Ergonomic Tools to Prevent Writing-Related Pain

Based on the number of you who Tweeted, linked, and emailed me about my last post, I can tell that writing-related pain is a common complaint! Although you should always consult your doctor with concerns about writing-related pain (notice the standard disclaimer gobbledegook–I’m not a doc, so please don’t take this as medical advice, etc!), I thought I’d share some of the tools that I’ve found helpful. Please add your suggestions in the comments and I’ll add them to the list!




Cheryl-Tested Ergonomic Tools

A few of my favorites include:

  • Microsoft’s ergonomic mouse and split keyboard—truth is, the ergonomic mouse isn’t fantabulous. If I was still having active hand and wrist pain, it might not do the trick for me; but it’s far superior to a normal mouse, and, when purchased with the split keyboard, the price is right. The keyboard is my favorite split keyboard EVER, with a bit of a slant and a padded wrist rest that make it far more comfortable than its competitors. (Plus it looks cool, all shiny and curvy…but that’s another tale!)
  • Lifeform chair—pricey, but oh so much nicer than any others I’ve tried. In the right parts of the country, these show up on Craigslist occasionally for half price.
  • Wacom Bamboo tablet—recommended by my illustrator friend Anna-Maria, this tablet is not just for artists. It’s great for any work that requires cutting and pasting, dragging and dropping, and other movements that would otherwise require extended mousework, and it allows you to customize the functionality of buttons and taps. Although the model I purchased is no longer available, any tablet-style input for your computer will allow you to switch up your hand position and muscles used, helping to avoid repetitive use pain and injury. Wacom now offers the Bamboo Pad, specifically designed for computer navigation, as well as an array of pricier models (the Intuos Pen Tablet looks closest to the Bamboo Tablet I use) designed for artists, illustrators, graphic artists, and more.
  • Logitech comfort lapdesk—if you work on your laptop on the sofa (like I do), this lap desk provides great support plus insulation from the computer’s heat. It doesn’t raise the computer screen quite high enough for proper neck alignment, but if it did, you couldn’t reach the keyboard. I think this is the best solution!
  • Rock “N” Stop Footrest—although you wouldn’t think it, adding a footrest is a surprisingly easy way to ease many cases of back pain. I like this one because it rocks, perfectly suiting my ADD-ish need to fidget without being too obvious.
  • My hand therapist swears by the Evoluent vertical mouse, but it left me indifferent at best. Ultimately, the solution to my hand and wrist woes proved to be a combination of dictation software and switching up between a computer mouse and the Wacom Bamboo tablet.
  • Dragon Dictation is astonishingly good at voice recognition and, with a little training, will let you compose hands-free. I find it most useful when I’m transcribing text previously written longhand–I haven’t yet learned to enter the state of creative flow while dictating–but it’s saved me hours of typing. You do have to do a good job proofing, of course, since it’s likely to use the wrong homonym (“you’re” in place of “yore” just doesn’t work). If you go this route, spring for the pricier Dragon Professional, which is far more powerful than the “Home” version.

When You’re in Pain

When you’re in active pain, though, chances are that none of the above tools will make you feel better. In the meantime, ice can help reduce pain and inflammation for some types of injuries. This article on – Sensible Advice for Aches, Pains, and Injuries provides a great overview of when and how to use ice to treat pain. It also explains how to create an “ice cup”–a must-have tool if you’re icing. I’ve also found that creams containing Arnica, a natural antiinflammatory compound, are helpful. Penetrex, which has a nice smell, is my personal favorite.

Do you have any ergonomic tools or home remedies to recommend? Please share in the comments–I’ll add them to the list above!

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