my wrist hurts.

Ow.

Way back when, it was typing that did me in. I never had trouble with mice. But now my mouse is messing me up. My fancypants chair-arm-mounted split keyboard has dual trackpads on it, but I hate trackpads. I've been trying to use them all day and they just drive me crazy.

I have a table-like mouse-pad clipped to the edge of my desk so that the mouse is lower than the desk surface, down near the keyboard, but I think I've been leaning on my elbow when using it. Which is, you know, bad.

I had one of those horizontally-gripped mice for a while (in the picture at that link), which sounded like a good idea, but after a couple of months, I found it even less comfortable than a flat mouse.

I wish this keyboard had a trackpoint. But even then, I'd really miss having a tilting scroll wheel.

Bah. And ow.

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42 Responses:

  1. icis_machine says:

    have you considered a wacom tablet or a pen shaped mouse ?

  2. cjensen says:

    Mouse scroll wheels hurt my hands more than anything else. Is that just me?

    • skilja says:

      No, no, it's not.

      The only time that I have experienced real RSI when computing is recently, when I have had to scroll, scroll, scroll through countless documents and web pages as a Research Officer. Never typing, never plain mousing, it's the lifted finger and scrolling that really fucks with my hands

      • drkscrtlv says:

        The MX Revolution has an awesome low-friction scroll wheel that I was able to get rolling easily and it'll scroll for pages until I stop it. I think that, and its smooth wireless movement, make up for the fact that it's right-handed and you have to middle-click with your thumb.

      • gryazi says:

        They put a "Page Down" button on your keyboard for this purpose.

        • skilja says:

          Which is even more annoying. Tap - find text - refocus. Tap - find text - refocus. The arrow keys are better.

      • vxo says:

        AARGH, I've had this happen too. It kills my fingers after a couple of hours.

        I've considered whacking apart a cheap usb rodent and relocating the quadrature encoder for the scroll wheel onto something with a big knob, kind of like a ghetto Griffin Powermate.

  3. allartburns says:

    Two things that fixed my wrist problems:

    1) Kinesis keyboard. your fingers move in straight lines in wells, not in weird angular directions. Also, the important emacs keys are under the thumbs.

    2) getting a proper chair and my monitors high enough. I went with the Hag Capisco which forces me to sit up straight and have my monitors high enough that my eyeline hits about half-way up the monitor when I'm sitting up straight.

    • gchpaco says:

      <jwz>
      Did you even read the link where he mentions having a Kinesis bolted to his chair?
      </jwz>
      Sadly, while it is possible to get a trackpoint today (my Unicomp probably saved my wrists) I don't think you can get them with the Kinesis. More's the pity, really.

      • allartburns says:

        That's a different Kinesis than what I have. They make more than one, and they have different configurations.

        • ppezaris says:

          The model you have, which is also the model I love, is called the Kinesis Contour. It literally saved my career. Read my Review

          JWZ, I'm sure you'll get a lot of suggestions, but what solved my hand strain was the Logitech Trackman Marble FX. You can find them occasionally refurbished on eBay. I've used them for about 10 years and never had one break, so don't worry about buying used. They command a premium because, well, because they're really that good. I'd suggest remapping the top-most button to be "left click".

          • gryazi says:

            I was trying to mention the Trackman FX but was using elinks and couldn't work the captcha.

            I liked mine but used to find ways to make myself sore by finding ways to lean on the long plastic 'heel' of the rest.

            They replaced it with a cordless model (yeah, whee, cordless trackball -- but would come in handy with your crazy chair-mounts, perhaps?) that foregoes the permanent rest for a soft pad that folds in and out under the unit. That might actually be more comfortable and would also make it more compact for a chair-mount. (Note: The ball is held in by gravity and will fall out if you try any tilted arrangements.)

            My current assumption for posture is that higher is better than lower, especially for mice and pointing devices you are likely to find yourself "leaning" on. A higher position forces your fingers/palm/wrist to bend down, similar to the "arms raised" typing posture we're all supposed to use. A lower position flexes your palm/wrist up and also encourages you to "lean into" the desk or device for support.

