To Rest or Not to Rest: Using Armrests for Typing

Office Ergonomics July 10, 2019

Often times you’ll find conflicting information regarding certain ergonomics topics and equipment. In today’s blog we’re addressing a recent question sent to us from one of our Back Scholars on whether or not you should use a chair’s armrests while typing.


“Can you provide clarification on the use of wrist/arm rests and when you should/shouldn’t use them? In previous training I’ve been told that rests shouldn’t be used while typing, but that seems different than what’s said here.”

Back School Founder and Director, Ron Porter was on hand to address this one and also forwarded it onto our Director of Education, Dr. Bob Niklewicz, for a second opinion.

“Support  of the arms  has been shown to be helpful in decreasing the muscle activity in the shoulders and neck on EMG studies. Armrests  that support underneath the forearm are the best solution. If that is not possible we believe that using a wrist rest will also provide some relief to those muscles. Our view is that you should rest the base of the palm not the wrist on the support. Therefore we often call it a hand or palm rest not a wrist rest.  We generally do NOT recommend a wrist rest while doing mouse activity,  as it is a different motion and may cause contact stress at the flexor tendons of the wrist.

I also CCed our Director of Education, Dr. Bob Niklewicz and he may have some response as well.”

Here’s what Dr. Bob had to add.

“I totally agree with Ron’s comments. I would add that the armrests are NOT meant as full support/constant contact while typing but rather between thoughts and moments not typing.  These “Mini” breaks are the key to allowing the circulation to refresh tissue with each break, no matter how short they are.

I also agree that resting the wrist flat on the pads is not desirable.  I would rather that the typist turn their wrists so the thumb is on top of a loose fist during those brief moments. This also relaxes the hand by placing them in a neutral position.”

Do you have any experience with armrests in your ergonomics assessments? Positive or negative? Let us know in the comments.

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