Whatever your job, you probably spend a big chunk of the day sitting, typing, and clicking. From sore wrists to stiff backs, these endless hours in front of a computer can wreak havoc on your body.
Ergonomic keyboards, mice and desk chairs are all meant keep your body in more neutral, natural positions. While there’s no clear evidence that upgrading your computer peripherals will actually prevent repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, these products are almost certainly more comfortable than their non-ergonomic counterparts, and are worth checking out if the daily grind is taking its toll on your shoulders, wrists and hands.
Shop our picks below so you can focus more on work and less on the ache in your back.
One of the most striking differences between ergonomic and regular keyboards is that the former are usually split, partially or completely, into two pieces. This is because regular keyboards force you to point your hands inward and subsequently pop your elbows out — which, in turn, can make you hunch your shoulders and lead to back pain. Split keyboards let you to keep your forearms in a more natural position closer to your sides.
Ergonomic keyboards also are often tented, meaning they get physically taller toward the center. This mimics the natural arc of your fingertips and helps prevent you from overpronating your forearms while you type. And because bending your wrist backward for hours on end is a recipe for pain, ergonomic keyboards will always be flat, or have something called a “negative” or “reverse” tilt — in other words, they’ll be higher in the front than the back so you don’t overextend your wrists.
Any ergonomic keyboard can come with a slight learning curve, so don’t freak out if it takes a few hours for your typing to get up to speed. Once it does, typing should be comfier than ever.
The best overall: Microsoft Sculpt Ergonimoc Keyboard ($55.49; amazon.com)
Microsoft’s Sculpt Keyboard gets top marks across the web for its domed design and cushy palm rest. The keyboard is partially split at an angle that supports a natural arm and wrist position, while the keys themselves are slightly tented (they slope upward as they approach the split). An included riser allows for negative tilting (which, again, just means that the keyboard can be positioned to be taller in the front), while wireless connectivity helps keep your desk clutter free. The number pad is separate, meaning you move it aside if you don’t plan on using it and keep your (equally ergonomic!) mouse close at hand.
Because the Sculpt is only partially split, you can’t customize the position of the two halves, nor can you tweak the tenting angle. Given that this is a Microsoft product, the keys also aren’t Mac friendly out of the box; the Sculpt will work with a Mac, but you may want to remap a couple keys in your “keyboard preferences.” That said, this is an excellent and fairly priced choice.
The best fully split keyboard: Kinesis Freestyle2 Ergonomic Keyboard with VIP3 Lifters for Mac ($144; amazon.com)
The Kinesis Freestyle2 is our pick for Mac users and/or those who want more customization in their keyboards. As a fully split model, the Kinesis Freestyle2 lets you position each half of the keyboard exactly where you want it (up to nine inches apart). You can also adjust the tenting angle to best suit your needs.
There are other Freestyle2 models for sale, but we like this version for its palm rest and installed tenting accessories. Kinesis also makes a version of the Freestyle2 for PCs ($89; amazon.com), but note that you’ll have to purchase the palm rest and tenting accessories separately.
If your pain is severe, an ergonomic mouse can be a great complement to a comfy keyboard. Ergonomic mice are contoured to better fit the natural shape of your hand and keep your forearm in a healthy position. They come in two main varieties: horizontal or “palm grip” mice are essentially the regular domed shape you’re used to, while vertical mice look sort of like little pyramids that are gripped much like you’d shake someone’s hand. While this shape can cut down on wrist twisting, keep in mind that vertical mice can take some getting used to.
The best horizontal mouse: Logitech M570 Wireless Trackball Mouse ($29.99; staples.com)
The M570 is a great option if you don’t want to stray too far from the traditional mouse design. This is a horizontal mouse, but its shape is sculpted to better fit your palm and help stop you from overextending your wrist. In addition to its finger scroll wheel, the Logitech M570 features a thumb-controlled trackball. This lets you keep the mouse in one place and limit arm movement; trackballs are also great for smaller desk spaces, and many say they’re actually more precise than a traditional mouse. The M570 is wireless and runs on two AA batteries.
The best vertical mouse: Anker Wireless Veritcal Ergonomic Mouse ($19.99; amazon.com)
If your pain is severe and you know that a horizontal mouse just isn’t going cut it, give a vertical mouse a try. This option from Anker has more than 4,000 five-star reviews and is an affordable introduction into the world of strange-looking computer peripherals. As Anker’s handy graphic shows, this design is meant to keep your forearm and wrist in neutral alignment as you click. However, some reviewers point out that this isn’t the best option for folks with smaller hands.
You probably don’t need us to tell you why a comfortable and supportive desk chair matters. A quality ergonomic chair won’t just feel good to sit on, but, one hopes, will reduce back and shoulder pain. Because everybody is different, ergonomic chairs typically are highly customizable. The best options will let you tweak everything from the headrest to the seat pan (i.e. the spot to actually sit on), but they don’t come cheap.
The best overall: Herman Miller Embody Chair ($1,395-$1,920; hermanmiller.com)
Herman Miller is the company behind the Aeron ($920-$1,665; hermanmiller.com), perhaps the most famous office chair that ever was (and which is still a fantastic choice). But if you really want to treat yourself, things don’t get better than the brand’s ultra luxe Embody model.
A team of 20 physicians and Ph.D.s advised on the design of the Embody, which, as the name suggests, mimics the human body. The back features “flexible ribs” that automatically adjust to the curve of your spine, whatever position you’re in, while the seat consists of a “dynamic matrix of pixels” that “automatically conform to your body’s micro-movements, distributing your weight evenly as you sit.” Every part of the uber-customizable Embody was thoughtfully designed to support your body so seamlessly that you forget it’s there — and, as such, you can focus entirely on your work.
Budget pick: Staples Hyken Mesh Task Chair ($149.99; staples.com)
At the end of the day, not everyone wants to shell out $1,000 on a place for their butt. Staples’ Hyken model is a popular budget pick that, while not quite (OK, not nearly) as luxurious as the Embody, is still a comfortable chair at a very good price. The chair is made from breathable mesh and features built-in lumbar support, in addition to an adjustable seat, arm height and headrest. This isn’t the most customizable chair on the market (you can’t adjust the seat pan for instance) but it’s certainly a step up from than standard office chair. The Hyken can support up to 275 pounds and comes with a seven-year warranty.
Best looking: Herman Miller Sayl Chair ($510; amazon.com)
Another excellent choice from Herman Miller, the Sayl model falls in between our other picks in terms of both price and features. The breathable mesh back is actually frameless and was modeled after suspension bridges. The result is a super supportive chair that encourages better posture while also adding a touch of elegant, modern flair to any office.
In a position where you can’t simply swap out your office chair? It’s worth looking into a standalone lumbar support device. Easy Posture Lumbar Back Support Mesh ($16.95; amazon.com) is a lightweight, breathable accessory that attaches to your chair to add a little boost for your back. If breathability isn’t a major concern, LoveHome’s squishy and supportive Memory Foam Lumbar Support Cushion ($25.98; amazon.com) has more than 2,000 five-star reviews and comes with a 60-day money back guarantee.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed price at the time of publication.