Why Use an Ergonomic Mouse?


You might be wondering why you should use an ergonomic mouse.

Using an ergonomic mouse reduces the chance of injury, including muscle strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, and tendonitis.  An ergonomic mouse can also relieve pain you have now, and prevent future problems from computer use.  As an added bonus, an ergonomic mouse can improve your productivity and save you time.

In this article, I will give an overview of ergonomics and how using a mouse can cause pain.  I will explain how an ergonomic mouse can help to prevent this pain.  In addition, I will discuss what to look for when exploring which ergonomic mouse to buy.  Finally, I will talk a bit about other ergonomics issues and give my thoughts and recommendations.

Ergonomics and the Mouse

The goal of ergonomics is to make sure that people are using the tools best suited to their work tasks.  For example, ergonomics would tell you to use a steak knife, not a butter knife, to cut a steak.

The reason is that you would need to apply more force with the butter knife.  Over time, you could injure yourself, perhaps by gripping the butter knife too tightly to apply more force.

The same idea comes into play for office work.  The tasks you will normally face involve using a mouse, among other things.  If you are applying too much force to hold the mouse or to click, you could injure yourself.  You could also injure yourself by clicking too often.  You could even injure yourself by holding your arm in an awkward position for too long.

Using the wrong mouse can cause pain in your fingers, hand, wrist, forearm, elbow, shoulder, or neck.  Sometimes the issue is muscle strain or soreness, often from being in the same position for too long a time.  In other cases, you can cause damage to your tendons through overuse.  You can also develop a musculoskeletal disorder, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

How Can an Ergonomic Mouse Help You?

An ergonomic mouse reduces the strain that causes problems, such as muscle fatigue and carpal tunnel syndrome.  An ergonomic mouse and posture gives the muscles the chance to rest between uses.  It also gives your body a chance to recover from overuse or repetitive strain injuries.

Relieve Existing Pain

If you already suffer from pain due to computer work, an ergonomic mouse can help.  If you choose the proper mouse, then your body will be in a more natural position as you work.  You will also need less force in order to move the mouse or click.  This will reduce wear and tear on muscles and tendons.  This will allow your muscles and tendons to heal some of the damage done.

Increase Productivity

A good ergonomic mouse not only relieves and prevents pain, but also makes you more productive.  The many options available, including programmable or shortcut buttons, will streamline your workflow and save you time and clicks.  If an ergonomic mouse saves you a little time each day, you will be happy to buy it.  An ergonomic mouse can save you from days, weeks, or months of injury and lost wages.

What to Look for in an Ergonomic Mouse

You should consider several factors when searching for the proper ergonomic mouse.  First, consider comfort, which includes size and shape.  In addition, you should also consider convenience, including the buttons and options available.  Finally, you should consider the useful life and cost of the mouse.

Size and Shape

Some people have big hands, so they will need a larger mouse.  Trying to grip a mouse that is too small can hurt your hands.  Likewise, trying to wrestle with a mouse that is too large can also cause injury.  You might find some guidance online concerning hand measurements (length and width), but most important is comfort.  Your body knows what works and what will hurt you.

In addition to size, you should consider the shape of the mouse when buying.  In addition to a traditional “teardrop” mouse, pictured above, you can also find a vertical mouse.  You can also find a mouse that lets you switch hands at will.  Keep in mind that this mouse has a learning curve.  However, you can reduce the strain on your dominant hand by 50%!

Shortcuts or Programmable Buttons

The most basic mouse has two buttons: left and right click.  Ok, so an Apple mouse only has one button.  Still, there is a whole lot more to the functionality of a mouse than “point and click”.

First, a scroll wheel is helpful to move more quickly up and down a page.  This is especially true if you are just browsing a long article, and don’t want to move your entire hand.

Also, a good ergonomic mouse will have shortcut buttons that save you time and clicks.  For example, a double-click button lets you click once to “double click”.  This can potentially save you hundreds or thousands of clicks per day.

