02/26/2009

Avoid The Mouse Trap

If you are sitting at a desktop computer, chances are you are also using a
mouse. That little handheld pointing device changed the way we use computers.
Since the introduction of Windows technology in the 1990s, mouse-intensive
software has been an unavoidable part of office work. It is an amazing gadget
that makes complex tasks "just a click away," however the mouse does have its
drawbacks. It requires the small muscles in the user's hand, fingers and thumb
to repeat the same precise movements throughout the day, and for office workers
this could mean every day.

Using a mouse can cause pain in the hand, wrist, forearm and elbow. Painful
nodules and ganglion cysts may form along the joints and tendons. Extended use
of the mouse can also cause numbness and tingling in the thumb and index
finger, and may develop into Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

The problem is aggravated when the mouse is in a hard-to-reach position and the
user must reach out with the arm in an extended, unsupported position.
Continually reaching with the arm and holding it in this position causes
soreness and fatigue. This strain can affect the muscles in the upper back,
shoulder and neck. Many mouse users also adopt awkward positions and poor
posture which can affect the lower back.

TIPS to HELP PREVENT MOUSE PAIN

If the computer mouse causes you any discomfort, try some of these tips and see
how your body responds. Solutions will not be the same for everyone but if you
are experiencing pain, it's a good idea to investigate alternatives.

Go easy on the wrist. Rather than skate or flick the mouse with the wrist, keep
the wrist neutral and let your arm do the work by pivoting at the elbow.

Limit your mouse time. If you must use the mouse, avoid using it for long
periods of time. Don't wait for the pain to set in. Take frequent breaks from
mousing even when you feel fine.

Aim for an optimal mouse position. Try what works best for you. When sitting
relaxed in your chair, lift your mousing hand up, pivot at the elbow until your
hand is at or just above elbow level. Your mouse should be positioned somewhere
around this point. If this place is over the numeric keypad of your keyboard,
try a flat mouse platform (your mouse should be 2.5 to 5 cm or 1 to 2 inches
higher than keyboard level and over the numeric keypad on your keyboard if
possible). If your mouse platform slopes downward, position it close to the
keyboard and keep your wrist in a neutral position. Another option is to
position the mouse between yourself and the keyboard, or use a built-in touch
pad.

Go easy on the mouse. Don't squeeze it. Hold it loosely in your hand with a
relaxed grip.

Keep it clean. The mouse will move more smoothly if you keep the rollers
dust-free.

Learn keyboard shortcuts. Any opportunity to type a function on the keyboard
rather than click it with the mouse gives those tiny muscles a break and helps
maintain circulation to the hand.

Shield your wrist. Wrists are delicate. They have exposed blood vessels near
the skin. Nature intended the palm of your hand, and your forearm, to absorb
any shock to protect the wrist. If you rest your arm flat on a surface, you'll
see a curve that prevents the wrist from direct pressure against the surface.
Any direct pressure on the wrist disrupts circulation to the hand and increases
the risk of injury.

Don't use a wrist rest. For the reasons stated above, any direct pressure
against the wrist is risky.

Let arms move freely. Don't lock the forearms into position by resting them on
a soft wrist rest or cushy chair arm. This only encourages the wrist to do all
the work.

Go big and flat. Choose a mouse that is flat, not curved, to maintain the
natural curve in your forearm that protects your wrist. A larger mouse
encourages you to use your arm rather than wrist.

Switch hands. Alternating between the right and left hands, or "load sharing,"
helps prevent overworking one hand with too much mousing. This simply requires
a place for the mouse that works on both sides of the keyboard, and a
symmetrical mouse you can use with both your left and right hand.

The best way to avoid injury from the computer mouse, of course, is to avoid
using it altogether. Failing that, use it in moderation and try some of these
tips. Pain relief might be one less click away.


More info


AplusA-online.de - Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety