Joint Adventure: Do Keyboards Cause Arthritis?

Typing on a keyboard is part of daily life for most people in their jobs.

It’s difficult to not be in contact with a keyboard if you use one both for work and personal reasons.

Known as a disease that attacks the tissues of our joints, arthritis occurs when the cartilage or the smooth covering at the tip of the bones has worn away resulting in, at times, unbearable pain.

This ailment leaves people with recurring pain and, in some cases, requires them to undergo physical therapy or even surgery. So, do keyboards cause arthritis, or is that just an urban myth?

Arthritis and Extended Keyboard Use

Studies have shown that keyboards are a common cause of pain in the hands, wrists, back, neck and shoulders for many computer users.

While keyboards have been known to be a potential source of these issues for years, recent studies have found that keyboards can actually be directly responsible for arthritis.

While it is not clear exactly how keyboards cause arthritis, the general consensus is that it has to do with the repetitive motions required to use them.

These repetitive actions cause wear and tear on the cartilage in your joints after years of prolonged use. This then causes inflammation in your fingers, knuckles, wrist and even your forearm over time because the bones in your fingers are quite literally rubbing off each other.

So what starts as an uncomfortable stiffness at the end of a working day can become a long-term health problem for you – one that has no cure.

Will using a computer keyboard guarantee that you get arthritis later in life?

Absolutely not – there are a number of other factors that come into play here such as lifestyle habits, your genetic makeup, and your overall health.

But generally speaking, typing millions of words in a single lifetime will put more stress on your fingers and joints than would occur naturally.

Preventing arthritis

Prevention is always better than cure, and the same is true of arthritis.

Solutions can be as simple as adjusting the height and position of your desk and chair as well as selecting the right type of keyboard for you. Or even just a higher quality keyboard than you use at the moment.

A combination of correct posture and typing position can work wonders to reduce the amount of stress typing puts on your body.

Using an ergonomic keyboard and a wrist rest for your keyboard can also be very helpful in reducing the impact and stress on your body.

Another potential solution is to use a keyboard with a very soft action and is actually designed for typists. Mechanical keyboards are typically vastly superior to their membrane cousins in this regard, plus you can change the types of switches in them until you find an action and noise level that you like.

These steps alone can relieve unnecessary strain on both your wrists and hands.

But they can’t prevent arthritis when using a computer keyboard.

Voice dictation software

Voice dictation software allows you to speak into a microphone and have your spoken words converted into written text. This type of software can be used for a variety of purposes, including transcription, note taking, and creating documents.

So it offers a viable alternative to data entry via a keyboard.

There are a number of different voice dictation software programs available on the market, and each has its own unique features and benefits.

The most popular programs include Dragon Naturally Speaking, Google Docs Voice Typing, and Microsoft Voice Recognition.

When choosing a voice dictation software program, it is important to consider your needs and preferences.

Some programs are better suited for transcription work, while others are better for note taking or document creation.

Dragon Naturally Speaking – although expensive – is a great all-round solution.

Google Docs Voice Typing is the better of the free options.

Compact keyboards

If you find stretching your fingers from one side of your keyboard to the other is literally painful, then it’s time to switch to a much smaller and compact keyboard such as a tenkeyless model.

There are lots of other compact keyboards available on the market right now, so try dropping into a local computer store to check a few out.

Take breaks

One of the most important things you can do to help alleviate the effects of chronic arthritis is to take frequent 20-second breaks.

Keep in mind that resting your hands, albeit for a quick stretch, allows them to go through the full range of motion and help lubricate the joints.

Not only will these short breathers prevent aggravating the onset of arthritis, but will ultimately make you more efficient and productive.

Wrapping things up

Keyboards can directly contribute to the development of arthritis in a person that uses a computer for data input on a daily basis.

But there are ways to mitigate that problem, including voice dictation, ergonomic keyboards, wrist rests and simply taking breaks.

A combination of the above can add extra miles to your typing fingers.

Just bear in mind that once the cartilage in your joints has been eroded it’s gone for good.

Unless you can afford stem cell therapy but even if you can it’s an extremely expensive way to pay for bad typing habits that are easily avoidable.

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