Are Mechanical Keyboards Better For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

It doesn’t take long for a poorly designed keyboard to wreak havoc on your wrists.

Each and every year, hundreds of thousands of people in the US alone report being diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). 

Particularly painful and difficult to cure without a lot of rest – which means avoiding typing altogether – the worst part of this condition is that it is (almost) wholly avoidable.

You see, much like a well designed mouse the right keyboard – designed to protect you from carpal tunnel syndrome – is a game changer.

Crafted with ergonomics in mind, these keyboards support smart typing, better biomechanics when sitting at your desk, and alleviate a lot of the stress that causes CTS in the first place.

Sure, there are lots of companies advertising ergonomically focused keyboards that are supposed to support your health. But many of them either do a poor job or aren’t much different than a standard keyboard at all.

Mechanical keyboards, however, can offer you a better typing experience AND protect you from carpal tunnel.

Photo by Jay Zhang on Unsplash

Are mechanical keyboards better for carpal tunnel syndrome?

Unless you are working from a tablet or phone 100% of the time, the odds are pretty good you’re going to be using a physical keyboard with your computer or laptop throughout the day.

And while physical keyboards come in a million different styles, shapes, colors and from all kinds of difference manufacturers, there are really only two types of keyboards to pick from:  

  • Your standard, soft button keyboards that are pretty much the run of the mill options on PCs and laptops;
  • Better built, designed, and precision engineered mechanical keyboards that actually type and feel a lot better

 Don’t get us wrong, there’s a lot to like when it comes to standard membrane keyboards.

Cheap, well made, and easy to use, they are the gold standard for “stock” keyboards on most devices for a reason. They get the job done and most people don’t have a problem using them sparingly.

Like working in front of a screen with the wrong brightness setting, the problems start to pop up when you use them over and over, all day long, for hours on end – every working day of the year.

That’s when you’re going to start to see some real problems, particularly when it comes to carpal tunnel syndrome and the like. These keyboards just aren’t designed for that kind of marathon typing.

Mechanical keyboards, on the other hand, are flat out built differently.

Using independent physical switches underneath each key, these keyboards are more responsive, smoother in use, and a lot more accurate. 

Universally regarded as a joy to type on, these keyboards often come in an ergonomic style that supports healthy wrist action while typing, too.

That’s going to help you fight back against carpal tunnel for sure.

Photo by Jay Zhang on Unsplash

Breaking down the benefits of mechanical keyboards

Below we’re going to dig into the nuts and bolts of what makes mechanical keyboards so special.

Yes, these keyboards are (usually) more expensive than standard keyboards. Sometimes by quite a bit, too.

But there are plenty of people out there that swear by them and would flat out refuse to type on anything else – especially if they were concerned about developing carpal tunnel later down the line.

Let’s jump right in.

Mechanical keyboards are ergonomically designed to reduce stress on your wrist

Right out of the gate, the overwhelming majority of mechanical keyboards are built from the ground up with ergonomics in mind.

Some of the best mechanical keyboards aren’t shaped like your standard rectangular keyboards, but instead have a bit of a curve to them. 

This lets you more efficiently type away with both hands (and all your fingers), making touch typing a lot easier – but also reducing the amount of wrist travel you have to work with.

Wrist travel and pivoting is what’s going to contribute most to carpal tunnel. Every time you have to shift your hands in a new position (or kick things to an odd angle) you’ll end up dealing with micro stress issues that build to carpal tunnel symptoms.

Sometimes this discomfort becomes so great that folks make a transition to using foot operated mice and keyboards. 

With a more ergonomic shape, mechanical keyboards help you avoid that right away.

Mechanical keyboards have smoother travel on keys

Another big piece of the puzzle behind the success of mechanical keyboards is the smoother key travel.

All mechanical keyboards are built on an individual switching pattern. These physical switches are responsible for triggering a single button or key, unlike soft button keyboards that are more of a mesh.

This independent setup lets you enjoy smoother key travel. Every keystroke feels buttery smooth, every button feels responsive, and you’re no longer worrying about hammering each key home to get it to respond the way you might have otherwise.

All of this results in a more pleasant experience when typing. The improved efficiency puts less wear and tear on your body (specifically your hands and wrist), too. That all helps in the fight against carpal tunnel syndrome.

Mechanical keyboards (usually) have large wrist pads for better support

Something else you’ll find attached to mechanical keyboards is a broader, wider, and more comfortable wrist pad.

This wrist pad runs along the bottom edge of your keyboard, giving your palms more support where you need it most. 

Some people will find it takes a little bit of time to get used to typing with an oversized pad at the bottom of the keyboard, but the entire reason it’s there is to protect you from stress injuries including carpal tunnel and repetitive strain injuries.

Best of all, most of these pads are adjustable, adaptable, and can even be swapped out or removed completely. You’ll be in total control of the way your new mechanical keyboard operates and feels when you pick an option with this included.

On the flip side of things, though, this is a reason to try out as many mechanical keyboards as possible when you are shopping for one. You’ll want to know the one you pick is right for you – not too big, not too slim, but just right.

That can be tough to pull off shopping exclusively online since it’s such a “feel” kind of thing. But most reviews will mention how an included wrist pad feels and that can help you big time.

Final thoughts

All in all, there’s a lot to fall in love with when it comes to mechanical keyboards – especially if you’re looking to avoid or minimise the impact of carpal tunnel syndrome.

These keyboards are well made, well engineered, and have a touch type feel that you’ll swear is better than any other type of keyboard you’ve ever used.

Of course, you’ll still need to be sure that you get your hands on a mechanical keyboard that prioritizes ergonomics. 

Consider something with a bit of a gentle curve, something that has a good ramp to elevate the keys, and something that has a generous wrist pad to protect you.

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