Author Topic: Keyboard recommendations/advice for CMC arthritis  (Read 3826 times)

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Offline moosedawg

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Keyboard recommendations/advice for CMC arthritis
« on: Fri, 03 November 2017, 21:48:25 »
This will probably be long, so I apologize in advance, I will try to be concise. I am a transcriptionist for work (working from home) and avid PC gamer for play. I use a Kinesis Freestyle 2 with the VIP tenting kit (normally tented up at highest setting) for typing, and a Logitech G13 gameboard for gaming. The G13 is starting to wear out, which got me researching/shopping for a new gameboard. Looking at the Razer Orbweaver mainly because of the mechanical switches, which also got me started looking at keyboards as well. Back in the day, I used a DAS with cherry blues for my main keyboard until it started causing de Quervain's tenosynovitis, which also led to being diagnosed with early CMC arthritis. So, that's when I went with the Freestyle 2 to have a split keyboard and the tenting option to relieve the ulnar deviation causing the de Quervain's tenosynovitis. I sadly sacrificed my mechanical switches because I could not afford the Kinesis Advantage 2 at the time, plus I didn't want to spend all that money and not be able to adjust the split as I chose. I loved the idea of being able to arrange separate halves to whatever angle/distance I wanted, and the Freestyle has been a great keyboard, with the exception of the rubber dome keys. Although, they require very little force, which has been a pleasant surprise and I've not had de Quervain's symptoms since. The Freestyle 2 is leaps and bounds better than the old Microsoft 4000 I had which was like hammering nails with your fingers because the rubber dome was so stiff!

So, with the research I've been doing, I've discovered the existence of the ErgoDox EZ, Keyboardio, a DIY Dactyl version of ErgoDox, revisited the Kinesis Advantage 2, and discovered that Kinesis is releasing a mechanical version of the Freestyle coming out this month geared toward gamers (Kinesis Freestyle Edge). It was on Kickstarter earlier this year (which I missed, dang it!), but Kinesis said it will be available for purchase through their website in November. It's essentially a Freestyle 2 with mechanical switches (choice of Cherry blues, browns, or reds), blue backlighting (sadly not the fancy, fully customizable RGB that Razer, Corsair, and the like use) and programmable keys, which looks great and are pretty much the two things I always wanted and missed in my current Freestyle 2. However, I really like the perceived versatility and ortholinear layout of the keys on the ErgoDox EZ, Advantage 2, Keyboardio, etc., which is something I always wanted to try. It just makes so much more sense! You can almost achieve that by having a split keyboard such as the Freestyle 2 if you angle them properly, but I can only imagine how much nicer ortholinear would be. The new Kinesis Edge won't have that, it will still have a standard, offset key layout exactly like the Freestyle 2 I already have.

I really like the idea of an ErgoDox EZ because I could use the left half of it as a replacement for my G13, which potentially would eliminate a peripheral on my already crowded keyboard tray (G13, Freestyle 2, mouse+mousepad, and occasionally an X-52 Pro HOTAS for Elite Dangerous or Star Citizen sessions). However, I am concerned about the thumb clusters on the ErgoDox and Advantage 2 and to some extent the Keyboardio with regard to my CMC arthritis and if the clusters would cause more pain to my thumb, or help relieve it. Side-to-side  movements don't hurt that much, such as stretching it out away from the other fingers, but the downward force such as long gaming sessions where I do a lot of jumping (pushing down/mashing the jump/spacebar key) causes a lot of pain in my thumb. However, this could be a side effect of my G13 not only being a rubber dome but also wearing out thereby needing to push harder on the button, which was why I was looking at an Orbweaver with the mechanical switches, hoping the newer, lower force keys would reduce some of the strain because I wouldn't need to push as hard. Generally, it is the gaming that affects my thumb more so than typing since I touch type and for the most part use my right thumb (space bar) and only occasionally use my left thumb for alt key modifiers.

