Managing my (your)hand and wrist tendonitis can be made easier with these ergonomic hardware and software solutions
- Managing my (your)hand and wrist tendonitis can be made easier with these ergonomic hardware and software solutions
- I had to make a plan
- I did it!
- Let me just say, it can be strange at first.
- The tools I use to manage my tendonitis
- How to avoid tendonitis
- That’s it – my ultimate desk and office set up to reduce computer tendonitis – keyboard and mouse hand pain.
A little backstory on how I finally built up my perfect solution to manage my tendonitis (also spelt tendinitis) with hardware and software.
I’ll list all the items that I use daily to keep me working when my tendonitis wants me to quit but, it’s also important you understand HOW I use them together.
When I was about 22, I had a job in a bank call center, managing new teams in the bank and doing a lot of training on financial campaigns.
There wasn’t a lot of impressive technology around at the time. The interactive voice responder for the call center itself was okay, but the tools that we used to manage the teams were a little bit lackluster.
It was hard to get statistics on core volumes and how each individual team was performing.
I took it on myself to solve this by spending a lot of time in Excel on a very small 11-inch Sony laptop that I’d bought on a trip to Hong Kong, in Wan Chai. The keyboard was tiny.
I started creating spreadsheets that would help track calls and the efficacy of each team much better. It was a bit of a passion project, so I definitely spent a little bit too long on it.
After about 3-6 months of this, I realized that the tendons in my hand were starting to feel quite painful.
I didn’t really have an idea of what computer tendonitis and RSI meant at this point, but I kept pushing through and it kept getting worse. On top of this, I was an avid guitarist and I played for many hours a week, so I think you can add some guitar tendonitis into the mix.
The combination of these two things began what has now been something I’ve managed for the last 30 years – tendonitis from mouse clicking and hand pain from typing + a little guitar work in there too.
It comes and goes a little bit, but generally, I constantly have to be aware that my hands are always mildly sore, especially when doing fine motor activities that exacerbate tendonitis from computer mouse use and keyboard use.
Add to this a diagnosis of the reduction in cartilage around certain areas in my hands, called hamatolunate impingement, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
I had to make a plan
I had to find ways where I didn’t need to type as much or use a mouse as much.
I looked for solutions around office ergonomics solution for hand and arm strain. There wasn’t a lot at the time.
I looked at hardware like an ergonomic mouse for tendonitis but they still required a lot of forearm movement which I wanted to avoid.
Part of this repair and avoidance program had to include a reduction in any usage of handheld devices. As the iPhone came into prominence, holding a phone and playing on a phone made it even worse.
In 2007, when living in London, I asked the company I worked for if I could buy one of the very early MacSpeech Dictate software (this was bought by Nuance in 2010) packages with an included microphone, I thought perhaps I could dictate what I needed to be writing to reduce the amount of strain on my hands and arms.
Unfortunately, the technology was just too young and wasn’t there yet.
Without an enormous amount of practice and clear diction, I could never get to the point where I could talk to my computer and have very little interaction with it.
There was a lot of work going on around accessibility, so for a lot of people who couldn’t type at all, people were trying to develop ways where speech commands could do everything that somebody who couldn’t type could manage.
With voice dictation out of the way, I continued to experiment with lots of different tools and software.
I did it!
I think now, finally, this year, I have created what I believe is a very effective range of devices and software that allows me to, not completely eliminate, but greatly reduce the amount of typing and micro-hand movements for my work and general life.
In this post, I really want to share, and I’m excited to shared with you each individual one, how they work together and how they reduce my hand pain and tendinitis. While you don’t need to adopt all of them, if you do, I think it is a really great collection of tendonitis and RSI-reducing tools and methodologies.
Let me just say, it can be strange at first.
Before I do list all of my tips, tricks, and tools, I do want to say that any of these might feel really strange to start with, but if you stick with them, it’ll become second nature, and then you’ll actually realize that you miss them when you can’t get hold of them.
You’ll remember the first time you tried to type on a keyboard or the first time you tried to use a mouse, that experience would’ve been quite awkward too, but you persisted and now you’re probably quite fluent at using technology.
My job requires me to be at my computer for anywhere from 8 to 14 hours a day, and so I have to take action to ensure that I preserve my hands as much as possible from keyboard and mouse tendonitis.
