Wrist rest good or bad idea? A specialist’s response

You have certainly seen it, 2020 was a key year for well-being in front of your computer. 2 trends explain this phenomenon. First, a general awareness of risks such as musculoskeletal disorders. Then, the ever greater demand from competitive gamers, these video game players looking for performance and thus the accessories that go with it. This is evidenced by the many marriages between video game and ergonomics specialists this year.

Like the gaming chair made by the American company Hermann Miller. There are many new products abound and it is sometimes difficult for the consumer to navigate them. Products like the wrist rest. A support accessory (mostly soft) on which the user can rest their wrist when using their computer. A stand that can be integrated into a mouse pad or not. One more accessory you will tell me. But what about its effectiveness? PCgamer magazine asked Caitlin McGee for expert advice. A physiotherapist with training in neuroscience and sports science. How effective for the wrist rest? Selected pieces.

“Useful yes, but with an asterisk”

Caitlin McGee is categorical: the wrist rest has many advantages. First, it keeps the wrist in a neutral position and provides support to the forearm. Which means that the muscles that make it up require less stabilization work. And less pressure means less musculoskeletal disorders. A saved posture and forearms that weigh less after a few hours.

The bad sides? Ironically, Caitlin McGee recommends not resting on the wrist rest her… wrist. The interior of the latter has no bone or muscle protection over the carpal tunnel. Neither around Guyon’s canal, which are the pathways through which nerves and tendons enter the hand. The protection of these tunnels is formed by a light and very flexible band of tissue called the retinaculum. Any pressure on this area is pressure on the tendons and nerves. If you put the wrist itself on your wrist rest, you’re putting compressive pressure on an area that can’t really support it.

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On the other hand, the doctor recommends placing the “heel of the hand” on it. As a reminder, this is the area (usually quite fleshy) at the bottom of the palm. It has a thick muscle thenar and strong metacarpal bones to protect the little ones. In this configuration, the well-being provided by the wrist rest is undeniable.

Is the wrist rest essential for good ergonomics?

In any case, this is what the manufacturers of all these ergonomic novelties claim. Their product is indispensable. But for Cailtin McGee, the answer is clear regarding the wrist rest. No, it is not an essential accessory for good ergonomics. It should be seen as an additional adjustment capacity regarding posture. The wrist rest is an additional facility for achieving a good level of ergonomics, and not a central element. In general, the wrist, when relaxed, should be slightly extended, with an angle of about 10 to 15 degrees. It is also recommended to stretch the muscles of the forearm by pushing the extended wrist evenly. A “natural” way to protect your wrist and forearms from any risk of damage.

While there is never too much ergonomic precaution, be aware of the pros and cons of each accessory. And what better way to see things more clearly than the advice of professionals. Now, if you buy a wrist rest, you know what to expect.