Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful and debilitating dysfunction. Prolonged use of the computer keyboard and mouse can aggravate the condition. While resting the hand is a preferred treatment method, most people cannot simply leave their workstation for long. However, the impact of repetitive strain on the hand can be minimized with modifications like gel wrist rests for the keyboard and mouse.
Hands become fatigued when typing or using the mouse for prolonged periods of time. This is because muscles and tendons supporting the hands and fingers in an outstretched position are tensed. Alleviating hand fatigue requires frequent intervals of rest. Mouse and keyboard gel rests are cushioned with gel so that hands can rest comfortably during intervals of inactivity. The gel is soft enough to prevent constriction of blood vessels, or pressure on tendons and nerves in the wrist. This is significant because carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure of the wrist’s tendons on the median nerve inside the carpal tunnel. Resting the wrist on a hard surface like a table causes even more pressure on the wrist’s interior, exacerbating the carpal tunnel syndrome and making such rest periods more harmful than beneficial.
According to Ergonomics Made Easy, gel wrist rests benefit the hands in many ways. Primarily, they offer support when the wrist sags. The wrist support should not be used while typing or using the mouse. However, during the short intervals where typing and mousing are not being performed, but when full dead weight rest is not yet required, the gel wrist rest can support the wrist to minimize muscle and tendon fatigue. This is important because when the wrist angle falls below the neutral position, the wrist becomes extended. Wrist extension exerts more pressure inside the carpal tunnel, and this can aggravate existing carpal tunnel syndrome or bring about the condition in the first place.
Neutral Position Reminder
A gel wrist support serves as a reminder to keep the wrist at the neutral position during typing and mousing. As the hand types or uses the mouse, feeling the top of the gel support under the wrist subconsciously keeps the mind on how the wrist should be positioned. When the gel support is in the proper position, the neutral position can be maintained without thinking for long periods of time during typing and mousing.
Cold temperatures on the wrist will aggravate carpal tunnel syndrome. This is because colder temperatures restrict blood flow. Most wrist rests retain ambient room temperature which is generally much colder than body temperature. Some gel wrist rests have heat-retaining gels precisely for this reason, and allow the wrist to lie against a warmer surface during rest intervals, affording the wrist less heat loss, which means better blood flow. The most effective heat-loss prevention gel rests are electrically powered to deliver warmth to the pad and the resting wrist. However, these are much more expensive than most other gel wrist rests.