If hand pain from arthritis forces you to change the way you type, proceed with caution. Your alternative typing methods might do more harm than good.

“The biggest problem is that people cope by repositioning themselves or changing their position and slowing down,” says Nancy Baker, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh. “Touch typists tend to switch to a hunt-and-peck method, which is slower and often appears to put more stress on already compromised joints.”

Baker was the lead investigator in a study of typists with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which is more likely to affect patients’ wrists and hands than other forms of arthritis.

People compensated by floating their wrists above the keyboard, typing with fewer fingers or straightening fingers they couldn’t bend – none of which are good for people with arthritis in the hands. “Workers should make sure the workstation fits them, and not try to fit themselves to the workstation,” Baker says.

Although the study focused on RA, Baker says other conditions, such as osteoarthritis (OA) and carpal tunnel syndrome, also impact posture and typing.

She suggests these guidelines to help optimize a workstation.

Chairs

• Go to a store and sit in a variety of chairs to see what’s most comfortable.

• Make sure its height is adjustable. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor and your feet flat on the floor. Use a footrest if they aren’t.

Keyboards and Mouse

• Get an adjustable keyboard tray that allows you to raise and lower its height and angle for your hands and wrists.

• Put your keyboard in the right place. Adjust your keyboard so your elbows are bent and your forearms are resting on your desk and approximately parallel to the floor.

• Try ergonomic options, like a split keyboard or a modified mouse with a larger scroll and click wheel or trackball.

Monitors

• The top edge of the screen should be the same height as your eyes unless you wear bifocals. If you do, position the monitor as low as you can.

• Avoid a laptop as your primary computer. The low screen can cause neck strain.