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Wrist pain at the office

Douleur au poignet

Now, let’s talk about wrist pain related to office work.

What are the usual causes ?

How can I solve the problem ?

Pressure points on the wrists

The first think to look at if you have wrist pain at the office is noticing if you have a tendency to support your body weight with your wrists on the desk. That’s what can be seen on the image to the right, where this lady seems to be putting pressure on her wrists, and her body being flexed forward.

Ideally, your forearms should be comfortably resting on the desk, instead of the wrists. The desk needs to be deep enough to support your arms. Usually, 24” to 30” deep should be enough. The next image to the right shows a woman whose left forearm seems to be well rested on her desk.

Pressure point on the wrists at the office, could produce pain
Good arm support

Your height and the table’s height

If your table is too high, it is then highly possible that you will be putting pressure on your wrists while typing at the computer keyboard. It is also likely that your wrists are flexed downward, as seen on the image to the right. Nope, that is not ideal !

And if the table is too low, you will experience exactly the opposite. Your wrists might end up in an upward flexed position, as seen on the second image right. Here again, not ideal.

Working safely at a computer keyboard involves having a somewhat neutral position of the wrists. The image down below shows what seems to be just that.

Wrists in neutral posture

Wrists flexion at the office, pain
Wrist extension at the office, pain

Ergonomic keyboard

Using a standard keyboard, or a straight keyboard, might involve challenging postures for the wrists. We call those cubital deviations (as seen on the image to the right).

Now some literature says that using an ergonomic keyboard, or “split keyboard”, might help by keeping the wrists in a more neutral position. This keyboard might therefore help to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.

You may want to clic on the link below for more info.

Microsoft Keyboard


Do you really need it ??

Usually, I recommend to take it away, especially if it as a wrist rest like the one on the image close by. Such a wrist rest might give you a false feeling of safety, and some people will have a tendency to rest their whole body on the “comfortable mousepad”. Not a good idea !

And yes, it is okay to use your mouse directly on the desk. Or I recommend you use a very thin pad if you absolutely want something ont the top of your desk.

Using two mice

If the pain is mostly to your right side (which is often the case for right handed people), you may want to try using a 2nd mouse to your left. This will give your right hand a break, even if you are not using the leftie mouse a whole lot. And give yourself some time ! We need about 3 to 4 weeks to get used to this kind of change.

Wrist in deviation posture


Post written by Emmanuel Benoit, Ergonomist, CIRC
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Emmanuel Benoit, Ergonome, CRIA


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