Friday, January 23, 2009

If you have wrist pain or suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome problems using the computer mouse

If you ask me one of the worst inventions of science and technology is the computer mouse. It was probably designed with hardly any consideration of the effects it would have on the human wrist and fingers. I have hated it and still do.

Having a small wrist I used to develop pains using the regular mouse. If you are like me, internet savvy and spend hours with your computer I highly recommend the following that will keep your wrist and fingers pain free after repeated mouse usage. Actually my wrists used to hurt real bad after playing computer games. Recently my index finger hurt so bad that I had difficulty even holding my toothbrush.

In the past I found the alternative in the following trackball.

The one pictured above was my second and would use it whenever I developed pain in my wrist. Luckily I hadn't dumped it. It was there lying in a cupboard. All I had to do was clean it and hook it up via USB. Windows XP comes with the built in drivers. Not sure if it is still being sold and in India but if you do get it in the U.S I am sure it must be selling very cheap. Go for it by all means.

However the best trackball out there is the Kensington Expert Mouse which as of this writing even has a wireless model. Pricy but worth every penny. I know someone who swears by it and has never used the regular mouse in his life.

With a trackball -
a. You don't have to constantly keep your hand, wrist and fingers in that most uncomfortable manner on your regular mouse. Most trackballs even come with a detachable wrist rest pad as pictured above.
b. A big ball helps you excercise your hand while moving your mouse pointer. You can use one or more fingers to move the ball smoothly.
c. You can use either the index finger or the thumb to click. Even if you use the forefinger to click you don't have to position it in the way you use a regular mouse. This is the No.2 reason why your forefinger can develop acute pain. The No.1 being clicking and dragging which can also be easliy done using your thumb on the left button and the forefinger or any other fingers on the trackball.
d. The colored button in the middle is the equivalent of the scroll wheel when depressed. You can then use the trackball to scroll pages up or down. Click the button again to release the lock.

Other settings that greatly reduce your usage with the mouse/trackball are these -

1. Big cursors or Chunky mouse pointers. The small default white pointer can become very tiresome. Go in for a bigger cursor. They are available for free from and installing them is a breeze. Simply move the unzipped foldger containing your pointers to the Windows\Cursors folder. Then open Control Panel -> Mouse and under the Pointers tab search for your desired mouse pointer from the recently added folder.

2. Under the Pointer Options increase your mouse pointer speed by sliding the slider in the Select Pointer speed bar and slide it towards faster positions.

3. Use this gem of a program from It is free. It is called Edgeless and it will change the way you move your mouse. No need to drag the mouse or turn your trackball to move the cursor from one end of the screen to the other. Just take it beyond the edge of your screen and it will wrap around the edge and appear at the opposite corner of your screen. Best of it all it can move not only vertically and horizontally but diagonally too. It may take time to get used to it but once you master it there's no looking back. You will realise that each time you plan to move the mouse a good deal you can use Edgeless to map the shortest route movement. Actually doing this will save you a ton of unnecessary mouse movement.

The only "con" about the trackball is that you need to clean the ball and the contact points regularly as it is in constant contact with your hand. However in the Kensington model you need to worry less because it is optical.

4. Use keyboard keys as much as possible instead of mouse keys.
a. The Enter key on an enabled button instead of clicking using the mouse.
b. Page-up, Page-down, arrow, Ctrl+Home, Ctrl+End, Home, End and tab keys to scroll pages, position cursors, jump menu options, fields and buttons whenever possible.
c. Using Alt-File to select options from most programs to save and Exit programs.
d. Use Alt-Tab to switch programs on the computer.
e. Use the Windows button to lauch programs, get back to your desktop (Windows+D) etc.
f. Some keyboards offer buttons for surfing pages and executing programs too. Use them instead of the mouse.

Some speech recognition programs offer services like invoking programs, converting speech to text and are used by people with Carpal Tunnel syndrome. You may want to check them too although I wouldn't recommend them unless you have an acute problem.

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