When you bought your home computer or laptop, or put in a request to upgrade your computer system at work, you probably spent a good bit of time thinking about the type of computer you wanted, and where you were going to put it. After all, you need good equipment to get good results, and having your computer in a convenient location where you’re able to sit comfortably and easily reach the rest of your work materials is also an important factor in getting those results efficiently and effectively. If you bought a PC, you might have even considered different types of keyboards, so that your hands could be in the most stress-free position for fast touch typing. However, you might not have thought much about the computer mouse you bought. After all, the mouse is off to the side, and it’s not generally used while typing, so it’s not really important, right?
If you spend a lot of time at the computer, you definitely spend a lot of time using a mouse, unless you’re working on a laptop and only using the touchpad. While touchpad usage can also cause problems because of cramped hand or shoulder positions, that’s a topic for another post. Today, we’re going to look at how the mouse you choose and use might affect your posture, your health, and even your typing speed.
What type of mouse should I use? Most people go with the standard “mouse”-shaped device that rolls on a trackball or uses laser tracking, where the point-and-click functions are done with the index and second fingers. If you find that your hand cramps after too much clicking, you may need to look into a different type of mouse or a different position. There are “joystick” versions of the mouse that change your hand position and use the thumb as well as the fingers for clicking, and these can relieve the strain on your hand. If you’re comfortable with your hand in the “writing” position then you might also look at a pen-shaped mouse, a new style that is getting good reviews.
Where should the mouse be located? Ideally, your mouse should be as close to the keyboard as possible, so that movement is minimized. You can buy platforms that allow you to position the mouse over the right or left side of the keyboard; generally with a PC keyboard there’s room over the numeric keypad for the platform, and you can move the platform out of the way if you’re going to be doing number input. If that’s not possible, make sure your mouse position doesn’t require you to stretch your arm forward or too far to the side. Think about using a wireless mouse to eliminate the cord and provide more flexibility in positioning.
How should I use the mouse to avoid RSI? Since RSI (repetitive strain injury) is caused by doing the same motions over and over, especially if those motions cause pressure or pain in muscles or tendons, one of the best ways to avoid it is to avoid making those motions too many times. While you’ll have to use your mouse for some computer functions, you can also accomplish many tasks with keystroke equivalents. Use the [Page Up] and [Page Down] keys instead of the mouse to move through a document, and learn command key sequences like [Ctrl]-[P] to call up your print menu, rather than clicking on the menu bar.