            ...note that, actually, IIRC my experience with the FX (as opposed to a flat mouse) was a rare opposite to that rule due to its design, because I had to keep it in a high position, and the ball itself sort of encourages your wrist to bend up. If it were placed low, like on a mouse tray, your hand would naturally fall on it and you wouldn't need to use that extra plastic rest anyway.

            • My current assumption for posture is that higher is better than lower, especially for mice and pointing devices you are likely to find yourself "leaning" on. A higher position forces your fingers/palm/wrist to bend down, similar to the "arms raised" typing posture we're all supposed to use. A lower position flexes your palm/wrist up and also encourages you to "lean into" the desk or device for support.

              The higher your mouse is, though, the more stress you're putting on your shoulder. The best solution is to keep your mouse low, and get something like this. Instead of gripping the mouse with your fingers, it fits your whole hand, so you don't flex your wrist. It also means that when you move your mouse you move from the shoulder, not the wrist, putting less stress on your wrist.

              I've seen adapters that fit over regular mice and provide the same grip, but I can't find them online at the moment.

              • gryazi says:

                The higher your mouse is, though, the more stress you're putting on your shoulder. The best solution is to keep your mouse low, and get something like this. Instead of gripping the mouse with your fingers, it fits your whole hand, so you don't flex your wrist. It also means that when you move your mouse you move from the shoulder, not the wrist, putting less stress on your wrist.

                I... I don't get it. With a mouse low and distant (at desk position, as opposed to a magic jwz chair), I am going to lean forward and naturally 'lean into' my wrist, and my hand will bend upward. Because I will be pivoting on my palm/wrist, I will be flexing the wrist more and using the shoulder less.

                With the mouse higher (where by high I mean 'at desk/table height' so that my forearm is level when using it), my wrist stays pretty neutral and the fulcrum point is back around my elbow and shoulder. If you have serious shoulder damage this might be bad, but otherwise, isn't it how the human arm is meant to move?

                I am using some chintzy (but antimicrobial!) Iogear cordless mouse right now and, like most made today, it is nearly as thick as the link you provide and has a grip for a right-handed thumb. Putting it on a tray beneath the desk would only bend my wrist back more, and put more pressure into my palm.

                See where the carpal tunnel is? For a person without other injuries, the idea is to avoid pressures and motions that are going to irritate that. Keyboard trays seem like a trick, because they put the devices low but then usually have that big "rest" for you to lean your palms and wrists into -- the pressure you should be avoiding, even if it's padded.

                If it's too arduous to hold your arm up like that, it's time to work on your arm strength. Seriously. Or take the fatigue as a cue to stretch.

                • I think we're talking past each other somewhat.

                  I... I don't get it. With a mouse low and distant (at desk position, as opposed to a magic jwz chair), I am going to lean forward and naturally 'lean into' my wrist, and my hand will bend upward. Because I will be pivoting on my palm/wrist, I will be flexing the wrist more and using the shoulder less.

                  I wasn't suggesting putting your mouse far away; you should be able to reach it without extending your arm at all.

                  With the mouse higher (where by high I mean 'at desk/table height' so that my forearm is level when using it), my wrist stays pretty neutral and the fulcrum point is back around my elbow and shoulder. If you have serious shoulder damage this might be bad, but otherwise, isn't it how the human arm is meant to move?

                  Do you have to raise your arm to reach your mouse? If not, then it's fine where it is; if you do, though, then you're putting stress on your shoulder.

                  How do you move the mouse, though? Say you want to highlight a sentence: do you move the mouse with your wrist, or does your whole arm move?

                  Keyboard trays seem like a trick, because they put the devices low but then usually have that big "rest" for you to lean your palms and wrists into -- the pressure you should be avoiding, even if it's padded.

                  And that's why you shouldn't use a keyboard tray with a wrist rest. I've seen plenty that don't have them. The reason keyboard trays are useful in the first place is that most people have their desks set higher than is healthy for their arms and shoulders, so that they can sit properly upright with their knees bent no less than 90 degrees).

                  • gryazi says:

                    Okay, maybe it's not a very good argument and I made it poorly.

