Ouch, there goes my wrist again!
March 3, 2009 6:25 AM   Subscribe

Better mouse for someone with symptoms of carpal tunnel/tendonitis?

Because of my back pain and my tendency to use the computer far more than I really should, I'm developing some definite symptoms of carpal tunnel or tendonitis. The mouse is definitely not helping, so I'd like to change it. However, I went to the computer market today (I live in Beijing and have access to all the usual brands since they are all conveniently made here), and the selection was rather overwhelming.

I was on the computer for about five hours today during work, taking regular breaks and doing carpal tunnel stretches that I had found in previous threads, but my fingers and hands are tensing up and my pointer fingers are tingling. Writing this question alone is making it flare up!

What kind of mouse do you recommend for a woman with small hands and tiny wrists? (Literally, tiny, I can circle my wrists with one hand and have room to spare.) Should I get a larger mouse? One with a trackball?
posted by so much modern time to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should also mention that asking the vendors is of no use, they are pretty much only interested in making a sale. Even after I explained (in Chinese) that I was looking for a mouse that would be more comfortable and provide support, the follow-up was along the lines of "Well, this one is in pink!"
posted by so much modern time at 6:29 AM on March 3, 2009

I once had the opportunity to try about a dozen different ergonomic pointing devices, including ones I had never seen before. The AerO2bic Quill Mouse was my favorite. But then again, I have enormous hands. The key is that it allows your hand to rest on a platform in a vertical position, eliminating the continuous strain of a traditional mouse. I found this eliminated more strain than any other kind of vertical mouse.

Switch your mouse hand. Learn keyboard shortcuts and avoid mouse use as much as possible. Use Workrave to enforce a 30 second break every five minutes. Also, see a physician.
posted by grouse at 6:36 AM on March 3, 2009

Have you tried a pen and tablet such as Wacom? I switch between the mouse and the pen and have found significantly less finger/wrist ache as a result.
posted by ceri richard at 6:37 AM on March 3, 2009

I've had luck with two options.

One. I've used a mouse that looks like a joystick. It's essentially a mouse with a vertical handle. You use more of the muscles in your elbow and shoulder to move it around so that may help you.

Two. Consider a Wacom tablet where you use a pen as your mouse. You click by tapping instead of flexing your finger over and over. Again, this gave me some relief and I use either/or exclusively these days.
posted by lpsguy at 6:38 AM on March 3, 2009

I started getting symptoms - tendonitis, acccording to my doctor and switched to a touch pad. The tendonitis got progressively better and now I have no symptoms (and I'm a heavy computer user). You may find it takes a little getting used to but it is as convenient and easy as a regular mouse (which I now hate to use).
posted by bluesky43 at 6:55 AM on March 3, 2009

I switched from mouse to trackball when i started getting wrist pain. Best thing I ever did. Try a trackball.
posted by schwa at 6:56 AM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing trackball. I use a Kensington "Expert Mouse" (no, I don't know why they call it a mouse when it is a trackball either). Here is the model #:K64325. It's kinda pricey, but very comfortable. Bonus: it has 4 buttons and comes with software to control what they do.
posted by te1contar at 7:03 AM on March 3, 2009

I use a MS Trackball Explorer and love it.
posted by zeoslap at 7:12 AM on March 3, 2009

I also came in to recommend a trackball. specifcally, the Logitech Cordless Trackman Optical
If, however, you are a lefty, this is not the device for you, as it is contoured for right-handed use.

I have two of these (one at work, one at home) and love love love them, even if I don't understand why a stationary device needs to be cordless.
posted by namewithoutwords at 7:16 AM on March 3, 2009

Switch your mouse hand.

This worked very well for me when I started getting elbow and shoulder twinges. As an at home and at work mouse user, I set them up differently so I'd be sure to get some rest on each side - don't forget to also switch the mouse buttons so they are mirror images of each other.
posted by Sparx at 7:29 AM on March 3, 2009

Ditto Kensington Expert Mouse -- a great big trackball you use with the ball of your hand. Put it to the left of your keyboard so you don't have to reach around the numeric keypad and use it with a bent wrist. (I find it more comfortable to then remap the buttons so 'left-click' is on the right, so you're still using your thumb.)

But equipment is only a small piece of the keeping yourself healthy pie. Keep up the regular breaks, and eat/exercise/sleep healthily.
posted by Zed at 7:32 AM on March 3, 2009

Nthing Wacom tablet. I had already tried swapping my mouse hand, and I just started getting pains in my left forearm instead. Once I set up the Wacom tablet, the pains disappeared. I had a bit of a learning curve as I got used to using the pen as a mouse, but after a week or so, it was like cake.
posted by cadge at 7:57 AM on March 3, 2009

I really like the Logitech Wheel Optical Trackball.

I had to switch to using my left hand and got one of these, a Contour Perfit Mouse. There are different sizes for each hand.

BTW, you should definitely use a software like Workrave to enforce rest breaks.

Make sure that your chair, desk, and monitor heights are correct.
posted by reddot at 8:13 AM on March 3, 2009

I was having very similar, albeit not as severe, symptoms. I got a 3M Renaissance mouse and haven't had any pain.

I found mine on eBay for $30.
posted by reenum at 9:03 AM on March 3, 2009

Another vote for a trackball instead of a mouse.
posted by Joh at 9:04 AM on March 3, 2009

I switched to using a vertical mouse. That helped but only so much. After switching to a vertical left handed mouse (http://evoluent.com/vm2-lsb.html), my right hand tingling and pain has completely disappeared. It took me about two weeks to fully adapt to the left hand mouse, but now it feels completely natural.
posted by juggler at 9:19 AM on March 3, 2009

After spending more money on mice/keyboards than most people spend on their computer, I use two Logitech Marble trackballs, one on each side of my computer. Low on features, but the trackball isn't mounted in a position to angle my wrist backwards (like the Kensington Expert Mouse, which I also own). One on each side of the keyboard, so at any time you can mouse with either hand at any time.

