Just how many hours do you sit at your computer with your trusty mouse at your side? Using your mouse can be hazardous for a couple of reasons.
Using a mouse requires you to make small, exact movements with your hand, fingers and thumb. This means: positioning, traveling, scrolling, and clicking the mouse. These repetitive movements used over and over and over can lead to discomfort because the same small muscles become overworked and tired.
The mouse has become a common piece of computer equipment developed to help people use computers more quickly and easily. Mouse software has been around since the introduction of Windows technology in the 1990s.
This discomfort or pain manifests itself at the top of the hand, around the wrist and along the forearm and elbow. In later stages of overuse, ganglion cysts can develop around the joints and along the tendons. In severe cases, there may be numbness and tingling in the thumb and index finger that develop into carpal tunnel syndrome.
Another reason that using a mouse can be hazardous results from its placement. If it is awkward to reach, it creates strain. Computer work areas usually have limited space and the keyboard is already directly in the front. When the mouse is placed over to the right or left, it is out of the safe distance range for comfortable hand movements. When using the mouse, you have to reach your arm out and forward then and hold it there. In this position, your arm is unsupported as long as you are using the mouse.
This movement and this unsupported suspension of your arm again and again throughout the workday can cause soreness and fatigue. In this position, you are putting an extra load on the muscles in the trapezius muscle of the upper back and the deltoid muscle of the shoulder. This repeated and uninterrupted use can cause aches and pains in the shoulder and neck area. The lower back can also be pained, not because of the mouse, but because of poor body posture while sitting for hours at the computer.
Obvious, right? So, what can you do to reduce the risk of injury from this pesky mouse?
Here are a few tips:
1. Take frequent breaks from repetitive activity. Stop before the pain starts.Most ergonomists recommend taking at least four typing breaks per hour: three for thirty seconds and one for three minutes. Close your eyes for a moment to give them a break too. Try to structure your work so that typing in interspersed with other activities.
2. Keep fingernails short if you do a lot of typing. Long fingernails make it more difficult to maintain a good typing position (wrists straight, fingers pointed down and slightly curved) and may also interfere with using the mouse.
3. Make sure you’re sitting properly. Current ergonomic research suggests that leaning back slightly while typing can be more beneficial than sitting perfectly straight.
4. Use a support for your forearm. These supports automatically position arms and hands into proper position.
5. Explore an alternative mouse or keyboard. Search for a mouse that can comfortably fit your hand a workspace. Some users find that a flexible, gentle touch keyboard is more comfortable than the standard.
6. Use common sense. If your hand, forearm or shoulder hurts, quit using it. Move the muscle, stretch and strengthen. Don’t wait for pain to change behavior.
These tips will also work for pain and discomfort from using the computer track pad, a topic for next week.