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Popular consensus seems to be that ergonomic keyboards (with the middle split or curve) are better for your physical health than standard keyboards, and reduce the likelihood of carpel tunnel syndrome or other medical issues. If this is the case, I am surprised that there continue to be many more models of standard keyboards available for sale than ergonomic keyboards.

Is there definitive data on the health benefits (or lack thereof) associated with using an ergonomic keyboard versus a traditional keyboard?

  • anecdote (near the bottom) from a guy with a broken wrist complaining about the curvy keyboard with (a self reasoned yet plausible) explanation – ratchet freak Dec 18 '11 at 1:52
  • also a video from the same guy talking about it – ratchet freak Dec 18 '11 at 2:02
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    anecdotal (personal experience and my colleagues): I was starting to get RSI complaints, came home with painful shoulders, wrists and hands every day. Switched to an ergonomics keyboard and mouse replacement, complaints stopped but now return when using a regular one. Colleague was worse, was disabled because of RSI for half a year and now can only use those systems (she can't even open a door or bottle still). 2 data points :) – jwenting Dec 19 '11 at 8:52
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    as to why there are many more "normal" keyboards: stasis and cost. Millions are used to the old style, and getting used to ergonomic keyboards takes time, time many aren't willing to invest for their health until it's too late. – jwenting Dec 19 '11 at 8:54
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Yes, there are many documented advantages.

Copied from here and then adapted:

...the adjustable keyboard was more comfortable...in comparison with the conventional keyboard.

Tittiranonda, Rempel, et al. (1999) “Workplace use of an adjustable keyboard: adjustment preferences and effect on wrist posture”

...split keyboards place the wrist closer to a neutral posture in the radial/ulnar plane substantially reduc[ing] one occupational risk factor... ulnar deviation of the wrist.

Marklin, et al. (1999) “Wrist and forearm posture from typing on split and vertically inclined computer keyboards”

There is increasing evidence that alternative geometry keyboards may prevent or reduce arm pain or disorders, and presumably the mechanism is by reducing awkward arm postures.

Rempel, Barr, et al. (2007) “The effect of six keyboard designs on wrist and forearm postures”

Alternate keyboard designs can significantly affect tendon travel and may address reduced repetitiveness in typing by reducing the amount of tendon travel.

Nelson, Treaster, et al. (2000) “Finger motion, wrist motion and tendon travel as a function of keyboard angles”

...[the tested] split keyboard [configurations] are beneficial in promoting a neutral wrist position, which theoretically would decrease exposure to WMSDs such as tenosynovitis in the wrist and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Marklin, Simoneau (2001) “Effect of setup configurations of split computer keyboards on wrist angle”

...[study results] identified a reduction of symptoms, an improvement in functional status, preference for and increased satisfaction with the [alternative] keyboards, and maintenance of typing speed and accuracy for both groups.

Ripat, Scatliff, et al. (2006) “The effect of alternate style keyboards on severity of symptoms and functional status of individuals with work related upper extremity disorders.

...[split] keyboards with a slant [open] angle of 10 degrees to 12.5 degrees...are effective in placing the wrist in near neutral ulnar/radial deviation when typing...[and] tilting the keyboard halves 20 to 30 degrees is effective in reducing forearm pronation to approximately 45 degrees.

Design features of alternative computer keyboards: a review of experimental data.

Analyses of...six studies indicated that the [Adjustable Open-tented keyboard] had a large effect on pronation and ulnar deviation...

The effect of three alternative keyboard designs on forearm pronation, wrist extension, and ulnar deviation: a meta-analysis


Note that there are also advantages in using a soft-touch keyboard and a keyboard without a keypad.

  • note that many specialised ergonomic keyboards for that reason come without a keypad, or have a separate one that can be positioned where most convenient. – jwenting Dec 19 '11 at 8:55
  • Excellent summary - best I've found online. Although you've mixed the results of studies (important) with descriptions of how many ergonomic keyboards are designed / hypothesis description (slant, angles etc - 'theoretically' etc). We're interested in their efficacy - studies supporting the hypothesis that ergonomic keyboards are physically better for us. Not a description of the keyboard, physically how it affects our hand position, or what the hypothesis is. – niico Mar 19 '18 at 15:07

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