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Technology Beyond the Mouse: Track Pad and Texting Can Strain and Pain Too

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Repetitive motion strains muscles and creates pain. Holding the computer mouse with the arm elevated and in motion for long periods of time affects the hand, forearm, shoulder and sometimes the back. For their efficiency and to alleviate this straining position, theoretically, track pads are ergonomically superior to the mouse.

It is believed that the track pad is superior because it causes little or no movement from the shoulder, arm, wrist or hand. However, track pads on laptops are located in the center and are too close to the body. This close positioning creates a hunching over or bad ergonomics. In the track pad positioning, the hand or hands are collected at the front of the screen and the shoulders are compressed when navigating the cursor and typing on the keyboard.

Track pad overuse creates different finger and hand muscle strain than the mouse because of positioning. The muscles in the forefinger, in particular, tense and strain with the constant static motion of finger pad to track pad. Be aware of pain and take frequent breaks from this repetitive motion. If there is any incidence of numbness or evidence of other hand disorders, consider a separate track pad which has a larger work surface and a liberal USB cord allowing for variation of hand, arm and shoulder movement. The Cirque Easy Cat is one example of many products which seem to be the best as a track pad for limiting motion with the positioning flexibility of the mouse.

We know that not all of our communication is via desk or laptop computer. Much of our communication happens when we are mobile as we email and text from our phones. There have been recent warnings about Blackberry Thumb and iPod Finger and experts say that numb fingers and aching wrists are a signal to stop.

The problem stems from the small size of mobile phones. People tend to hold the device in their fingers and press tiny keys with their thumbs. This positioning reverses the keyboard where our thumbs are given the space bar to thump and the fingers type.

While most text messages are short, a recent survey showed that 10 percent of texting users send up to 100 texts a day.

Dr. Matthew Bennett, a noted expert on the effects of RSI states: "When text messaging, the tendency is to keep your shoulders and upper arms tense," he explained. "This cuts down the circulation to the forearm, when in fact it needs a greater than normal blood flow to achieve the consistent movements of the thumbs and fingers."

Frequently stretch the fingers, arms, shoulders and back when using the track pad or mobile phone for extended period of times.

Add a Comment7 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I get aches in my arms & shoulders from playing too much Angry Birds on my iPhone

May 18, 2010 - 6:10am
EmpowHER Guest

see this is what I have been trying to tell people. I have a built in wrist support for my hands so its ergonomic and my mouse is a track ball so all I have to really move is my thumb. Granted its difficult for others to use, but once one gets use to it, it saves on having to go to the doctor for carpel tunnel.

April 6, 2010 - 4:05pm
EmpowHER Guest

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April 6, 2010 - 3:10am
EmpowHER Guest

Thank you for your comment, anonymous.

As with any new technology such as the keyboard, texting on your cellphone...comes pain associated with constant movement of the same muscles. I guess the only real solution would be moderation but which one of us can really go without the use of computers in this technological world?

I hope they find a solution soon to benefit all users.

April 4, 2010 - 10:10am
EmpowHER Guest

Yeah, after 7 years of constantly using a touchpad, my wrist is doing pretty bad. Can't find a good alternative, though. Also, 7 years of sitting on a couch over a notebook has take it's toll as well.

April 4, 2010 - 10:03am
EmpowHER Guest

The bit about the track pad seems to have no basis in fact. I have used track pads and track balls exclusively for years. The use essentially the same muscles and motions of the forefinger and I have never had the least problem from using either one of them for hours each day.

March 29, 2010 - 3:06pm
EmpowHER Guest

Good post. I think using mouse or trackpad or keyboard without proper ergonomics creates stress on muscles and later in severe muscular problems like Carpal tunnel syndrome. Stretching fingers and palm is definitely good exercise to avoid it.


March 21, 2010 - 3:25am
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