BACKGROUND: A new piano keyboard that is 7/8 the size of a regular keyboard is easier for kids and people with small hands to play, according to a new pilot study by researchers at the University of Nebraska. This is important because people can develop bad playing habits when trying to reach the keys. The natural alignment of the hands and wrist, and how the size of the hand, or the reach of the fingers, relate to the size of the keyboard, are important factors in determining how easy or difficult it is for a person to place their wrist in an unnatural position while playing the piano. A hand span of 8 inches or less generally indicates a "small-handed" pianist.
WHAT IS ERGONOMICS: This is a branch of science that strives to design the job to fit the worker, rather than the other way around. In the modern office, it most commonly relates to the physical stresses placed on joints, muscles, nerves, tendons, bones, even hearing and eyesight, along with other environmental factors that can adversely affect comfort and health. Ergonomics deals with the interaction of technology and work environments with the human body, and involves anatomy, physiology and psychology in the design of chairs, desks, computer accessories, the design of car controls and instruments -- in short, any kind of product that could help relieve potential repetitive strain from a given job or task.
POTENTIAL FOR INJURY: The most common cumulative trauma disorder (also known as repetitive strain injury) associated with computers or pianos is carpal tunnel syndrome, which affects the hand and wrist. Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome or related repetitive strain include tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers; and loss of strength or coordination in the hands. Tendonitis and many back injuries can also result from repetitive motions.
TIPS ON PROPER FORM: Raise or lower chairs to avoid typing with your wrists at an odd angle. Place your keyboard at a level slightly lower than normal desk height. Use a footrest to avoid dangling your legs. While typing, wrists should not be bent up, down or to the side. The knuckle, wrist and top of the forearm should form a straight line. Elbows should form a 90-degree angle while hanging at the sides from the shoulders, and the shoulders should remain relaxed in a lowered position while typing. Do not use wrist supports or rests while you are typing, only when pausing to rest. Adjust computer monitors to avoid glare. Take frequent breaks from repetitive tasks to give your body a rest. Use a light touch when typing or holding the mouse.
The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.