Repetitive tasks, such as typing, can often lead to wrist pain. With many of us working from home in less-than-optimal ergonomic workstations, wrist pain can be another significant stressor. Posture affects our whole body.
Preventing Wrist Pain at Home
Contrary to popular belief, there is no "perfect posture." A better saying is, "the next posture is the best posture." We should be mindful of our positioning and shift when needed. Some postures put more stress on the body than others, such as a forward head, rounded shoulders and slumped spine.
Our wrists' positioning affects our comfort when working and our speed and efficiency (Qin, 2013). Researchers compared the results neutral, flexed, extended and ulnar deviated (bend out) wrist position on forearm muscles. They found a neutral wrist position resulted in less muscle stress than any other wrist posture (Qin, 2013). Wrist extensors had more significant stress than wrist flexors in all typing positions (Qin, 2013). When typing, wrists should be neutral, with fingers, hands and arms all pointing towards the screen.
Posture can change depending on which device you use for work (Yu et al., 2018). Comparing the neck and wrists' position between a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, and smartphone users. Desktop computer use resulted in less neck flexion and shoulder elevation than the other devices (Yu et al., 2018). Interestingly laptop users had greater wrist flexion and ulnar deviation (wrist bend out) than desktop users (Yu et al., 2018.). These postures are due to higher keyboards and lower screens, which is also the case for tablets and phones. Ideally, we should be seated at our desk with the screen at eye height, shoulders relaxed, desk height around the elbow's level, shoulders over our hips and feet comfortably on the ground. Placing a second motor on an elevated surface or a second keyboard with the laptop placed on the higher surface creates a setup similar to a desktop computer with a laptop. This change will lift the screen height and reduce neck flexion while also decreasing flexion of the wrist by lowering the keyboard. The back and chest positioning can be corrected with ergonomic chair supports for the lumbar or thoracic spine.
It can be difficult to think out keeping our body in these positions while working. To help with this, I like to set a timer for every 30-60 min to help remind me to relax and think about my position.
Wrist Range of Motion
Simple range of motion exercises, such as wrist rolls, or flexion and extension can help prevent stiffness. These gentle movements can be done many times a day as needed.
They help to lubricate our joints as well as bringing blood flow and movement to our muscles.
Forearm stretches are another great tool to help the wrist.
Forearm extensors are stretched with the arms out straight in front with the fingers pointed straight down. Using your other hand apply light pressure to allow for a comfortable stretch. This stretch is very important as the extensors are used in typing and other repetitive tasks and have a tendency to get tight.
To stretch your flexors simply flip your arm!
About These Exercises
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Qin, J. (2013). Wrist posture affects hand and forearm muscle stress during tapping. Applied Ergonomics, 8.
Yu, Z., James, C., Edwards, S., & Snodgrass, S. J. (2018). Differences in posture kinematics between using a tablet, a laptop, and a desktop computer in sitting and in standing. 10.