Articles, Ergonomics

Mousing Around

Like tennis elbow, mouse shoulder is painful and preventable

Stretch. . . s t r e t c h . . . s t r e t c h . . . s t r e t c h . . . snap! Overstretched or overused, your tendons can react like a worn out elastic band. Irritated tendons are inflamed tendons, and inflamed tendons hurt.

People who play tennis know this pain as “tennis elbow”. Computer users feel it as “mouse shoulder”. This is the pain that results when one or more of the tendons attached to your rotator cuff become irritated, brittle or torn. You might find it difficult to put on your coat. You may feel pain when you reach forward. Sleeping on the affected arm might be uncomfortable enough to wake you.

You can escape this sort of overuse injury by paying careful attention to the way you use your mouse:

Stay in line. Your mouse should be in line with your keyboard. You should be able to reach the mouse easily. Don’t stretch forward. Don’t reach up or down. Just make a smooth motion and keep your elbow close to your body.

Check your fit. Different size feet require different sizes of shoes. Different sized hands require different sizes of mouse or trackball. If you’re clenching your hand all day, you’ll irritate your tendons. You shouldn’t have to grip your mouse; rather, aim to keep your whole hand relaxed.

Don’t bobble. Your keyboard support should be firm. If the support isn’t firm, it will move when you put your weight on the mouse, requiring you to apply more pressure to click. The greater the pressure, the greater the strain. You want to use as little pressure as possible, so you require as little of your hand as possible.

Don’t overuse. Take regular breaks, at least once every 30 minutes. Stretch and relax your hands. Learn keystroke commands so you rely less on the mouse. Here are a few for Windows and Office:
Ctrl C = Copy
Ctrl X = Cut
Ctrl V = Paste
Ctrl Z = Undo
Ctrl-Esc = Go to the Start menu
Alt F4 = Close the active application

Here’s the cheese: Keep your hand relaxed. Keep your arms close to your body. A clenched fist and an extended arm lead to pain.

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