Thursday, February 28, 2008

Don't let that mouse get you by the tail

Avoiding RSI with mouse use ...

"It may be one of the smallest things on your desk, but your computer mouse is also one of the most likely to cause you pain and injury.

I've had many clients come to me complaining of "mousing" pain. Despite the recent focus in the workplace on ergonomics, the fact of the matter is that computers just weren't designed with the human body in mind. The way a mouse is used, with arm stretched out in front of you, moving to and fro, isn't kind on the body, particularly when this posture is held for several hours a day.

Though many people are now using ergonomic mouses, these really don't do much good if they are improperly placed within the workstation. Usually, the mouse is placed on a pad on the desk, which means that to reach it, you reach or lean forward. This posture places stress on the joints and muscles of the neck, shoulder, arm, wrist and hand, as well as irritating the mid and lower back. This reaching posture also results in a forward rotation of the shoulder joint. Often, if a mouse is placed too high or too low, weight is transferred onto the shoulder and arm of the side with which you use the mouse, which places an increased pressure on those joints and muscles, often resulting in imbalances which cause pain and discomfort.

In my experience, symptoms of improper mouse use are many. Obviously, pain is usually worsened by computer use, and discomfort is often felt in the hand, wrist, forearm, shoulder or neck. Stiffness, muscle soreness and other symptoms may be present in the shoulder, neck or back.

Whether or not these problems sound familiar, it is important to think about how your workstation is set up. There are some simple changes that can be made which will greatly reduce the chance of mouse-related injury and which may help decrease symptoms if they are already present.

1. Try getting a platform for your mouse, similar to the ones many people use for keyboards. If you already use a keyboard tray, make sure the mouse is on the same level; don't position it so you need to reach up and beyond the keyboard to use the mouse.

2. Keep the mouse as close to the body as possible. Your arm should be relaxed and your elbow close to your side. Avoid reaching forward or up for the mouse. In order to do this, the arms on your chair may need to be adjustable.

3. Instead of using your wrist to move the mouse, which can cause irritation and injury in the joint, allow movement to flow through the shoulder and arm."    (Continued via Ottawa Business Journal)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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