March 9, 2023
By Nitin Goyal, MD
With an increasing amount of work being performed digitally and remotely, many of us are spending a large amount of time in front of a computer or a laptop. If you're experiencing wrist pain while typing, there are important points to keep in mind in diagnosing the underlying cause, relieving the pain, and preventing further aggravation.
How can people relieve wrist pain from typing?
When initially experiencing wrist pain while typing, a wrist brace can be trialed to maintain the wrist in a more neutral and supported position while typing. Additionally, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, if medically tolerated, are often helpful for wrist pain. Patients that experience wrist pain while typing that does not self-resolve should seek evaluation by a hand specialist to evaluate for an underlying condition.
What causes wrist pain from typing?
While typing may not necessarily cause several hand and wrist conditions, it may certainly bother patients with underlying conditions including carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, or arthritis. Carpal tunnel syndrome involves compression of the median nerve at the level of the wrist and often causes burning pain in the hand. Tendinitis involves inflammation surrounding a specific tendon and can often manifest in sharp pain over the area of a tendon. Arthritis can occur within the hand or the wrist and typically presents with pain localized over a specific joint. If experiencing hand or wrist pain with typing that does not self-resolve, it is important to see a hand and wrist specialist to assess the underlying cause and recommend treatment specific to the diagnosis.
How does wrist pain from typing affect other conditions, such as wrist tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome?
A patient with wrist tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome may experience pain, numbness, or tingling while typing, in addition to other times of day or night. Positions of terminal extension and flexion, and direct pressure over the wrist can increase pressure in the carpal tunnel and bring about symptoms if proper ergonomic positioning is not maintained. Similarly, a lack of ergonomic support can place the hands in strained positions that can elicit symptoms of wrist tendinitis.
How can people prevent wrist pain from typing?
Aside from getting the proper treatment for an underlying condition by a hand and wrist specialist, it is important to employ ergonomic strategies when using a keyboard. The wrists and elbows should be maintained in a neutral position when typing. The wrists can be floated over a standard keyboard, or if support is needed, a desktop bump or pad is helpful to help keep the wrist in a neutral position. There are also ergonomic keyboards available that help maintain proper positioning of the wrists and hands. Microbreaks involving standing and stretching for 20 seconds at roughly 20-30 minute intervals can also be helpful. The best medicine is ultimately prevention, and accordingly, it is important to maintain proper posture, employ appropriate ergonomic strategies, and be mindful of our bodies in preventing hand and wrist pain.