The tools I use to manage my tendonitis
The combination of tools I use is a mixture of a:
- Logitech trackball mouse
- Wacom tablet
- Microsoft Sculpt Keyboard
- Bluetooth Noise-cancelling headset microphone for computer dictation
- Voice Recorder for Dictation – long form and on-the-go
- Remarkable Tablet
- Wrist brace for tendonitis
- Standing Desk
The Logitech trackball ergonomic mouse is excellent in that I can just rest my hand on top of it and not have to move.
1: Logitech MX Ergo Mouse
You can read my full review of the Logitech Ergo Mouse.
Instead of my four fingers having to raise and lower constantly, or my wrist and forearm need to move the mouse around, I simply need to use my thumb on the trackball to get the mouse where it needs to go.
The trackball is very responsive. And while at first, it might feel a little strange, after a while it becomes second nature.
I find that my thumb is a lot more resilient to repetitive strain injuries than the tendons in my fingers and wrists.
I seem to manage to use this mouse without too many negative side effects over long periods of time.
Having it fixed in place is a bonus. The buttons that are on the mouse are very easy to click, and the way that your hand will lie over the mouse means that there is always a button click close at hand without having to do a lot of mechanical movement in your hand, wrist, and fingers.
The other bonus of this Logitech mouse specifically is that it does have two angle options on it. So, you can tilt it flat or at an angle to create a better wrist angle placement.
There are a couple of models and alot of competition but I’ve owned 4 different ones and the MX below is the best in my opinion.
2: Wacom Tablet
The tool I use in combination with this is a Wacom tablet.
These aren’t just for artists and designers, and they don’t have to cost a lot of money.
The Wacom tablet I only use as a mouse pointer.
By holding the pen in my hand, I can very swiftly move across and around the screen. I do use dual monitors but it’s easy to get the mouse where it needs to be.
This will take a little bit of practice for you, but the art of holding a pen is much more natural, and the action of moving a pen in your hand around a surface is a much lower strain-intensive activity.
If you do want to get a tablet that also has a touchpad sensitivity, which I did, then you can also use your hand with two fingers to swipe up and down the screen, rather than having to angle my hands into my trackpad on my MacBook, and then track up and down the screen.
Laptop touchpads are the worst for tendon strain.
The natural placement of the Wacom tablet and touching two fingers on it to push up and down a screen is much more natural again, and I can relax my hand a lot when I do it.
This just reduces yet another micro movement that could aggravate my tendonitis otherwise.
This combination of Wacom tablet with a pen means I move the mouse around with the pen and then click with the Logitech mouse – it’s a match made in heaven.
My left-hand moves the pen and my right-hand clicks. Now, admittedly, as a lefthander, this does make it easier, but we’ve been doing an experiment at work where one of the staff members has been teaching his left hand to use the mouse and then it feels natural with the right hand to hold the pen.
Again, it’s a little bit of practice, but after a week or two, it becomes surprisingly natural.
If you really can’t get used to using a mouse and a pen then you can also click with the pen and tablet only. It works well and means you don’t need the mouse.
Personally, I like the mouse, and pen combo.
I do still have to click on the Logitech mouse when I’m using the Wacom pen, but because my hand is at rest on the Logitech mouse, it’s a very, very small movement just to depress the click.
And so my right hand is resting and mostly stationary, and my left hand is doing something that it’s quite used to, which is holding a pen and moving it around a tablet, just hovering slightly above the surface so that it just acts as a mouse pointer.
So what else do I use to reduce my computer tendonitis?
3: Microsoft Sculpt Keyboard
To complete my desk setup, I have a Microsoft Sculpt Keyboard. [read my review here] This is a low-profile keyboard that is ergonomically shaped with a slight split in the keys to having a more natural resting angle for my hands and the way my hands sit.
It does help if you can already semi-touch type to use a device like this. It’s not a requirement but it helps.
Even if you type [peck] with just two, three, or four fingers, you can get used to using it, although you might find a traditional keyboard better.
For those of us with slightly more accurate typing speeds and the ability to do touch typing, it really is a gift to be able to type without feeling like your wrists and hands are awkwardly positioned.
I personally own three Microsoft Sculpt Keyboards, and I’ve reviewed those separately because I just like them so much.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a whole bunch of other options that you have out there, including keyboards that are completely split in half with half the keys on the left in a piece of hardware and half the keys on the right in a piece of hardware.
I think that’s a bit weird for me.
I know my touch typing isn’t that good.
But that’s an option for you.
So, the combination of the Wacom, the mouse, and the Microsoft Sculpt Keyboard makes for an excellent office desk setup if you do suffer from RSI or tendonitis.
But wait….if you’re thinking that’s helpful, there’s more….
