Many people just don’t get on with their keyboard or mouse. Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) can develop if you frequently use your computer in the same posture. And conditions such as arthritis can make it all but impossible to use a keyboard or mouse for extended periods.
Accessories to help
Plenty of accessories are available that can improve your comfort while you work. Even something as simple as a wrist rest to provide extra
support while typing can help.
Special ergonomic mice and keyboards can be used to avoid wrist strain. For example, the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Desktop 7000 kit (pictured below) comes with a sculpted mouse and an arch-shaped keyboard with split left- and right-hand keys to keep your wrists in a more natural position as you type.
You could replace your mouse with something like Logitech’s Trackman Marble (£30 from Logitech), that features a trackball that uses the fingers to move the mouse rather than the wrist.
Whether or not these types of products can provide a significant improvement is largely down to your own personal experience as you become more familiar with using them.
We recommend you try before you buy if possible, as they can involve a big adjustment in how you control your PC on a day-to-day basis.
There are some cost-free ways to minimise discomfort when using your PC. Rather than constantly reaching over to your mouse, for example, you could try learning a few simple keyboard shortcuts.
Almost every function on your PC can be reproduced via keyboard shortcuts instead of clicking through menus.
Some common shortcuts include CTRL + C to copy and CTRL + V to paste, but there are many others that are useful to have up your sleeve.
Key combinations can be awkward for those with more serious typing difficulties though. One solution is Sticky Keys, a feature that allows you to press key combinations sequentially rather than at the same time. For example, you can press CTRL first, then V separately afterwards to paste.
Sticky Keys can be found in the ‘make the keyboard easier to use’ section of the PC’s Ease of Access Centre (search ease in the Start menu then click the top result).
Those who can’t type for long periods of time may wish to try Windows’ built-in Speech Recognition tool. Windows Vista, 7 and 8 all come with a function that allows you to dictate and edit documents, as well as control many elements of your PC using your voice. You will need to connect a microphone or headset to your computer to use this feature. Many laptops have microphones built in, but if yours doesn’t you can get a microphone or headset for around £10 online.
Press the Windows key, type ‘speech’ and click the Speech Recognition link that appears to launch the tool. A wizard will guide you through the setup. Speech Recognition can be hit-and-miss at first but the more you use it, the better it gets at recognising your voice.
Posture and setup
Maintaining the correct posture when using your PC is crucial and can help prevent RSI, back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome.
If you’re sitting at a desktop computer, ensure your back is supported and wrists and forearms are parallel with the floor.
The top of your screen should be at eye level and your keyboard placed with four to six inches of desk space to rest your wrists.