However, the best thing I did to reduce stress caused by using the mouse/trackball was to get rid of the number pad on my keyboard (I cut if off with a circular saw using these instructions). Basically, the number pad forces your hand to move farther to the right than it should, contorting your hand even more. Removing the keypad puts your hand in a more neutral position in front of you, although still not as neutral as your hands on the keyboard itself. If keyboard modification is too much to ask, there are many "space saver" keyboards that don't have a number pad. Keep in mind I rarely use the number pad, so if you're an Excel user or accountant this won't work.

However, repetitive stress injuries are rarely solved through equipment alone, there are many factors that can contribute to injury. Try to re-evaluate every aspect of your computer situation that affects your body, including chair height, monitor height, arm rests, foot rests, etc.
posted by meowzilla at 9:33 AM on March 3, 2009

Switch your mouse hand. Learn keyboard shortcuts and avoid mouse use as much as possible.
posted by cocoagirl at 10:03 AM on March 3, 2009

I have a trackball on the right and a standard mouse on the left, which works in Windows XP, at least, with USB trackball and PS-plug mouse, using whichever feels more comfortable at the time (and sometimes using both.) This has really saved my hands, wrists and arms which were getting to the stage of being in pain all the time. Now, provided I take suitable breaks, there's no pain.

Fwiw I find it easiest not to remap the mouse for lefty use; it didn't take long to learn to use a right-hand mouse with the left hand, and it's easier to switch the mouse to the right side for a change, or whenever someone else needs to use it.
posted by airplain at 10:07 AM on March 3, 2009

My physiotherapist said to rotate mice. Use a trackball, use a conventional one that's a good fit for your hand, use the touchpad, switch hands, keep rotating around. Obviously if one causes pain pretty quickly, listen to your body.

And listen to the warning signs now. You can go from a little tingly now to severe pain and a virtually useless hand (and months of physio) in a matter of seconds.
posted by K.P. at 10:52 AM on March 3, 2009

Kensington trackball! Large, heavy ball can easily be rolled with palm or fingertips, or however is comfortable. Easy to make point precisely without using a tight grip. Mice aggravate my tendinitis; the trackball is comfortable for me all day.
posted by TruncatedTiller at 11:27 AM on March 3, 2009

I'm a happy long-time user of the RollerMouse. It replaces the mouse with a rollerbar and buttons just below your space bar, so your hands stay near the keyboard with no twisting or one-sided overuse.
posted by PatoPata at 11:28 AM on March 3, 2009

I really like the Logitech Wheel Optical Trackball.
Ditto this.
posted by juv3nal at 12:10 PM on March 3, 2009

I only use the Marble Mouse (trackball) from Logitech. As a technical writer, I'm on the computer all day, every day. I also use them at home for gaming, and even after marathon matches, I've never had the slightest wrist issues.

It takes a short time to learn to move the ball instead of the whole device, but once you have it, a regular mouse seems inefficient. Also, the Marble Mouse sells for only $20 in the US. It's fairly symmetrical, so you can use it with either hand with equal comfort.

Good luck!
posted by assoctw at 12:31 PM on March 3, 2009

Right - same as Meowzilla, except I only use one.
posted by assoctw at 12:34 PM on March 3, 2009

I had the same issue, and got a trackball at home (Logitech marble). I used a pointer nipple on my laptop for work. Problem solved
When I got a new job with a desktop, it took three days before I stormed out, went to the local computer shop and bought another trackball.
Completely symptom free since, and I can use a regular mouse on somebody else's computer for a while without any discomfort, provided my regular habit is the trackball.
posted by bystander at 4:40 PM on March 3, 2009

wacom tablet - they are so great, if I have to use a mouse for any length of time I get a lot of wrist pain, but when I switch back to the tablet it's gone. I also sometimes take Glucosamine chondroitin, and that helps a lot too.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:44 PM on March 3, 2009

A word of caution - there's no way of knowing which mouse will work for you until you try it. It depends utterly on your physique and the causes of the pain. If you can't borrow different mice you just have to take a risk that you may end up paying for a few. I went through several mice and keyboards before finding what was most helpful for me. Turned out to be Evoluent; I have thin wrists but long fingers, so that may not work for you. A lot of ergonomic devices seem designed for big male hands, so watch out for that. Likewise the stretches you are doing may not be right for you, as carpal tunnel syndrome is actually fairly rare.

ANd please don't assume that the right mouse will fix it. For some people it does, but if that doesn't happen you will need to look more holistically at your behaviour, because it's a complex condition. Exercise (try backstroke), relax, take very frequent short breaks (I recommend software called RSIGuard if you find that difficult). Buy a book called 'It's Not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome!'; ship it from the US if necessary. It is extremely enlightening and helped me understand how to manage the pain myself through a combination of tactics. This was after years of pain, when I thought I might have to change careers.

I hope you feel better soon!
posted by 8k at 1:32 PM on March 4, 2009

A friend of mine recommended the IMAK smartglove for constant use anytime I'm on the computer ever since I thought my programming career was over because of CT syndroms, and they have SAVED MY WRISTS. I highly, highly recommend. I sometimes sleep in them and since wearing I have had NO PROBLEMS, when I once had to go to the emergency room with a swollen hand the size of a basketball after too much computer time.
posted by curiositykilledthelemur at 2:03 PM on March 17, 2009

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