4: Bluetooth Noise-Canceling Headset
Another key part of my anti-RSI, anti-tendonitis solution is simply a Bluetooth headset, like truckers and call center people use.
I know this sounds weird. You don’t need a trucker headset or call center microphone, but you do want a headset that has very excellent noise canceling and voice quality capture.
This could be:
- any call center headset
- any at-home USB headset with a microphone that comes down.
- a USB microphone at your desk
- you could even use your Apple AirPods if you wanted to, although I find that those are slightly less accurate for voice pickup
- any gaming headset with a mic
- your built-in laptop microphone
I went on Amazon and picked up an affordable Bluetooth headset, which only has one ear cup.
I work in an open office and so while I’m not gonna be talking a lot out loud, there’s a lot that I do say, which I’ll explain in a minute, which means that I always want to have one ear open to the office and one ear on what I’m doing.
The pictures that you’ll see show you what I bought, but as I say, there are plenty of headsets out there and you probably already have one that you can try, so you don’t necessarily have to buy one.
I certainly recommend this one as it’s affordable and the noise-canceling is good.
The question is, why do I have a Bluetooth headset with a microphone?
I use the headset for on-the-fly dictation on my computer.
I have a MacBook and unlike in 2008 when I first tried MacSpeech Dictate, things have come a long way with the advent of smart assistants like Alexa, Google, and Siri, the voice speech technology is really finally reaching a place where it is practical to be able to use it.
I do still have to make some tweaks to my recordings, but if I speak out a couple of sentences, I might only have to click and repair a couple of words, which saves me up to about 100 keystrokes per statement.
I don’t do long-form content, this is just short-form content. Long-form content I still use my Sony or Evistr voice recorder and Speechpad (I’ll explain more on this in a minute).
I’ll show you below how you can set up Apple dictation on your Apple laptop. If you have a PC or Chromebook, there may be options there. I do find Google to be incredibly accurate at voice transcription, and Apple’s dictation service is very good.
Setting up dictation on an apple mac
In short, I have a hotkey on my computer and when I’m looking at any piece of short-form content that I need to write, I simply hit Command+D or Apple+D, and that brings up the voice dictation microphone, and I say what I need to say.
Then I can either click or hit Apple+D again, or hit a space bar, anything to stop it from recording my voice.
What I find is during the day there are a million pieces of short-form content that I have to do in my job.
It might be quick email responses, it might be quick Slack message responses, or social media responses. Anything where there are just a few sentences, where you just need to quickly say something back to someone. E.g ‘Thanks for that, let’s book the photoshoot for Friday at 3 pm’ or ‘Hey, can you quickly check the website orders for xxx product from yesterday and let me know how many we sold. You get the picture.
I counted up that if I do this in the old method, it would be a much longer process… I would have to open the email, I would then have to click Reply, I would then have to write my response, and then click the Send button. And the combination of clicks and typing in that activity was enormous.
If I take out all of the writing in the middle, then I actually can often leave my mouse hovering around the Open and Send button, and that’s really all I need to click after my dictation.
I know it sounds strange, but being able to just hit Control+D, say something, hit Control+D, and hit Send is not only a massive time saver, but my hands love me for it.
Again, it takes a little bit of practice, but it’s worth trying. And there are times, as I say, that I need to correct the formatting, or maybe there’s a capitalization in the wrong place, but with a little bit of practice, you’ll get really good at it.
5: Voice Recorder for Dictation
The other tool I’ve taken to using for more long-form content is a good old voice recorder.
If I need to do longer emails or any form of long content, I then take the long-form content that I’ve dictated and upload it to an online service called Speechpad, which will transcribe my dictation for a dollar a minute.
I can usually get in between 1,000 and 1,500 words in 10 minutes. And depending on how well I know my subject matter or what I’m talking about, depends on how fast I can get through it.
The quality of the transcriptions from Speechpad is excellent and they do all of the formattings for you.
The Sony dictation device I use is the Sony ICD-UX570 which is incredibly easy to use and has great sound quality. It’s so light and easy to travel and carry around with me everywhere.
It does mean that I kind of need to be on my own, but I do a lot in the car and can go into one of the conference rooms or a quiet room at home if I need to do more.
6: Remarkable Tablet
This might sound like it hardly fits the wrist tendonitis solutions list but hears me out. If you work in an office that has a lot of meetings, it usually means everyone leaves the ergonomic comfort of their desks and puts their laptops in the boardroom.
Everyone makes furious notes or looks up numerous websites during the meeting while navigating on small touchpads and poorly angled wrists – causing hand and arm strain.