This is where I would need some recommendations/advice. Do any of you that have an ErgoDox or similar keyboard with thumb clusters (thinking Advantage 2, Keyboardio, or Dactyl version of ErgoDox) have an issue with CMC arthritis? If so, how do your thumbs feel after a long day of typing or gaming? I have read a lot of comments about the difficulty in reaching the thumb clusters on the ErgoDox and similarly on the Advantage 2, but that is the beauty of programmable keys, I can just remap them to things I use rarely (at least on the left side for my particular case). I wouldn't say I have "large" hands, but they are probably on the larger side for a woman. I tend to wear a med mens to large women's size glove if that helps. I believe my fingers and thumbs are of average length, but would probably be considered longer than the average woman. I'm not "petite" by any means, but I'm also not an Amazon, lol! ;D  Also, has anyone used the ErgoDox or DIY Dactyl ErgoDox for gaming as a gameboard like the Orbweaver or the G13. I know there are 32 different layers that can be used, but I often play online games that often require me to type in chat in addition to controlling the game. Other times I may need to alt+tab to access the internet on my other monitors. So, if I were to use the left side of the ErgoDox as a gameboard, will I still be able to type quickly without having to fiddle with switching a bunch of layers at a moment's notice while in heated combat, etc.? Maybe I would be better off sticking with a dedicated gameboard like the Orbweaver or G13, or build a dedicated, left-hand only ErgoDox for that situation? 

Any advice or recommendations by anyone who may have similar issues would be greatly appreciated. 90% of the information out there on ergonomic keyboards tends to address carpal tunnel RSI symptoms rather than CMC arthritis. I want to maintain a split keyboard layout like I currently have, so I'm pretty much not considering the Advantage 2 other than wanting to know how the thumb clusters are and my fascination to know what it's like to type in those curved wells. I like the freedom of being able to move the 2 halves of my keyboard anywhere I want. Some days I like them close, others days I like them further apart. Often it depends on what I'm doing, far apart when typing, close together when gaming to make room for my G13 without having to stretch my left hand way out. I wish there were somewhere I could easily get my hands on a Dactyl ErgoDox. It seems like the best of both worlds. I would like to know how that would be for gaming. I don't have a problem building my own, I have experience with building electronics (albeit a LONG time ago), but I cannot seem to find the parts reliably or affordably unless any of you know something I don't. I don't have access to a 3D printer, so I would have to have the case printed at Shapeways, but from what I saw on Matt Adereth's Shapeways link, it's like $60 per piece for 4 pieces of it, unless I'm misreading it somehow. That would be like $240 just for the case! Then you have to source the flexible PCBs, which again, I have no idea where/how to do that. I don't think I'm skilled enough to make my own, but who knows. Although, with all the other parts and pieces you would need, it would be WAY more expensive than even the ErgoDox EZ Shine and I wouldn't have to build it myself or need to find tenting+wrist wrest options. I really don't want to wait a small eternity for when Massdrop has another ErgoDox offer either. Or do I buy an Advantage 2 and sacrifice the freedom of a 2-piece split board. Again, any advice, suggestions, or personal experience with similar issues, specifically with regard to the thumb clusters for typing and gaming would be greatly appreciated. Currently, I'm leaning strongly toward a ErgoDox EZ Shine, and still undecided if I were to buy one if I would go blank keycaps (DCS sculptured) or printed (DSA keycaps). My Freestyle 2 looks to be DSA keycaps. I don't know if I've ever typed on DCS keycaps. I touch type on a split board now, so I don't think blank keycaps would be much of an issue with the execption of the occasional symbol I don't type regularly. I would most likely always type with it tented higher in the middle and possibly elevated in the front. I read some comments that the sculpted keys were better if using it flat and DSA were better if you have it tented, but then just as many comments say the opposite. Advice/suggestions on experiences with regard to that would also be welcome. Thanks!  :thumb:

Online tp4tissue

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Re: Keyboard recommendations/advice for CMC arthritis
« Reply #1 on: Fri, 03 November 2017, 22:27:30 »
Ergodox tented 55 degrees up, that's a little more than 5 inches off the center straight up.

It's all about the tenting,  nothing else matters,  layout, doesn't matter

Offline moosedawg

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Re: Keyboard recommendations/advice for CMC arthritis
« Reply #2 on: Fri, 03 November 2017, 22:45:05 »
Ergodox tented 55 degrees up, that's a little more than 5 inches off the center straight up.

