Scrolling is taking a toll on my hands/arms/elbows.
September 16, 2023 8:10 AM   Subscribe

People who scroll a lot at the computer (think Pinterest, Reddit, etc.), how do you protect your hands/wrists/elbows? I'm using a standard computer (Mac), with a mouse and keyboard, adjustable keyboard tray. Most of my apps will allow "down arrow" scrolling, but even this is pretty repetitive and my various parts are starting to complain. What hacks do you have?
posted by bluesky78987 to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

Best answer: If you are ambidextrous enough to switch hands, I move my mouse from one side to the other to give me breaks when doing long reading on a desktop and on a laptop will switch which one uses the touchpad. I'll also switch movements from mouse to arrowkeys and back to for less repetitive motion.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:28 AM on September 16 [2 favorites]

I use "page at a time" scrolling with my mouse wheel. This isn't, on my system anyways, as well supported as it used to be so I've had to fake it with scrolling a fixed number of lines with each wheel click and I've got it dialed in to about an 85% of a page jump each time. It works independently of keyboard movement so I can still tweak a page with the arrow keys if needed. To for example get an image displayed in full.
posted by Mitheral at 8:43 AM on September 16

Best answer: Middle-click in some apps (like Firefox) will let you scroll just moving the mouse. I also have a Cloudnine ergo keyboard that has a dial in the middle that can be used for scrolling instead of the mouse wheel.

I also use a vertical mouse instead of a standard one, and ergonomic keyboard instead of "straight" keyboards. Anker's Wireless Vertical Ergonomic Mouse is my favorite, and I've trialed four or five models. It's also pretty inexpensive.

Ensuring my arms are "neutral" and can rest on my desktop with support is also key. I've tried the adjustable tray under the desk, and that doesn't work well for my RSI at all.

I've been fighting this almost 30 years. I strongly recommend some arm exercises that strengthen the muscles in your forearm, too. Makes a big difference. Not just stretches (which is about all that turns up in my search for "RSI forearm exercises") but actual exercises like these. Do some light forearm exercise 3x a week for a month and I'd be shocked if that doesn't help.
posted by jzb at 8:45 AM on September 16 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I use a key remapping app (Karabiner Elements on Mac) to set up the most ergonomic keypress. For pagedown, I have Shift+down arrow, which means I rest the other part of my hand (sometimes the third finger, sometimes the knuckles of a closed fist) on the shift key, and use that as a pivot, so that a miniscule rotation of whole hand-wrist-arm unit is enough to press the down-arrow key. Even without keymapping, I can keep the left fn key down with the left hand, rest my loosely-closed right hand on the surface, and press the key with one finger with a rotation motion.

It's hard to explain in words, but you can experiment and find a way so that you can make a keypress with a tiny rotation of the whole arm below the elbow (not the finger or the wrist).

This is esoteric knowledge from playing the piano.
posted by dum spiro spero at 8:46 AM on September 16 [2 favorites]

Best answer: When I need to do a lot of scrolling I use my logitech mouse that has an adjustable mouse wheel that swaps between slow/precise and fast with no friction at all. My mouse is old so I'm not sure what the best model to buy is now, but their page has videos showing off the different methods.
posted by JZig at 9:08 AM on September 16 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding ergonomic keyboard. I use the Kinesis Freestyle 2, which has two keys (up and down) that enable scrolling.

I also use the Roylan D-Ring Wrist Brace, which I was first given by occupational therapists I was seeing about my repetitive stress issues. I've now worn out one and purchased a second.
posted by FencingGal at 9:09 AM on September 16 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Also, lots of people love the vertical mouse, but it didn't work well for me. You may need to do some experimentation. What I like is the Kensington Expert Trackball because the ball is HUGE.
posted by FencingGal at 9:11 AM on September 16

Best answer: Mouse is the worst for me and I only use trackpads. For most scrolling that is just page down, I hit the spacebar to page down in the browser. If I need to scroll up or horizontally it's a trackpad gesture. Seconding jzb's rec for forearm exercises as well as stretches, too.
posted by Rhedyn at 9:20 AM on September 16

Best answer: I know folks who use a mouse with their dominant hand for precise use, and a trackpad with their non-dominant hand for swiping.
posted by bluloo at 10:12 AM on September 16 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It’s not a smooth scroll, but I use a simple Bluetooth number pad. I use it mostly for paging through comic books, but it also works for scrolling anywhere the arrow or page-down keys work. I usually hold it in the palm of my hand and use my thumb to press the buttons, and I like that I can put my arm and hand in essentially any configuration (in my lap, hanging over the arm of the chair, etc), plus I can switch up my grip and which finger I am using as needed.
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 10:48 AM on September 16

Best answer: When I have used a Mac as my daily computer, it's much harder on my hands, wrists, shoulder, neck. Macs are more mouse/touchpad driven; I currently use Lenovo Thinkpads. I do best using a touchpad (not trackpoint) and as many keyboard shortcuts as possible. Using a mouse will always give me inflammation, trackpad, much less so. The learning curve is annoying, but now I really prefer it. A keyboard with an integrated number pad helps. I used to have a child-sized mouse; I have small hands and it was much nicer. I'd also suggest occupational therapy.
posted by theora55 at 11:20 AM on September 16

Best answer: I have two mice, one for each hand and just switch regularly at my work computer. At my home computer I have a mouse for my left hand and a trackball for my right hand. Since I went to this setup years ago I stopped having repetitive motion problems.
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:43 PM on September 16

Best answer: Spacebar. Functions like page down in most browsers. I avoid the mouse as much as possible.
posted by aspersioncast at 2:25 PM on September 16 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I have a trackball and every so often I switch sides (hands).

It has a ring for scrolling, which is a nice change, because I can do it with one fingertip.

It's a dozen years old, from Kensington, and they still make a modern version.
posted by wenestvedt at 4:05 PM on September 16

Best answer: Foot pedals.

No, not a joke.

Map them to page up / page down (and middle is up to you)
posted by kschang at 4:12 PM on September 16

Best answer: Perhaps a browser add-in such as Vimium could help. It allows control of the browser via keyboard commands based on the Vim text editor (basic directional commands are j for scrolling up and k for scrolling down, for instance). They are not especially intuitive, but they are not hard to learn, either
posted by lhauser at 10:28 PM on September 16 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Holding my phone and scrolling really wrecked my left wrist (get a MRI, wear a brace level of wrecked). Now when I’m on a portable device or at a desktop I make sure my wrists are supported and try to just move my fingers. On a phone this is done by resting my wrist on a pillow, leg, or other hand. On my desktop I’ve invested in a desk chair with adjustable arm rests that support my forearms and wrists at the right height. I use a mouse with a scroll wheel and the page down button on my external keyboard. I bought a very small mouse because I have very small hands and didn’t realize that using “average man” sized mouses have been wrong for me.
posted by Bunglegirl at 6:39 AM on September 17

Best answer: If your keyboard doesn’t have page up/down buttons, get one that does.
posted by ripley_ at 8:39 AM on September 17

Best answer: Seconding Vimium.
posted by Spumante at 11:45 AM on September 17

Best answer: I have been using this Kensington Trackball Mouse for years (but on a Windows PC). It is relatively inexpensive and you could always return it if it doesn't help.
posted by forthright at 2:37 PM on September 17

Do some PT/strength training for your upper body.
posted by catquas at 8:44 AM on September 18

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