                    By "distant" I meant anything not directly under your hand at all times with your elbow (and upper arm) directly at your side. A full-on ergonomic moon-man chair like jwz's allows that (in theory, if both sides weren't occupied by keyboard anyway).

                    So try this, which I just did to check my theory: Hold your arm out straight in front of you at shoulder height, then pretend your fingers are dropping around a mouse gripped properly (no angle to your wrist). Make mousing motions: back and forth, in and out. Your elbow bends, your upper arm moves in the shoulder joint, the arm works like.. well, an arm.

                    Now hold your elbow at your side as if you were sitting in an ergonomic office chair and using its ergonomic arm rests (where your elbow and part of your forearm will probably want to stay still or be rubbing against them). Try the mousing motions with your forearm straight out; you'll probably want to use much more wrist.

                    Next, from that "armrest posture," drop your hand a few inches, carry the imaginary mouse with you, and try again. Your hand bends back, and the range of motion probably only gets worse. If you were sitting, your whole forearm would probably be on the armrest -- or if you foreswear armrests and wrist pads, are you sure your palm wouldn't be digging into the mouse pad?

                    Try it and see what you think. I wouldn't put a mouse and keyboard *at* shoulder height or anywhere near it, but a few inches above keyboard-tray-zone seems right.

                    ...

                    I also notice that, when my elbow is relatively extended, my body reflexively thinks I'm pushing away and "leaning in" doesn't feel comfortable; when my elbows are in and my hands are low it's much easier to be pushing my palms into a rest/mouse/mousepad/edge-of-desk without noticing it until I start hurtin'.

                    Other food for thought: Most of us probably formed our original typing postures while we were young and all desks were way too high. Then, if we came of age in the '80s and the '90s, a lot of office chairs were still pretty low (to fit under typing desks, which had to accommodate 6" or more of typewriter between desk and keyboard?), and the first wave of ergonomic accessories, like keyboard drawers, were 1) an attempt to adapt between low chairs and PCs put on the high desks (because the low ones were still occupied by typewriters), 2) an attempt to push the user's nose back from the CRT that was occupying the whole desk, and 3) a place to put the keyboard because that massive PC chassis and CRT were occupying the whole desk.

                    Eventually we got rid of most of the typewriters, replaced the CRTs with LCDs, and these days office chairs are much bigger and come with a full range of height adjustments... Maybe I'm just short and used to my feet not always reaching the ground, but if that's the issue, I don't know why taller people are so interested in putting their input devices in the way of their knees.

          • mutiny says:

            I'm a Kinesis user as well and it is probably the best thing I've ever used. The Trackman Marble FX is also Godly, and it's such a shame they don't make it any more. I can't understand why they discontinued it. After I lost mine I go a Trackman Marble, which is also good (and has lasted me 5+ years, with the occasional bearing cruft cleaning)

  4. ch says:

    ibm makes (or at one time made) a keyboard with a trackpoint. i have about six of them.

  5. allartburns says:

    Oops, forgot about your pedant fanboys.

    I have a Kinesis keyboard with keys in a straight line in wells (various model names including the Advantage, Contour, MPC, etc), not one of the Kinesis keyboards that keep the keys in diagonal rows while allowing you to adjust the location of the keyboard. IMHO, the straight line movements makes a huge difference in wrist pain -- I can't use a regular keyboard for more than an hour or so without the diagonal movements making my hands and wrists sore.

  6. nathanrsfba says:

    Assuming you don't already do so, have you tried learning to use the mouse with your non-dominant hand?

    I had terrible wrist pain a few years ago. I finally figured out it was from the mouse. So I started using the mouse left-handed. It was an A-Number-One pain in the ass to learn, but after a week or two I was able to use it left-handed just as well as I could right-.

    And while it would seem like you're just displacing the problem, after using the mouse mostly left-handed for a few years, I can now use it right-handed without any pain at all. So I guess whatever damage was done eventually healed. Being young probably helped.

    Interestingly, keyboards have never caused me any wrist pain, though that may be just because I type at an odd angle.

  7. pickyfix says:

    I use a MS natural ergonomic keyboard (gullwing, reverse slope, zoom slider, back and forth buttons, favorites, volume, mute, play, pause and my fave, the calculator button. Oooh.), a Wacom tablet for art, and a Logitech Marble Mouse for pointing.