It's all about the tenting,  nothing else matters,  layout, doesn't matter


Thanks TP4! I had actually just read this same comment by you on another thread, lol! Good to know because I definitely like my keyboard tented. I think I can only go to a max of 15 degrees VIP3 lift kit I have now. I always wanted to try the Ascent Accessory Kinesis makes that allows up to 90 degrees of tenting, but that device is over $200 on it's own, which I find a bit silly tbh, that's $100 more than the keyboard cost. May I ask how you obtain the 55 degree tilt with yours?  Did you have to build something or purchase a different accessory?

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Re: Keyboard recommendations/advice for CMC arthritis
« Reply #3 on: Sat, 04 November 2017, 07:51:19 »
Ergodox tented 55 degrees up, that's a little more than 5 inches off the center straight up.

It's all about the tenting,  nothing else matters,  layout, doesn't matter


Thanks TP4! I had actually just read this same comment by you on another thread, lol! Good to know because I definitely like my keyboard tented. I think I can only go to a max of 15 degrees VIP3 lift kit I have now. I always wanted to try the Ascent Accessory Kinesis makes that allows up to 90 degrees of tenting, but that device is over $200 on it's own, which I find a bit silly tbh, that's $100 more than the keyboard cost. May I ask how you obtain the 55 degree tilt with yours?  Did you have to build something or purchase a different accessory?


Well, for now, just put some books under your current tenting kit to try out 55 degrees of tenting. feel the difference,

(you may need a 2-2.5 inch wrist rest depending on table height.) again (books)


When you find the angle you like,  the next step is to make a tenting mechanism.


Very simply, there are 2 ways.


You can drill holes into the keyboard, and use Long bolts.

OR you can cut wedges out of a wood.



the $200, is the price of , How long it would take a person with No tools, No diy-spirit.

-- Such a person -- would have to buy the tools, the material, and spend a few hours - Thinking -.


This is how every convenience product is designed..




Offline SamirD

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Re: Keyboard recommendations/advice for CMC arthritis
« Reply #4 on: Sat, 04 November 2017, 12:06:52 »
Sounds like you have a good idea of what you like and need.  Unforutnately, I don't have any experience with your condition to provide any insight into that area, but I will say this--think about how much the medical expenses are/can be for your condition and how much of an improvement in your condition you could get by putting that money into what seems like 'expensive' keyboard options.  When it comes to one's hands and their longevity over a lifetime, $1000 into a keyboard setup that will allow one to do what they want without pain for an indefinite time is a worthwhile investment.  Hence why I have so many model Ms.

Offline kurplop

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Re: Keyboard recommendations/advice for CMC arthritis
« Reply #5 on: Sat, 04 November 2017, 14:19:56 »
I was diagnosed with severe arthritis at the base of the thumbs 10 years ago and have found my own solution to pain free keyboarding but not everybody responds the same to various ergonomic devices. I found that my thumbs are okay with lateral “hammering” of the thumb keys but not with contracting or squeezing thumb movements. My condition makes using thumb trackballs painful to use also. The precise movements cause pain and fatigue but gross motor functions originating further up the wrist are fine (lateral hammering).

I found the Ergodox easy on the thumbs but not all of the switches were easily accessible. Still, it is a good choice.

Offline moosedawg

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Re: Keyboard recommendations/advice for CMC arthritis
« Reply #6 on: Sun, 05 November 2017, 04:28:54 »
I was diagnosed with severe arthritis at the base of the thumbs 10 years ago and have found my own solution to pain free keyboarding but not everybody responds the same to various ergonomic devices. I found that my thumbs are okay with lateral “hammering” of the thumb keys but not with contracting or squeezing thumb movements. My condition makes using thumb trackballs painful to use also. The precise movements cause pain and fatigue but gross motor functions originating further up the wrist are fine (lateral hammering).

I found the Ergodox easy on the thumbs but not all of the switches were easily accessible. Still, it is a good choice.

Thanks kurplop - it sounds like the symptoms you have are nearly opposite to mine, I do fine on the squeezing movements (although pinching and grasping objects at times can hurt like hell), but the hammering movements are what hurt. I guess it's "lucky" for me my arthritis is on my left hand (although that is my dominant hand) but I pretty much only write with my left hand. So, I don't need specific left-handed devices like mice, scissors, or baseball mitts.  ;)  But glad that the ErgoDox works well for you, that helps me narrow things down a bit. Your feedback is greatly appreciated.

