A keyboard wrist rest is a device which is designed to provide support for the wrists and arms during typing breaks. Theoretically, using a keyboard wrist rest reduces the risk of developing repetitive stress injuries and related conditions, although it is important to use the wrist rest properly. Some keyboard trays come with built-in wrist rests, and it is also possible to buy this accessory as a standalone item. In addition to wrist rests for keyboards, ergonomics accessory companies also manufacture mouse wrist rests.
Typically, a keyboard wrist rest is filled with a firm, but giving, material like gel. Ideally, it has rounded edges so that no sharp sides put pressure on the wrists and palms of the user, and the wrist rest is about the same height as the keyboard, with a shallow depth to ensure that the user does not extend his or her arms out from the body to reach over the wrist rest to the keyboard. At a shared desk, the wrist rest may be covered in a material which is easy to sanitize for health reasons.
Wrist rests are meant to be used when someone is not actually typing, and they are meant to be used for the palm and heel of the hand, not the wrist itself. While typing, people should have their hands above the keyboard, with the fingers striking down. Having the hands above also makes it easier to reach remote function keys on the keyboard. Despite the promotional catalog images of people typing with their wrists firmly planted on the keyboard wrist rest, this usage is not recommended.
Using a keyboard wrist rest can help someone keep his or her hands above the keyboard, because the rest provides a cue to keep the wrists up. During a typing break, the hands can be allowed to slide back so that the heel of the palm sits on the keyboard wrist rest, maintaining an ergonomically sound hand position while taking a break. When the typist is ready to resume, the hands can be lifted from the wrist rest and placed in the proper position for typing.
This keyboard accessory should be combined with other ergonomically-friendly measures. It is important to make sure that the keyboard is at the right height, and that the distance between the user and the monitor is appropriate. Making small adjustments to lighting, seating configuration, and so forth can also make a big comfort difference. Following ergonomic guidelines at a workstation can greatly reduce repetitive stress injuries and make people feel more comfortable at work.