And this then helps with the pains of arthritis by limiting the amount of movement required when typing.

Some of the more advanced ergonomic keyboards also offer a split-keyboard design, which again allows your wrists and forearms to sit at a more natural angle of around 15 degrees for your elbows and 22 degrees for your wrists.

The most popular (and highly rated) ergonomic keyboard I could find online is from Microsoft – the Microsoft Sculpt.  This does make sense because Microsoft launched the first ergonomic computer keyboard in 1994.

Ergonomic keyboard accessories

Let’s imagine that you can’t find an ergonomic keyboard you like using, you’re still left looking for a way to make your typing experience less painful.

One potential solution for you is an adjustable keyboard tray that allows you to adjust the height and the tilt angle of your keyboard so you can find a position that works best for your particular situation.

These can be an ideal solution for somebody with a limited range of motion in the upper body due to arthritis they also rotate through 180-degrees left and right.

So you can customize your keyboard position, height, and tilt angle to suit you instead of you having to accommodate where the keyboard is physically placed.

Using a keyboard tray such as this one is usually a lot easier with a wireless keyboard, which is why I mentioned them at the very start of this article.

Voice recognition/dictation

The topic of this article really got me thinking about what is the best keyboard for people with arthritis if you expand the question to its cater for people who are dealing with

And the answer is: No keyboard

The reality is that a person with chronic arthritis will struggle with almost any keyboard, regardless of type, layout, or position.

So what do you use instead?

You can use speech recognition software, text-to-speech software, or even a voice dictation service. Any of those options allows you to type by simply talking. Google Docs includes this functionality free of charge, or you can pay for software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking, or use a paid transcription service like Rev.

But what if you want to do more than just type?

That’s no problem because Dragon Naturally Speaking can be trained to perform actions such as opening a new file, closing a window, activating menus, printing documents, or even moving your mouse.

It is incredibly versatile and entirely affordable.

Even if you don’t want to rely on speech recognition or text-to-speech transcription on a day-to-day basis, you could always just use those options on the days when your knuckles, fingers, and wrists are causing you more pain than usual.

Summing it up

I hope this article has shown you that there are lots of ways to approach the issues of finding the best keyboard for arthritic fingers.

And the ultimate irony is that the best possible solution might be not to use a keyboard at all.

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