In the workplace or home office, a mouse is indispensable and is also increasingly used in conjunction with a laptop. The mouse for the computer is available in a wide variety of shapes and designs. Unfortunately, health problems of the wrists, such as tendonitis or RSI [Repetitive Stress Injuries] syndrome are in many cases direct consequences of an incorrect mouse posture or poor positioning of the hand and/or wrist. In this article I explain what to look for in a computer mouse and what features an ergonomic wireless mouse, or a wired mouse should have.
For your health and well-being when working with a computer mouse, it is essential to adopt a correct posture. Your posture is especially important when you work for hours with a poor hand or wrist position. This can cause painful and long-lasting health problems, such as tendonitis, tension in the wrist and shoulder, and neck problems. It can also produce numbness or tingling in the muscles.
It must be said here in advance that a “normal mouse”, that is, not a vertical mouse or any other special ergonomic mouse, can quickly cause health problems in the wrist and elsewhere in the shoulder and/or neck. This results from the forearm assuming an unnatural position when lying flat on the table while working with a standard mouse. Two problems occur in this position: First, the wrist is bent, which can be the beginning of carpal tunnel syndrome or RSI syndrome. Secondly, in this position, the two bones of the forearm, the ulna and radius, are somewhat twisted. This twisting creates a permanent tension in the forearm muscles and can lead to conditions such as mouse arm or tennis elbow.
The first problem with the bent wrist can be solved relatively easily, with the use of a wrist rest, which is placed under the wrist and thus reduces the bend, creating a better ergonomic posture almost automatically. These wrist rests are available in different designs, mostly made of foam or with a gel filling. For people who prefer an ecological wrist rest, there are also those filled with millet chaff.
The second problem with twisted forearm bones can only be solved with a vertical mouse, thanks to the unique ergonomics in the product design. When using a vertical mouse, the ulna and the radius are in an almost parallel position, which creates a neutral mouse posture or hand and wrist position, promoting a proper ergonomic posture.
Wireless or better with a cable?
In my experience, there is already quite a bit of cable clutter on many desktops. Therefore, it would seem that a wireless mouse is generally a good solution. But is this effectively so?
The freedom of movement with a wireless mouse is undoubtedly greater than with a mouse with a cable. You don’t have an annoying cable lying on your desk, which can even be too short and hinder you when working.
Most wireless mice work with Bluetooth and are compatible with any device that has a Bluetooth receiver.
Pros and Cons of an ergonomic wireless mouse
A wireless mouse provides greater freedom of movement as there is no attached wire. These mice tend to be more versatile and more portable and take up less space as there is no annoying cable to deal with. Most wireless mice connect via the USB port with a special receiver.
Power Source: The need for the regular charging or changing of the batteries. If this is forgotten or the warnings appear too late, it can happen that you are left without power, which can be very annoying and disrupt ergonomic work in one fell swoop.
However, today’s ergonomic wireless mice often have a very long battery life, which makes recharging only necessary every few weeks or even months.
Cost: Wireless mice tend to be much more expensive.
Interference: Possibility of interference in the wireless frequencies.
Pros and Cons of a wired mouse
Simplicity: A wired mouse is easy to install, simply plug the cable into a USB port and it works.
Cost: Wired mice are much less expensive as they are less complex.
Speed: The speed and precision of wired mice was once better, but this is no longer the case today. What used to be a problem with wireless mice has now been solved as technology has made great leaps and has now brought both types of mice up to the same level.
Restricts movement: The drag of the cable can impede movement and be quite an annoying hindrance.
Limits range: The length of the cable also limits the positioning of the mouse.
Durability: The cable is also quite fragile and prone to breaking as it snags and tangles and is not the best choice if you travel.
With both types of mice, you can find good ergonomics in the product design and your priority should be to achieve an ergonomic hand and wrist position that is comfortable.
Better ergonomics for the gaming sector
For the gaming sector, there are hardly any disadvantages with the transmission speed, but in rare cases, disturbances can still occur with wireless mice, especially when there are many participants in a game.
A bigger obstacle for gamers is the regular charging of the mouse. If this becomes necessary during a game, it can have drastic consequences and lead to frustration and annoyance. On the other hand, gaming with a wireless mouse provides more freedom to move quickly without a cable getting in the way.