    I don't know why they call it a mouse when it's actually a trackball. I have an ergonomic, ambidextrous one with two buttons on either side, the smaller ones can be used to scroll, but I reassigned the zoom slider on my keyboard to scroll. I don't zoom that often. I like not having to move my forearm around and being able to switch which side it's on.

    Aside from that, my chair is at knee height and I modded my desk so that the keyboard tray is at wrist level when I'm in this chair. The furniture probably helps me the most.

    • kallisti says:

      I'll second the Logitech Marble Mouse!!!

      Until I started using it, I had problems with both hands with Carpal Tunnel syndrome...but since I started using the MM about 6 years ago, most of that problem has disappeared. BTW, I am fairly ambidextrous, not 100%, but I try and switch which hand I use for the mouse every month or two....

      ttyl

  8. quotation says:

    The Endurapro has the nipple mouse, as well as the buckling springs.

    Have you tried the Logitech Cordless Trackman Optical? I've got two, and would never give it up until they finally upgrade it with the tippy wizzy scrollwheel logitech is using these days.

    • quotation says:

      Forgot to mention -- the trackman had significant positive effect on my wrist pain when combined with a 3M gel wrist rest.

  9. yazmeya says:

    soft squeegee thingie under wrist works best for me.

  10. simoncion says:

    What is this tilting scroll wheel that you speak of?

    I purchased a Kensington Expert Mouse four or five years ago. I use it daily and clean the guck out of the nubs that the ball rests on roughly every other week. It has given me no trouble, and is still the best $100 I have ever spent.

    I'm really not sure where you would put it, though. I can't imagine bolting it to your chair.

    Anyway, operational notes:
    I usually end up using the first three fingers of my right hand to roll the ball around, and my thumb and pinky finger to left and right click. The ball is about 2.25 inches in diameter and is easy to control. The ball lifts right out of the base. If you were to turn the whole thing perpendicular to the floor, the ball would fall out. That ring around the ball is the scroll wheel. It's easy to move by flicking it with your fingers or by picking up your hand and dragging it in a circle around the ball.

    Hope you don't cripple your wrists, boss!

    • jwz says:

      Tilting scroll wheel means that the scroll wheel not only rolls forward/backward, but also clicks when you push it side to side, which does horizontal scrolling. It's pretty common now, e.g., Logitech RX1000.

      • gryazi says:

        You already knew this, and it's been stated elsewhere, but for almost anything other than a mouse (particularly trackballs or other devices that permit continuous movement) it makes sense to just assign scrolling to modifier buttons and use the main device. The Trackman FX, for instance, painted its 4th button red and had the drivers assign it as such.

        In reality you probably want two buttons, one for proportional scrolling and one for distance-from-origin "autoscroll," but helpfully most devices now come with useless 'forward' and 'back' "web" buttons that can be repurposed.

        There *is* software for the Mac (shareware, of course) that will give you as much freedom as XFree/Xorg in assigning the scroll behaviors. I cannot remember the name of it off the top of my head, though (and maybe they've improved the stock control panel while I wasn't looking).

  11. joel says:

    Between Quicksilver and the "Enable access for assistive devices" setting in Universal Access, I was able to dramatically reduce my mouse usage.

    A *big* win for me was to set up "Triggers" for my commonly used applications. I press Command-S for Safari, Command-E for Aquamacs (http://skitch.com/joelf/44qx/triggers)

    I've also moved to a trackball, which has changed the clicking motion away from my index finger to my thumb... eventually I'd like to map the mouse buttons to my keyboard.

  12. remix79 says:

    I tried the Wacom tablet, which was OK but not ideal. I eventually settled on using a USB gamepad and Joy2Key.

    http://www.electracode.com/4/joy2key/JoyToKey%20English%20Version.htm

    It works great so far. I use the leftmost index finger button to slow the mouse speed when I need fine control.

    Tried the Kinesis k/b, but I could feel the tendons and blood vessels on the back of my hand scrunch up, so no.

