Unlike people in the movies who can accomplish amazing technological feats using their computer keyboards alone, those of us who use computers in the real world have to suffer through the indignity of using a computer mouse. This is bad news for us, as using a computer mouse can be even tougher on our bodies than using a keyboard; due to the limiting of the work to only one or two fingers, rather than ten.
Like any repetitive motion, this can result in individuals suffering from skeletal or muscular discomfort, possibly resulting in the development of a number of repetitive strain injuries. An ergonomic computer mouse can help to reduce the likelihood of a RSI developing; but without the proper knowledge, and a couple of extra ergonomic accessories, even your ergonomic mouse will be fighting an up-hill battle.
Repetitive Strain Injury & Mouse use
Before we share our 8 ergonomic tips for using a mouse, we're going to give a few great reasons why you sould be paying attention. It may not seem all that bad at first, but the prolonged use of a computer mouse, even an ergonomic one, can have long-lasting, chronic effects on your health and well-being.
One of the most common Repetitive Strain Injuries suffered by those who use a computer mouse is DeQuervain's disease. This RSI occurs when the tendon and its sheath merge where the wrist meets the thumb, and those who develop it will often feel a sharp pain in their wrists whenever they move their thumb. Because DeQuervain's disease occurs in the wrist it is often mistaken for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Another RSI that often develops in mouse users is Flexor Tenosynovitis, also known as 'Trigger Finger'. Unlike DeQuervain's disease, there is no confusing Flexor Tenosynovitis for anything else, as it is caused when a nodule or ganglion cyst develops on one of the finger's tendons and results in a finger that cannot be straightened without assistance from the other hand. The pain associated with Flexor Tenosynovitis is extreme and will have no problem reducing those who suffer from it into tears of agony.
Techniques For Mouse Users
Using a computer mouse with an ergonomic shape will certainly contribute toward staving off the development of RSIs like Flexor Tenosynovitis and DeQuervain's disease, but there is still plenty more you can do to help yourself; starting with following these 8 ergonomic tips for using a mouse.
1. Use an ergonomic mouse pad – Mouse pads with an integrated padded wrist rest are all but essential for anyone who uses a computer regularly. If your mouse mat does not have one of these built in then you can buy external wrist supports for mouse and keyboard use.
2. Hold your mouse gently – Squeezing your mouse with any kind of force is not only unnecessary, it is highly damaging. According to Robert Markison – a renowned hand surgeon with over 30 years of experience, and a Clinical Professor of Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco – 10 pounds of pressure applied to an object whilst gripping it with your thumb places 100 pounds of pressure on the joint at the base of your thumb. This stress will also cause tension in all of your fingers, so hold your mouse as you would hold something fragile and precious.
3. Don't move from the wrist – At times, using a mouse will require precision, and whilst careful wrist use is necessary for carrying out these more delicate manoeuvres, moving your mouse using your entire arm is preferable the rest of the time.
4. Rest all your fingers on the mouse – To help alleviate some of the tension from the finger doing all the work, make sure all your fingers, and thumb, are resting lightly on the mouse as you move it around. This also means that you should be careful not to operate your mouse with your little finger raised, as this will cause additional strain in the rest of your fingers.
Other hints and tips:
- Don't rest your wrist or forearm on the table when you're moving the mouse
- Keep your wrist as relaxed as possible, and try not to have it pushed up or backwards
- Click your mouse lightly, there is no need to try and push your finger through it
- If you can, swap which hand you use your mouse with every hour so that one hand is not taking the full load
Fun facts about the computer mouse:
- The plural of 'computer mouse' can be either 'computer mice' or 'computer mouses', according to the Oxford Dictionary.
- The computer mouse was invented by Douglas Engelbart, a researcher at the Stanford Research Institute, in 1964. It was publicly unveiled in 1968.
- The computer mouse is called a 'mouse' because the designer thought the wire that connects it to the CPU looks like a mouse's tail.
- The first standard desktop computer to use a mouse was Apple Inc's Macintosh computer, in 1984.