How to prevent wrist pain

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How To Prevent Wrist Pain From Computer Use

Anyone who spends a lot of time web surfing, working, or gaming on a PC is at risk of developing wrist pain from computer use. Is there any way to prevent this, or is there no way out other than giving up gaming? Thankfully, it’s usually possible to avoid wrist pain without massively cutting down on computer use.

You can prevent wrist pain from computer use by frequent breaks, stretching and exercise, changing your posture, and also by using a wrist brace, ergonomic mouse and keyboard.

How you use your wrists on a computer is just as important as how much time you spend using them. If you use your wrists the right way, your wrists will stay healthy even with heavy use. If you’re using your wrists in an unhealthy way, moderately frequent use can give you a repetitive stress injury.

Wrist Pain From Computer Use Is Common

Ending up with a sore wrist from gaming or other computer activities has become very widespread since computer use has increased. About 6% of people suffered wrist pain recently. Not all of this is due to computer use (the rate is higher than usual if you work a manual job), but frequent computer use undoubtedly raises the risk of wrist pain.

The seriousness of wrist pain varies from person to person and can be anywhere from mild to debilitating. To some people, it’s an occasional and minor annoyance. To others, it can progress into a disorder such as carpal tunnel syndrome, which can prevent people from working.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Wrist brace
Wrist brace for carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve on the side of the wrist is under pressure. This results in pain, tingling or numbness. Contrary to popular belief, frequent use of the computer isn’t any more likely to cause a carpal tunnel syndrome than assembly workers or workers with vibrating tools.

Without treatment, the muscles near the thumb can atrophy, causing loss of strength and sensation. Even with treatment you might still suffer from these consequences. (source)

Therefore it’s better to prevent a carpal tunnel syndrome from ever occuring.

How To Prevent Wrist Pain

If you take measures to prevent your wrist pain from getting worse at an early stage, you will manage to avoid getting carpal tunnel syndrome in the first place.

There are many ways to prevent wrist pain, some of which are more effective than others. You might use a wrist brace, get a special mouse or keyboard that prevents wrist strain, change your posture, or reduce computer use.

Armrests, exercises, more frequent breaks, and stretching can also help you solve your problem before it gets any worse.

The Importance Of Posture

Changing your posture on its own is sometimes enough to get rid of wrist pain. More than anything else, sit at the right height! If you’re sitting with your knees at a 90-degree angle, you are less likely to develop wrist pain. If your chair is too low, your knees will point upward, and if your chair is too high, your knees will point down.

Keeping your knees at the wrong angle puts a strain not only on your back but on your whole body, including your wrists. When you look straight ahead, your eyes should be even with the top of your screen.

Another vital part of proper posture is to avoid slouching. Many things that can lead to back pain can lead to wrist pain as well, and slouching is one of them. Sit at the back of your chair. Slouching can be comfortable in the short run, but it will hurt you in the long run.

How to prevent wrist pain
Incorrect wrist position. Don’t do this!

After you learn to avoid slouching, proper sitting will become normal, and you will not miss slouching. It would help if you sat in slightly different positions on different days. Sitting in the same position every day will increase strain on your wrists.

Generally your forearm should be in a 90° position to your upper arm. That means either rest your elbows on your chair armrests or, if your desk is big enough, move your keyboard and mouse forward so that your elbows are resting on the table.

Never let your wrist hang down from the table!

Hold Your Mouse Correctly

The first and foremost thing is, use the correct size mouse for the size of your palm! If you’re gaming, a mouse for notebooks isn’t the best choice unless you have tiny hands.

  • Your thumb should be comfortable and not slide off the mouse.
  • Keep your wrists as straight as possible
  • Use your forearm to move the mouse, not your wrist.

Don’t bend your wrist down when you hold on to your mouse. Keep your wrists level, or you will increase your strain on them. The same goes for when you’re using your keyboard.

You can easily end up bend your wrist up rather than down when using a keyboard. Raise your wrists a little above your desk instead of letting them rest on your desk. This way, you’ll keep your wrists straight.

Ergonomic Mice And Keyboards

Unlike regular keyboards and mice, ergonomic keyboards and mice are designed with wrist health in mind.

Ergonomic keyboards look a little bit weird and ‘deformed’ compared to the regular keyboards. The keys on an ergonomic keyboard are ‘split’, so that typing is more comfortable while keeping natural position of your hands.Ergonomic keyboards also have padded wrist rests. Studies have proven that ergonomic keyboards prevent wrist strain.

If you can’t get an ergonomic keyboard yet, make sure your normal keyboard lays flat on your desk. Most regular keyboards have little legs but don’t use them since the slant makes an unnatural angle for your wrists.

Ergonomic keyboard mouse set Microsoft
Microsoft Ergonomic Set

You can also get a special mouse that is healthy for your wrists. If your sore wrists come from gaming, a vertical mouse might be the best idea. A vertically shaped mouse keeps your wrists in the air instead of resting on your desk. Your wrist strain might disappear very fast if you use a mouse that keeps your wrists elevated.

You might also prefer a mouse that is closer to a standard design. Some people find something somewhere in between an ordinary and a vertical mouse to be ideal.

You can also find a mouse that has a trackball on the side, which can improve wrist health as a trackball is easier on your wrists. Another option is a mouse that is similar to a joystick. Joystick shaped mice are also ergonomic and easier on your wrists while being just as good for gaming as ordinary mice.

Rest And Exercise

You can prevent injury to any muscle in your body by stretching it before use. Take a bit of time to stretch your wrists before a gaming session. Bend your wrists backward and forward. Stretch the muscles properly and warm them up. Bend your fingers back as well, and do so gently.

Exercises can help you avoid wrist pain or thumb pain from console gaming as well. If a lot of console gaming hurts your wrists or your thumbs, stretch them first. WebMD has a great video on how to stretch and strenghten your wrists, you can check it out here.

Taking a 5-10 minute break every 45-60 minutes is a good idea. Taking breaks might be enough on its own to help your wrists heal. Taking so many breaks may not be compatible with what you are playing and who you are playing it with.

If it would annoy you to take frequent breaks each day, occasionally taking a day or a few days away from gaming might be a better way of letting your wrists rest.

You Can Avoid Wrist Pain Without Reducing Gaming Time

If you already have carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive stress injury, you should pause gaming and typing for a while to give your wrists a chance to heal. However, these injuries are temporary, and you may not have to minimize gaming in the long run.

Many people who spend a lot of time on computers do not have any wrist pain at all. You will only have to take some precautions to reduce the strain you are putting on your wrists.

If at any point your wrist continues to hurt at all times, please contact your primary care doctor before the problem gets worse.


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