Nevertheless, you should ensure an ergonomic posture when gaming, with or without a cable to the mouse.
Ergonomic design for people at work
When it comes to design, the first thing to look for here is right- or left-handed versions. Unfortunately, left-handed users have less choice, but the overall range has increased considerably.
Ergonomics in product design is diverse, but as is often the case, design does not always mean better ergonomics. This is especially true for office chairs. Through my many years of work in the field of ergonomics, I still find far too often that someone has bought an elegantly designed and very expensive office chair, but at the same time must go to the physiotherapist because of back problems. An optimal ergonomic design for people at work is not only important for the office chair, but also for all other devices, including the mouse.
The ergonomic design can be seen in the various shapes, but this is especially pronounced in the so-called vertical mouse. With vertical mice, you have a large selection of ergonomic wireless mice and wired mice. The overwhelming advantage of a vertical mouse is the ergonomics in the product design. With the design of a vertical mouse, the forearm is “automatically” brought into a neutral position and the two bones, ulna and radius, are thus almost parallel and do not create muscle tension. This promotes an ergonomic posture and prevents the problems of tendonitis or RSI syndrome.
The advantages of a vertical mouse facilitate a better ergonomic posture, as the muscle tension in the forearm is reduced. In addition, there is a large selection of vertical mice, whether for small or large hands, with programmable buttons, and customizable options such as the adjustment of the thumb rest and the change of the angle of attack up to 90° in some cases.
Unfortunately, the vertical mouse still has some disadvantages. Often, the-biggest problem is the long familiarization period, which can sometimes take several weeks. Another disturbing factor for some people is the greater strain on the side of the hand, especially the pressure points on the little finger. The controls of the vertical mice also seem to be less fast than those of a normal mouse. From an ergonomic point of view, however, it can be said that the overall mouse posture is certainly better with a vertical mouse.
To observe proper mouse posture and hand and wrist positioning and ensure an ergonomic posture, the following factors should be observed:
- Ensure that the wrist is not brought outside the line of the shoulders when using a mouse. Keep your elbow close to your body, do not reach out to the side for a mouse positioned too far away, rather move the mouse closer.
- The angle of movement of the forearm should never be more than 90° to the edge of the table, because otherwise an unnatural twist in the forearm will occur and this can lead to health problems all the way up to the shoulders. An ergonomic posture must always be ensured.
- Do not grip the mouse too tightly but use a loose grasp with a relaxed hand.
- Ensure the mouse is placed on the same surface as the keyboard.
- Use the fleshy part of your finger to tap or click, not the fingertips as this creates an unnatural curvature of the hand and can lead to cramping.
The ergonomic design for people at work plays an increasingly important role and fortunately there is a wide selection of both ergonomic wireless mouse and wired mice available. Even with a small mouse for on the go, you can find good deals for little money, with the very cheap ones usually coming with a cable. When it comes to design, on the other hand, it’s not always the ultra-modern that counts, but more the ergonomics in the product design.
For example, an Apple Magic Mouse is elegant with its simple design, but unfortunately it doesn’t really offer much ergonomically, except for the ingenious functions in connection with another Apple device. Personally, I bought a high-quality vertical mouse, with various adjustment options. After a few days, however, I went back to my rather unergonomic Magic Mouse, because no other mouse could offer me the absolutely brilliant functions of a Magic Mouse. It must be said that I use the Magic Mouse with a wrist rest filled with millet chaff. This combination makes up for the certain ergonomic disadvantages of a Magic Mouse and for me, the ergonomic mouse posture is correct, which means I can work without complaint and enjoy the efficiency of the Magic Mouse.
One of my colleagues, on the other hand, uses a Logitech MX3 mouse which is a compromise between the conventional and vertical mouse. She uses her mouse more than her keyboard and found the vertical mouse too heavy to move around and not precise enough for her work.
So, it is always a subjective point of view, which should ultimately lead to better ergonomics and an ergonomic posture. It’s best to test the products you want beforehand and replace them if you don’t feel any improvement. Also seek advice from a specialist or your doctor if you already have problems when working with the mouse.
If the topic of ergonomics in the office or home office appeals to you and you are interested in it further, my book “Wellness in the Office” can provide you with even more tips and tricks. Combined with humorous drawings, I present 50+1 tips to make your office a little paradise.