Offline moosedawg

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Re: Keyboard recommendations/advice for CMC arthritis
« Reply #7 on: Sun, 05 November 2017, 04:37:55 »
Ergodox tented 55 degrees up, that's a little more than 5 inches off the center straight up.

It's all about the tenting,  nothing else matters,  layout, doesn't matter


Thanks TP4! I had actually just read this same comment by you on another thread, lol! Good to know because I definitely like my keyboard tented. I think I can only go to a max of 15 degrees VIP3 lift kit I have now. I always wanted to try the Ascent Accessory Kinesis makes that allows up to 90 degrees of tenting, but that device is over $200 on it's own, which I find a bit silly tbh, that's $100 more than the keyboard cost. May I ask how you obtain the 55 degree tilt with yours?  Did you have to build something or purchase a different accessory?


Well, for now, just put some books under your current tenting kit to try out 55 degrees of tenting. feel the difference,

(you may need a 2-2.5 inch wrist rest depending on table height.) again (books)


When you find the angle you like,  the next step is to make a tenting mechanism.


Very simply, there are 2 ways.


You can drill holes into the keyboard, and use Long bolts.

OR you can cut wedges out of a wood.



the $200, is the price of , How long it would take a person with No tools, No diy-spirit.

-- Such a person -- would have to buy the tools, the material, and spend a few hours - Thinking -.


This is how every convenience product is designed..

Thanks again TP. I will try using some books to check out the height. Luckily, I am very into DIY, so I'm sure I could replicate something that will work. Plus, I have a very talented and creative husband who loves to build things and try out new ideas. He knows how to weld as well, so I know he will be able to make something absolutely wonderful out of wood or metal. In fact, he built the desk I am using and it's great. I did the staining, but he built it from scratch and it's completely custom to the size I wanted. He's very handy to have around, I think I'll keep him)  :)  He and I have already talked about building an ErgoDox ourselves, so that wouldn't be a problem. He's eager to try, he loves little projects like that. I just don't know how long I want to wait for another MassDrop kit to come around. And it appears that buying all the components separately might be challenging and a lot more expensive. We'll see.

Online tp4tissue

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Re: Keyboard recommendations/advice for CMC arthritis
« Reply #8 on: Sun, 05 November 2017, 08:52:42 »
You can also try tenting in more than one axis,

Depending on your table height/ seated height/ tray surface height.,  it can transform the most comfortable angle.

Offline csmertx

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Re: Keyboard recommendations/advice for CMC arthritis
« Reply #9 on: Sun, 05 November 2017, 14:18:59 »
Books and things laying around the house are nice but a few blocks of clay and a placemat of some kind can REALLY help you figure out exact measurements. Especially if you have metalwork in mind  :eek:

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Re: Keyboard recommendations/advice for CMC arthritis
« Reply #10 on: Sun, 05 November 2017, 19:46:02 »
Books and things laying around the house are nice but a few blocks of clay and a placemat of some kind can REALLY help you figure out exact measurements. Especially if you have metalwork in mind  :eek:

mertx with the clay.. so sophisticated...



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Offline csmertx

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Re: Keyboard recommendations/advice for CMC arthritis
« Reply #11 on: Sun, 05 November 2017, 21:10:39 »
Industrial designers still use various types of clay for professional purposes. And it's a fantastic medium for fleshing out serious ergonomics.

Offline SamirD

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Re: Keyboard recommendations/advice for CMC arthritis
« Reply #12 on: Mon, 06 November 2017, 08:46:34 »
Industrial designers still use various types of clay for professional purposes. And it's a fantastic medium for fleshing out serious ergonomics.
And automotive engineers have been using it for decades too.  I wonder if they still do or if everything has gone to cad.


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Re: Keyboard recommendations/advice for CMC arthritis
« Reply #13 on: Tue, 07 November 2017, 20:14:34 »
Industrial designers still use various types of clay for professional purposes. And it's a fantastic medium for fleshing out serious ergonomics.

 that's cuz solidwurkz loft tool is fking ****...