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I am a programmer and have been for over 20 years and I am starting to feel the effects of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I have always used the QWERTY style keyboard though I have often heard that the DVORAK style was better and more ergonomic. In doing research I found this site which claims:

Many people switch to Dvorak because it's more comfortable. The Dvorak layout was carefully adapted to fit the English language. QWERTY, on the other hand, is about as efficient as a random layout. Because it makes typing easier and more natural, Dvorak may actually decrease the risk of carpal-tunnel syndrome and other forms of repetitive-stress injury (RSI). You can type longer on Dvorak without making your fingers sore. In fact, most RSI sufferers no longer feel pain in their fingers after switching to Dvorak. If you experience pain from using the QWERTY keyboard, the Dvorak layout is for you.

Is there any evidence to back these claims up. When I search the internet I see several people who have decided through their anecdotal experience that they did not think so. Is there any actual evidence one way or the other?

  • when switching you revert back to hunt-and-peck until you get used to the layout again, this reduces the repetitive stress for a while – ratchet freak Dec 4 '13 at 11:43
  • FWIW - I've got a simple wireless qwerty keyboard that sits on my knees, and my elbows are on the arms of the chair, and that's a lot more comfortable. – Mike Dunlavey Dec 4 '13 at 18:17
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It seems that using computers in general does not cause carpal tunnel syndrome, regardless of the type of keyboard. Some references:

"Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: The Epidemic That Never Was", Canada's Occupational Health and Safety magazine, September 2001

"Computer use deleted as carpal tunnel syndrome cause", Harvard University Gazette, February 2006

"Mayo Clinic debunks link between heavy computer use and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome", The Engineer, June 2001

Key quotes from the study:

The notion that computer or keyboard usage is a risk factor for CTS was refuted by the lack of difference between groups in hours at keyboard per day, years using keyboard, frequency of mouse usage, concurrent usage of typewriter, hours at typewriter per day, and years using typewriter.

[...]

Although this study is unlikely to be the final word on the possible relationship between computer usage and CTS, the absence of a relationship is one possible explanation for the lack of proven benefit for primary prevention of CTS by ergonomically designed keyboards and supports.

  • Funny that heavy texters never complain about problems with their thumbs. Surely smartphones have been around long enough now for problems to appear? Or is it because texting is something they want to do, instead of being told to do it? – hdhondt Dec 4 '13 at 22:34
  • It would be good to go to the original sources here, rather than rely on press releases. – Oddthinking Dec 4 '13 at 22:45
  • I found the original article in the journal Neurology but you have to pay to see the whole thing. I can't seem to make a proper link in this comment so here's the URL: neurology.org/content/56/11/1431.short – Graeme Perrow Dec 4 '13 at 23:05
  • Added a couple of quotes. – user5582 Dec 4 '13 at 23:11
  • Scangas, George, Santiago Lozano-Calderón, and David Ring. "Disparity between popular (Internet) and scientific illness concepts of carpal tunnel syndrome causation." The Journal of hand surgery 33, no. 7 (2008): 1076-1080. – "Speculative causal associations can precipitate or exacerbate illness." – user5582 Dec 4 '13 at 23:19

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