Table of Contents
- 1 What Types of Mouse Devices are Ergonomic?
- 1.1 How are Vertical mouses Ergonomically Designed to Eliminate Wrist Pain?
- 1.2 Trackballs & Trackball Mouses Relieve Carpal Tunnel and Wrist Strain
- 1.3 Trackpads or Touchpads Are Great for Arthritis
- 1.4 Graphics Drawing Pen Tablets Are Naturally Ergonomic
- 1.5 Why are Gaming Mouses so Comfortable to use?
- 2 Choosing an Ergonomic Mouse by Grip Style
- 3 Related Links
A lot of us use the computer for very long periods of time. I personally use the computer 12+ hours a day. And that can’t be good for you. If you’ve sat at a computer for such a long time, you’ll start to notice that it is harder to keep your back straight, and that your wrists start to get sore. Especially for the hand and shoulders that uses the mouse, depending on the activity that you are engaged with.
For example, my mouse hand experiences quite a bit of uncomfortable tension with activities that require extreme cursor precision. Like hours of video editing, CAD, Photoshop, navigating through graphic user interfaces, and especially video gaming. To be honest, no other activity taxes to the max both my mental and physical capacities as much as gaming. And if you don’t take care of your body as a gamer or non-gamer, you will have to deal with carpal tunnel & constant RSI pain further along in your life.
I plan to write a lot more articles concerning ergonomics. For now, this article will focus on mouse ergonomics.
What Types of Mouse Devices are Ergonomic?
So lets begin by talking about the types of mouses out there. One dichotomy that you can see in the market are the cheap mouses that you wouldn’t bat an eye at, and the more expensive mouses that are ergonomically shaped to take into account the biomechanics & contours of the hand. Of course, not every hand is the same, but you can find plenty of mouse designs that can comfortably fit your hand.
So in order to keep my mouse hand strain free, it is imperative to buy an ergonomic mouse or replacement device that fits to the shape of the hand and relieves strain from the wrists. I’ve developed a list of such ergonomic devices:
- Vertical or Angled mouses
- Trackballs & Trackball Mouses
- Graphics Drawing Pen Tablet
- Gaming Mouses
How are Vertical mouses Ergonomically Designed to Eliminate Wrist Pain?
Other companies have totally focused their efforts on the ergonomic route, designing mouses with the form of the hand in mind. What they noticed, and what you can also notice is that it feels much more natural to hold something vertically while sitting done. Compare that to holding a regular computer mouse horizontally, flat on the desk. When you hold a regular mouse flat on the desk, you notice a lot more tension is transferred to the wrist, and the upper right shoulder (upper left shoulder if you are left handed). So for these reasons, vertical mouses where developed to remove the unnatural tensions that traditional mouses incur on the body.
The angle also encourages you to use your whole arm to make a mouse movement vs. your wrist. This means a lot of pressure is relieved from your wrist area.
Trackballs & Trackball Mouses Relieve Carpal Tunnel and Wrist Strain
Trackballs are pretty awesome. Trackballs refer to a mouse alternative device that may use all the fingers to move a ball that navigates the cursor across the computer screen. As long as you position or use the trackball properly, you can virtually remove all or most of the tension or stress that you would feel in your wrists. As long as your fingers are in good shape, you can use all of your fingers to navigate the mouse cursor by gently moving the ball in any direction that you want. Unless your finger joints are totally messed up, this is one of the best ergonomic options. If your fingers are indeed arthritic and stiff, you also have the option of trying a pen tablet or drawing pad.
There are generally 3 types of trackball mouses: full-hand trackballs, thumb trackballs, and finger trackballs.
Full Hand Trackball
A full-hand trackball mouse is basically a giant ball sitting inside of a platform, raised up by small bumps so that it hovers and can freely move by touch. Full-hand trackball mouses allows for the use of all of the fingers and even the palm to control the mouse cursor by moving the ball. This is beneficial from an ergonomic perspective because you do not isolate and focus strain on a single part of your hand. In my opinion, these types of trackball mouses are the most versatile because they do not limit which part of your hand you want to use, and because it does not matter if the mouse is used with the left or right hand. This way, you can literally switch your mouse hand if you so desire.
Finger specific trackball mouses use only a few of the forward fingers (index, middle & ring fingers) to move the ball. Finger trackballs are good for relieving stress off of the wrist, because again the movements of the hand are focused on the fingers and not on the wrist. Of course you have to make sure that this (or any other type of mouse) fits your hand in order for it to benefit you ergonomically and not strain the wrist. Finger trackballs may utilize the thumb and the pinky for registering the mouse clicks.
Thumb specific trackball mouses only utilizes the thumb for moving the ball that translates to cursor movements. Thumb trackball mouses are designed almost like regular mouses, with the ball on the side where the thumb is, and normal mouse buttons where the index finger and middle finger rest on the mouse. The movement is focused on the thumb, so your wrist and fingers do not have to move very much.
Thumb trackball mouses may also slant your hand to the right about 30-45 degrees to make room for the ball and to relieve some of the pressure that is placed on the wrists. If you press your hands flat palm-down on a desk, you’ll notice that there is more pressure on the wrists. If you simply rests your hands on a desk, you’ll notice that your palms naturally face each other or are angled away from the desk surface. But if you have pain in your thumb, a you can choose the other two types of trackballs that do not necessarily require the use of the thumb.
You’ll have to invest in a higher end model to get functionality like accurate scrolling, but trackballs are actually inherently more precise and ergonomic than mice are.
