Sunday, July 31, 2016

Forearm angle, slouching, and vertical keyboards

First of all today, let's look at some of the stability problems with sitting, take especial note around 6:30 of the arm position comments.

Now the self-experimentation phase.  Sit in lotus, half-lotus, or indian position.  Sit up straight, with your arms turned upwards as in meditation.  Relax the spine without moving your arms.  I feel a bit of tension, like part of the body is hanging off another part, but I don't slouch much.  Now sit up straight and turn palms downwards and relax.  That tension doesn't occur, and I slouch forwards more significantly.  For me there is definately something to this hand posture affecting my shoulder and spine posture.

But for those of us that are stuck at a desk typing all day, is there anything to be done?

I've enacted phase I of the better desk sitting plan, my lotus bench:

The bench is a beast because we started with scrap barn wood, mostly 2x12s for materials, and assembled in rather a hurry.  I had a romantic notion that I was going to finish it in one evening and be back at work raring to go the next day.  In reality, exhaustion set in, and I stopped before making stupid design decisions in the interest of time.  It ended up taking a week, and my hubby finished it for me as I was too out of it by then to participate much, but he set it up while I was sleeping Thursday night and I've been using it since Friday (almost three days).  I do still need a big horizontal break at midday, but it is a vast improvement over chair sitting, and I think I can do longer shifts at work if I can stand the drive to/from.  (I've been working an average of 2 hours a day last week.)

I'm now considering phase II, which would better position my arms for a relaxed and upright spine: a vertical keyboard.

There are a few commercial options for a vertical keyboard:

The Freestyle2 keyboard with Ascent accessory:

I trust the Kinesis brand because I had very good results from their "Advantage" keyboard when I was having wrist mobility issues.  I think they have a pretty clear understanding of ergonomics.  The Ascent allows for multiple keyboard angles, and multiple distances between the boards, for lots of flexibility.  The price though is tough.  $119 for the keyboard,  (with longer cord) $219 for the ascent accessory.  But I suppose $338 is not horrendous compared to the competition, and I'd gladly pay the $299 to replace my ancient Advantage if having similar issues again.

The SafeType:

The SafeType has a Cornell study backing the claims on an early prototype, showing improved wrist posture and possible reduction in injury risk, but they only compared vs a traditional keyboard, and did no long term study, so the study is of limited use in picking an ergonomic keyboard.  The rear-view mirrors look like a useful feature, but the angle and distance are fixed, allowing no customization for different shoulder widths and such.  Refurbished price $189, new is $289.75 (on sale from $305)

The Yogitype has less hand separation than the other options, but has an adjustable angle, integrated adjustable forearm support, and a unique solution to the "I can't see the keys" problem.  On the backside of the board are unlabeled keys, on the front side of the board is a light-up key legend that shows you where the keys are and which you just pressed.  The marketing is heavily aimed at people who have never learned to touch type before, which implies that it has a pretty steep learning curve for those of us that can touch type on a traditional keyboard, but this is true of most radically different ergonomic keyboards.  It took a considerable adaptation period to adjust to my Advantage board, where I took an online touch type course to re-learn the key positions.  There is a note on their website that the arrangement of keys may not be optimal for programming as it is for word processing, which could be problematic for me.  USD price, $325.81, which makes it the most pricey of the three options.  It comes from europe so shipping may be an issue, and you might want Google Translate installed before proceeding to the "select options" page which is not in English.  

I've not committed to a purchase this time, still mulling it over.