Ache in my hand from using the computer. Solutions?
March 30, 2009 9:02 PM   Subscribe

Ache in my hand from using the computer. Solutions?

Recently I've had a very particular ache in my right hand while typing and using my mouse. I feel it around the inside of my hand, mostly around the knuckles of my middle and index fingers. Has anyone encountered this and found a solution that alleviates the ache?

I currently use an ergonomic split keyboard and a mouse pad with a wrist rest. (In general, I try to abide by the guidelines I hear about preventing RSI, but this problem seems to be eluding me.)
posted by lunchbox to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Switch mouse hands. It'll take you a few days to get used to it, but once you can mouse left-handed, you'll be able to give your hands a rest when you need to by switching off.

Also, don't spend your free time on the computer. Use it only for work, when you need to, until you're feeling better.
posted by decathecting at 9:12 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I spend all day, every day in front of a computer and started to get incredibly bad hand and wrist pain about a year ago. I found out, just madly Googling around looking for a solution, that your hand and forearm really needs to be in a completely straight line to avoid pain, so if you're in a position where your hand is tilted up or down to operate the mouse or use your keyboard, give some very serious thought to the height you're sitting at. I know it sounds too simple, but I cranked my chair to a height where I now have an L-shaped arm when I'm working, with my hand completely straight at the bottom of that L, and the pain vanished immediately. My shoulders are relaxed, and my arm is relaxed, with a wrist support on my mouse-pad supporting my wrist into a straight line with my forearm. Worth a try - the change for me was instant and nothing short of miraculous.

It's remarkable how the tiniest things in the way you sit, or arrange your work space can make or break you, physically, when you just do the same thing day in, day out. Good luck with it.
posted by lottie at 9:28 PM on March 30, 2009

The top of your screen should be level with your eyes and centred horizontally, your chair height should be such that your feet can go flat on the floor when you're sitting with your thighs horizontal, and your keyboard height should be as lottie suggests. If your workspace is set up like that and you do as decathecting suggests, you should be fine soon.

Also, get a mouse that fits your hand. If you've currently got one of those hideous streamlined-looking things with non-vertical sides, that's not going to be helping.
posted by flabdablet's sock puppet at 9:46 PM on March 30, 2009

Oh, and side buttons are Of The Devil.
posted by flabdablet's sock puppet at 9:47 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Suggestions on ergonomics and placement of keyboard/computer/mouse are good, but they're also long-term solutions. For short-term ones, do some RSI exercises. I find that they help surprisingly well -- not only do they stop the pain, they'll stop it from coming back for the time being. Whereas if I forget to do them when my wrist's all tingly, it'll get worse and worse more quickly.
posted by suedehead at 10:52 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't have to mouse as much as I once did, but when I was doing a ton (with fiddly proprietary database products) two things that did a lot of benefit were first, working hard on moving the whole forearm to move the mouse around (rather than getting a lot of the movement via wrist flexion and extension - side-buttoning with the wrist very flexed or extended particularly seemed to kill me) and second getting really familiar with keyboard shortcuts or other alternate methods to accomplish the same task via the keyboard (i.e. more likely to use tabs or arrows to move around cells even if it was possibly a bit slower). I actually ended up getting rid of the mouse wrist pad because it seemed to encourage wrist-action mousing.

I also really agree with lottie, make sure your chair position puts your arms right in line with the keyboard and mouse height.

I can't recall where exactly I got the ones I did, but doing routine exercises aimed at preventing RSI seemed to do me good as well (check it out, #8 search return is an ask metafilter).

These days, it seems to me like the wireless mouse is a bit easier on my wrist/hand than the corded mouse, maybe just from having a more free range of motion (not manipulating my wrist to get it free of the cord) but as I say, it's much less of an issue these days overall so I'm not so certain about that.
posted by nanojath at 11:00 PM on March 30, 2009

Also agree with lottie. I've been using a laptop for 6 years or so, like really a laptop, prop my feet up, have one of those bean bag like laptop things, and just the pure joy of having my arms land naturally on the laptop is great. Hate working at a desk. Get more RSI like stuff from using my TV remote or playing Wii games. I use my laptop so much that you can actually see my hand prints rubbing through the plastic. But it's at the perfect relaxed arm height.
posted by zengargoyle at 12:10 AM on March 31, 2009

I have had some trouble with RSI and have seen a physiotherapist about it. I was told that a wrist rest for the mouse is not helpful, as nanojath said. You just end up moving your wrist from side to side, which isn't good.

Also, making sure that your hands are in a good position for typing is important. Your wrists should basically be straight and flat coming from your forearms, not bent up, down, inward, or outward.
posted by number9dream at 12:14 AM on March 31, 2009

(sorry to be so late to the discussion)

lunchbox you poor soul... i had similar probs from computer usage years ago. someone suggested i ditch the mouse and switch to a nice trackball setup. i did and my pain reduced in days and over the course of weeks it went away all together.

logitech makes sweet ones so check those out. i've also found that using the trackpad on my laptop doesn't affect me at all. no pain. no soreness. i can only assume that the mouse itself is mainly the culprit.

do yourself a favor and don't wait around to decide on a solution. the pain only gets worse and soon starts to impinge on your life away from the computer. and it's miserable.

trackballs are cheap. a pluggable trackpad is cheap, but not as nice. and those exercises that were mentioned for RSI? do 'em, do 'em, do 'em.
posted by artof.mulata at 12:53 AM on March 31, 2009

I had RSI issues. Tried several variances of mouses, didn't like any of them. Tried a trackball, didn't like that either. Bought a Wacom tablet, haven't looked back. It's a complete difference in motion, moving the cursor around the screen there's no movement in the wrist it's all done by the arm, and right-clicking the stylus is such a minuscule motion of the thumb.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 5:16 AM on March 31, 2009

Mr. HotToddy has the same problem. He buys a different kind of mouse every couple of months and by now has quite a large collection that he can rotate through. They all require different muscle movements to operate, so they keep him from getting repetitive stress.
posted by HotToddy at 7:34 AM on March 31, 2009

For anyone still watching, there was a lifehacker article featuring some stretching exercises from some guy on youtube.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 10:50 AM on April 3, 2009

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