Over time this just aggravates the symptoms of anyone who is already struggling with keyboard or computer mouse tendonitis.
These days if I am going into a meeting I still take my laptop but, I also take my Logitech ergo mouse and Remarkable tablet.
Instead of navigating the ergonomic challenges of my laptop, I take notes with my remarkable tablet. It feels natural, it’s like writing in a notebook but I can share my notes via email, convert them to text [it struggles with my left-handed scrawl], and sync them to all my devices via the my.remarkable.com online service.
7: Wrist Brace for Tendonitis
To complete my array of devices designed to avoid, reduce and recover from tendonitis, I have two wrist braces which I wear intermittently. I believe I’ve tried around 8 braces and this, in my opinion, is the best wrist brace for tendonitis on the market.
I’ve spent time at the hospital trying on their braces, I’ve purchased them from pharmacies, and just this week I went to a warehouse pharmacy and tried on all the most recent wrist braces available. Still, the one I chose from the hospital was the best wrist brace for tendonitis, and I’ll tell you why.
The first brace I owned for years was great and it’s still holding on. I bought it when I was in London and it lasted through my time in North America.
The one I have is made by Push Braces. It’s good because not only does it have a splint through the wrist but it also has a semi-firm section through the back of the hand. So both sides of the wrist and hands is supported. It’s not the easier for driving with, my other brace was good for that, but the push brace provides just enough support that my tendons relax and over time it just starts to feel so much better. A couple of days and things are significantly better.
In my opinion, a wrist brace for your tendonitis is the most important thing you can purchase to help manage your symptoms. The other items on this list help enormously, but the brace when you’re not working is such a help.
There are a few Push Braces for wrists etc so the one in the above photo and this link below is the one I highly recommend.
They have it for left and right hands and also for different sizes. I have skinny wrists so I use a medium size 2.
8: Standing Desk
This is really optional. It doesn’t contribute significantly to my well-being but it does let me adjust my sitting and standing position during the day which slightly alters how my forearms work, how my shoulders sit (or hunch), and allows me to shake my arms out regularly.
This small change makes the day more comfortable for my arms and overall posture.
How to avoid tendonitis
I feel like it would be amiss of me to talk about tendinitis without giving some tips to simply avoid it.
Here’s a few things that I believe will help you avoid getting tendinitis or aggravating your tendinitis even more.
- Take regular breaks – don’t ‘push through’ especially when working on a laptop all the time
- Don’t stick to one thing – e.g. don’t spend hours scrolling on your trackpad researching things in a browser window. Mix up your two technology use with different activities. Typing, scrolling, using your mouse.
- You could try changing hands. It’s common to let your dominant hand perform common tasks like using your mouse but it’s good to mix it up if you can.
- Stretch regularly. It’s a great habit to get into to regularly stretch out your muscles and tendons. One tip is to set a regular alarm or reminder to do so. You could even try a Pomodoro timer.
- Insure your posture and ergonomics are correct. This is a big one as it’s very easy to get into bad habits including always working with your laptop on your lap and not on a desk at the correct height and angle which is best for your whole body.
- Exercise your muscles. It’s good for you to exercise both aerobically and with weights to help build up the muscles that support and operate around your tendons.
- Learn new techniques. An example of this might be that you typically type with two or three fingers on each hand but if you took the time to learn how to touch type you will improve your ergonomics and reduce the strain on the few fingers that you use.
These are my tips based on office work and computer work to avoid tendinitis but of course there are some common rules and recommendations whether it be for sport or work or anything else.
That’s it – my ultimate desk and office set up to reduce computer tendonitis – keyboard and mouse hand pain.
So, that’s it.
That is my ultimate productivity and RSI-tendonitis-beating desk set up for anybody in the modern world that can’t afford to not do their job, but needs to find ways to minimize the amount of pressure it puts on their body.
Between the Wacom tablet, the mouse, the keyboard, the Bluetooth headset, the voice software like Apple Dictate and Google Assistant, plus the addition of the ability to get things done on the go with a voice recorder and the Speechpad transcription service, I find I can be incredibly productive and probably type tens of thousands of keystrokes less than I would without these tools.
It reduces my hands having to do overtime in very uncomfortable and unhelpful positions.
If you’ve struggled with RSI or keyboard or mouse tendonitis or any kind of strain injury, I’d love to hear what you do and if you would find any of these tools helpful.
Perhaps you also have a great wrist tendonitis treatment you can recommend?
This post was last updated on 2022-09-26 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.