Other helpful shortcut buttons include copy and paste.  Instead of using a program menu or keyboard shortcuts to copy and paste, you can do it with two clicks.

You might also consider a mouse that lets you customize buttons.  These “programmable buttons”, let you assign a specific action to a mouse button.

Example

You can assign a specific button on your mouse to close a window.

Also, you can also assign a specific button to click the “Back” button in a browser.

You can even assign a combination of keystrokes (shortcuts or hotkeys) to a single mouse button.  In addition to saving time, this saves you from contorting your hands into awkward positions.

Customized Sensitivity

You might also look for a mouse that lets you set the sensitivity, or cursor speed, on the mouse itself.  If the mouse you want does not have such a button, you can manually change the sensitivity from your computer.

Either way, you want to strike a balance with cursor speed.  If it is too slow, you will need to move your hand with an exaggerated motion.  You might even need to move your whole arm or shoulder, which can lead to pain over time.  If the cursor speed is too fast (sensitive), you will have trouble clicking on the button you want.  If the cursor flies all over the screen at the slightest touch of the mouse, then decrease the speed.

Wireless

A mouse with a cord has limited options in terms of where you can position it on your desk.  The cord can also get in the way, clutters up your desk, and is unsightly.  A wireless mouse solves this problem, and if it has rechargeable batteries, you never have to worry about buying AAs.

Lefty Friendly

Due the specialized nature of an ergonomic mouse, you can generally only use it with a specific hand.  Left-handed people account for only 10 percent of the population.  If you fall in this category, make sure to find a mouse that fits your needs.  You can also buy a mouse that lets you alternate hands.  You could even learn to use a right-handed ergonomic mouse.

Useful Life, Warranty, and Cost

Some people resist a higher-priced ergonomic mouse because of sticker shock at the cost.  However, you should also consider how long the mouse will last.  A great mouse that costs $180 and lasts 9 years has a cost of $20 per year.  A cheap mouse that costs $60 and lasts 2 years has a cost of $30 per year.

You should also consider the warranty offered.  A mouse may only have a one year warranty.  In addition, if you spill anything on the mouse, you might void the warranty.

In either case, don’t cheap out on a good ergonomic mouse.  The proper mouse can save you time and money by avoiding lost wages due to injury.

Additional Ergonomic Considerations

A few more items that might help to improve your productivity and decrease your pain follow.

Keyboard & Typing

An ergonomic keyboard may have slightly slanted keys, which can make all the difference for the position of your wrists.  If you have severe pain, you can consider a voice-to-text solution.

Dragon is one such software, which writes for you as you speak.  If you open a Google Doc, you can also use speech-to-text there.  Speech-to-text technology has come a long way in recent years.  If the tools frustrated you before, try them now!

Desk & Computer Screen

You want to make sure that you place your keyboard at the proper height.  You also want to make sure the top of your computer screen is at about eye level.

These two orders can be difficult to achieve with a laptop.  I suggest buying a desk that is the right height for your keyboard, and using a USB keyboard.  Then, you can adjust the laptop screen to the proper height.  I do this by stacking books under it.  You could also buy a particular piece of furniture that works.

Headset & Microphone

If you take lots of calls, holding the phone with your hand or neck can cause muscle pain.  This may lead to musculoskeletal disorders.  A wireless, hands-free headset lets you take calls and talk without hurting your hands or wrists.

My Recommendations

If you want more detail on some of the equipment I use myself, please visit my resource page.  Other pages for specific equipment:

Conclusion

Ergonomics is one of those topics that people misunderstand or ignore.  Those who misunderstand ergonomics think that it is only about health, but it is also about productivity.  Those who ignore ergonomics think they will never have a problem.  Perhaps they are right.  However, you are more likely to become disabled than to die during your working years.

Make the investment in yourself, your health, and your productivity, and buy an ergonomic mouse!  I hope that this article is helpful.  If you know of any other factors to consider, please let me know in the comments below.

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