Trackpads or Touchpads Are Great for Arthritis
Trackpads, like the Apple Wireless Magic Trackpad, is perhaps one of the best mouse alternatives if you have arthritis. You are not forced to hold an object in an uncomfortable angle for long periods of time, and move your fingers every time you want to move or click a regular mouse. Instead, a trackpad allows you to move your whole forearm or your choice of 1, 2 , or 3 fingers in order to control the cursor on the computer screen.
Many people have found to experience no RSI complications when using a trackpad. Trackpads are inherently more ergonomic and precise than mice are. So a trackpad my be perfect for your controlling your mouse cursor, as long as you don’t use it for gaming.
Graphics Drawing Pen Tablets Are Naturally Ergonomic
Drawing tablets work very well as a substitute to a mouse, because drawing tablets let you hold the stylus, the pen, in an angle that feels most natural to you. This is like the vertical mouse design that changes the angle to the one the hand feels most comfortable in, except you have full control over the angle that you hold the stylus. Pens are such an intuitively ergonomic device that people centuries before now use it. So just as long as you pick pen tablet that isn’t too cramp, like the Huion H420, you will find yourself most comfortable using a graphics tablet as a mouse. I personally suggest that you try the Wacom Intuos CTL490DW tablet as a mouse replacement, given that they are pretty spacious.
Why are Gaming Mouses so Comfortable to use?
Gaming mouses are built for video gamers who play for many hours a day on the computer. Companies have designed mouses that target gamers, understanding that a mouse isn’t only form, but its function. So you’ll find that mouses made for gamers are ergonomically designed, with well shaped curves that fit the hand pretty well. A good example of an ergonomic gaming mouse is the Mad Catz R.A.T.9.
Mad Catz R.A.T.9 Gaming Mouse
Many people love the Mad Catz R.A.T.9 Gaming mouse due to its extreme customization capabilities, allowing you to adjust the mouse to fit your hand. Note that for most mouses, you aren’t given the option to change the width, height, and structure of the mouse to perfectly fit your hand.
Let me further enamor you with the specific customization options & features:
- 45 grams of adjustable weights
- A thumb rest that you can adjust forwards, backwards, inwards, or outwards
- A side scroll wheel for your thumb
- Also the traditional clicky scroll wheel at the front of the mouse for your pointer fingers
- Rocker Switch for adjusting the DPI (mouse sensitivity)
- Adjustable Palm rest or wrist pad that can be lengthened or shortened
- A Pinky finger rest that prevents your pinky from dragging across your desk
These customization options allow you to build this gaming mouse in whatever grip, weight, format that you feel most comfortably using.
Read the Amazon Reviews on the Mad Catz R.A.T.9 gaming mouse.
Choosing an Ergonomic Mouse by Grip Style
Undoubtedly the most important factor in choosing a mouse by how it feels. So another way you can decide what kind of mouse you should buy for better workspace ergonomics is by the way you hold the mouse. For the most part, this involves two things: the size of the mouse, and the grip or how you hold the mouse. Size is mostly personal preference (plus how portable you want your mouse to be), but certain mice are better for certain types of grips.
With the Palm Grip style of a grip, you lay your entire hand on the mouse, using your palm to move the mouse around. You’ll feel this most in your wrist and forearm. It’s faster than the other grips, albeit less precise, so not always the best for video gamers that require very precise cursor movements. It’s also the more comfortable of the two, so if you have RSI problems, you’re probably better off with a mouse that encourages this type of grip. Usually these mice have a bigger bump on the back end for your palm to rest.
The claw grip gets its name from the way your hand looks when you hold the mouse—your palm may still rest on the back, but your top fingers are arched in a claw-like fashion, and you may use your thumb, ring finger, and pinky to give you a bit more control over the mouse. It’s more precise than the palm grip, but can be a bit more straining too. These mice are usually longer and have lipped edges, so you can pick the mouse up and move it. This is kind of in between the palm and fingertip grip, though, so you can use a ton of different mice with it, depending on where you fall in the spectrum.
This is the complete opposite end of the spectrum of the palm grip. With this, your palm doesn’t rest on the end at all, you control the mouse entirely with your fingertips. This is the most precise of all the grips, but can also be the most taxing. Many people find it also has the steepest learning curve (since the palm grip is what most people use naturally), so if you have issues with RSI, you might want to avoid this grip.
Everyone’s hands are different, and you probably use a combination of the above grips, or lie somewhere in between. The size of your hands can also influence which types of mice work with which types of grips. If you have smaller than average hands, for example, don’t be afraid to venture outside the above recommendations to see if your claw grip works with a mouse designed for a palm grip. The best advice I can give is go to the store and try them out—these aren’t the kinds of things you can normally tell when ordering a mouse online.
I briefly mentioned this above, but if you’re doing something that requires precise movements—like gaming or image editing—make sure you get a mouse that has relatively high sensitivity. Your mouse’s sensitivity determines how small of a movement you need to make for your cursor to move. Perhaps you’ve noticed that with some mice, your cursor will get “stuck” if you move your mouse to slightly, and you have to jerk it out of place. High sensitivity mice don’t have this problem, since slighter movements yield small movements in your cursor.
Sensitivity is calculated in dots per inch (DPI). Most medium- to high-end mice come with high sensitivities, usually 1200 DPI or higher, which should be more than enough. Just make sure that you aren’t getting a cheap 400 DPI mouse if you’re doing precision-oriented tasks. Some mice even have buttons on them that let you switch between different sensitivities without opening up their control panel, which is great if you want to quickly switch to a high sensitivity for image editing or gaming, then switch back when you go to do normal work.