I was reading Nicholas Petreley’s “Down to the Wire” column in the September 7th issue of InfoWorld the other day (it’s a great column and I never miss it). Nick was talking about getting old in general (I can certainly sympathize, the warranty expires at forty, folks) and his problems with carpal tunnel syndrome in particular. Mindful of this painful and debilitating affliction that can strike people who spend long hours at their keyboards, I’ve probably tried every wrist rest, arm support, custom keyboard, and the like to come down the pike. The custom keyboards that look like they were broken in the middle have never caught my interest. I like the old IBM standard layout, thank you very much.
The problems with wrist rests are many. The more elaborate require that you bolt swinging arms to your desk or attach pads to your keyboard. Which is not going to help you if you have to jump up and work at another workstation on occasion. I’ve tried a number of the foam pad rests and the biggest problem I have with them is that the material covering the foam starts to peel off, they’re too hard and inflexible, and you can’t clean them. They get, well, grimy after hours and hours of use. It’s easier to clean your keyboard than the wrist rest that sits in front of it. And this brings me to the low tech, low cost, easy to clean solution that I’ve adopted. Prepare to be under-whelmed.
Take a hand towel, like you’d dry your hands on after washing up, and tightly roll it up along its length. This gives you a cylinder about 16 inches long with a diameter of an inch and a half. I rubber band each end and plunk it down in front of my keyboard. Hey, don’t laugh. After hours of typing I can fluff it up (giving me a chance to work some of the kinks out of my hands in the process), roll it a half turn to give it a different feel, and best of all, once a week I can pull off the rubber bands, toss it in the washer, and get a nice clean one from the linen closet.
When I worked in an office I bought several plain beige hand towels (another benefit is you can pick from a myriad of colors to match your office d?cor) and kept them in my desk drawer. Once a week I pulled out a new one and tossed the old one, still rolled up, into my briefcase and took it home for a trip through the laundry.
My wrists have long stopped complaining and I now do the same thing with a washcloth, which I keep in front of my mouse pad.