Most UK office workers spend the majority of their day behind a desk working on a computer. This kind of work involves a lot of interaction with a keyboard and mouse. Unfortunately, many offices still use the standard keyboards and mice that come with the purchase of a computer, not seeing the need to spend money on a better mouse or keyboard.
Basic mice and keyboards that are generally not ergonomically designed. Overuse of such peripheral devices can lead to excess strain being put on hands, wrists, elbows and forearms. This excess strain can cause Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), a very common injury among desk workers.
For this article we’d like to focus on mice and alternative pointing devices, since this topic alone could fill many pages. Is using a computer mouse all day long uncomfortable and causing pain? Are you ready to invest in a more ergonomic pointing device? Let’s have a look at different types of pointing devices and their ergonomics.
Mice: Different Grips, Different Mice
Which mouse is most comfortable for you depends on the size of your hands and how you hold your mouse.
Some people like to have their entire hand on the mouse, using their palm to move it around, the so-called palm grip. Using your mouse in this way is more comfortable for most people and thus likely to help prevent RSI problems. Mice that encourage this type of grip include the Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer and Razer Deathadder.
Another popular type of grip is the claw grip. People using this type of grip arch their top fingers, making their hand look like a claw. They sometimes also clamp their thumb, pinky and ring finger on the sides of the mouse for better grip. The back of the palm may or may not be resting on the back of the mouse. Using this type of grip allows you to control the mouse more precisely, but is usually more straining. The Logitech Performance Mouse MX and Razer Abyssus are a good choice for mice that facilitate this grip.
The last type of mouse grip is the tip grip. Using this grip, only the fingertips touch the mouse and are used for moving it around. This type of grip provides the best precision, but is generally not advised for people with RSI issues because it is more taxing than the other grips.
When shopping for a mouse, pay attention to how you grip your mouse and whether the mouse you are considering will allow you to comfortably grip it that way.
Some ergonomic specialists swear by vertical mice. A vertical mouse can help with RSI because it allows your mouse arm to be in a more neutral position, avoiding forearm twisting. Evoluent is one of the more well known manufacturers of vertical mice.
Using a trackball wrist movement is much more limited than with a mouse, helping prevent wrist-related RSI aches. Not everyone can get used to using a trackball however, but for people with wrist problems they may be worth a try.
Some people swear by trackpads, others hate them. Depending on how you use them, they may help prevent RSI or actually cause it. If you are very comfortable using a trackpad, it may be a great alternative to a mouse. On the other hand, if you notice that you put a lot of pressure on your fingers and wrists when using a trackpad, you may want to stick to a mouse.
While the ergonomics of the pointing device you use helps prevent RSI, it is still important that you pay attention to how you are using your mouse or other pointing device and avoid putting excess strain on your wrists, hands, forearms and elbows. Take regular breaks and consider switching between different types of input devices. Learning more keyboard shortcuts and thus avoiding overuse of a mouse is another way of reducing the risk of RSI.