Monday, January 12, 2009

Ergonomic computer mice: Keeping the PC mouse from biting

Getting our arms around injury producing devices ...

"Around 10 to 20 percent of all computer users report aches and pains related to the use of the mouse and specialists often speak of repetitive stress injury (RSI) syndrome, known popularly as 'mouse arm'. Manufacturers of ergonomic products claim that they can help.

"The repetition of stereotypical movements in particular can lead to chronic disorders," explains occupational psychologist Hardo Sorgatz from the Technical University of Darmstadt.

Yet "ergonomic" is a term ripe for abuse. "There are no hard criteria for what makes up an ergonomic mouse," says Peter Roebke-Doerr from the Hanover-based c't magazine. That means that any claims of "ergonomics" on the packaging actually guarantees nothing.

It's worth mentioning that no mouse is necessarily harmful. "You can work with any mouse for a short period of time. It only becomes problematic over long periods without a break, or for repetitive motor movements," explains Hardo Sorgatz.

"One potential method for reliving the stress is a symmetrically shaped mouse, allowing one to switch between the right and left hand," says Ahmet Cakir, director of the Ergonomic Institute for Workplace and Social Research in Berlin, a private research institution.

Those who prefer to use only one hand can choose a mouse with a tilted contact surface. There are various different tilt angles possible - anything beyond 45 degrees is referred to as a vertical mouse.

"They correspond more closely to the nature posture than traditional mice," Sorgatz explains.

The experts note that there is no guaranteed match between a given ergonomic device and a specific injury. The key is finding the device most comfortable to the user. Both Cakir and Sorgatz see a trackball, available for $100 or more, as helpful. It's almost like an anti-mouse: the main unit is stationary, with only the ball itself rotated to move the cursor.

The experts also recommend tablets with a stylus, a common feature among graphic artists. "Because of our extensive cultural experience with the stylus, this variant is significantly more ergonomic," Hardo Sorgatz says. Another helpful factor is that it involves what is known as an absolute display device."    (Continued via NewKerala)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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