    Ice and ibuprofen. Try feeling your arms for hard lumps of muscle. Turned out my RSI numbness came from my tendons being inflamed right around my elbow. I massaged around there in my tricep area and found some extremely tense muscles. After I massaged them and they relaxed (and I stopped using the computer completely for awhile), my symptoms slowly went away.

    Also, Workrave!

    http://www.workrave.org/

  13. Good support for the arm and elbow is pretty critical.

    I find that a trackball is an improvement; if I was really dedicated, I'd probably try to swap out trackball for mouse every so often. I'm surprised there isn't a good trackball with tilt scroll yet. I haven't succumbed to its lure myself. The Logitech TrackMan Wheel (or the ambidextrous Marble for switchers) is well spoken of in my crippled-nerd communities.

    I use my Wacom for graphics crap, and for that it's wonderful, but as a mouse substitute it can get annoying. I don't have room on my workspace for Wacom and keyboard, and so things like control-clicks are a big pain. It's something to keep in mind if you look into a tablet option.

  14. violentbloom says:

    Maybe you can come get a fanboy to come click your mouse for you?

    Treating the lyme disease worked better for me than anything else so I got nothing useful. And I assume it is only your wrist hurting so that's not going to help you.

  15. jayp39 says:

    I am quite envious of your keyboard setup. Looks like it's no longer available, sadly.

    The Logitech Marble FX+ was the most ergonomic pointing device I have ever used, so of course they stopped making it shortly before mine broke. The marble mouse was terrible for me, and although the Cordless Trackman Marble looks somewhat similar in terms of ergonomic hand position, I find the inablity to use my thumb for extra control of the trackball puts extra strain on my fingers & wrist whenever I am doing anything that requires a fine amount of control. Also they seem to have forgotten that you don't need a scroll wheel on a trackball, because the entire trackball can be turned into a scroll wheel with the touch of a button; the new scroll wheel position is far less ergonomic than just using the trackball to scroll.

    Anyway, you might want to consider trying glucosamine. For a while I worked at a data entry center with the most un-ergonomic setups imaginable (I was desperate for money and they paid quite well), and I couldn't type for more than an hour until I started taking glucosamine a couple hours before my shift. Glucosamine comes in a wide variety of packages from cheap to very expensive depending on what other shit it's mixed with. For me, plain old cheap stuff works great.

  16. For me, mixing different types of pointer control is the trick. I change from mouse to pen etc. randomly and I've got rid of the pain that I thought was getting worse and worse. So that's:

    - An IBM travel keyboard (trackpoint and trackpad) at home.
    - At work, mouse in left hand but positioned in front of the keyboard such that I can also reach across and comfortably use it in the right. At home I sometimes use an RH mouse now.
    - At work, three WACOM small tablets, one per monitor, A6 size, which might be similar to the Bamboo now. They take up less desk space than the graphires etc. I use the pen buttons for middle+right so that scrolling is easy. Click/double-click is harder but it's worth it. Wacoms get a lot better with lots of practice.

    • spoonyfork says:

      Semi-seconded: I just switch the hands up. At work I use my mouse with the left hand and at home I use the mouse on the right hand. I am technically right-handed so I favor the most mouse-intensive part of the day at work with the left hand which is not quite so damaged.

      P.S. It was easier than I thought to train myself to mouse left-handed and it had some interesting unintended side effects. Not long after the switch at dinner I subconsciously grabbed the fork and started eating with my left hand. I didn't realize what I was doing until someone stated that they didn't know I was always left-handed.

      • re the P.S., when I first started driving on the right side of the road for the first time (in the US, I lived in CA for a couple of years), I got left and right seriously confused for about a month - if someone said "take a right" I had to get them to point or something. So maybe I was already prepared for the mouse.

  17. honkerdown says:

    Is there a way for you to lose the arm rests? That has always been a problem of mine. I remove the arm rests from the office chair I use, allowing my arms to be in a natural position and not allowing me to lean on them when either typing or operating the mouse. I too use the Evoluent Vertical Mouse, and it has been a god-send in letting me mouse with my hand in a natural position.

  18. jkonrath says:

    Why hasn't someone mass-produced the Stephen Hawking-esque devices that monitor your eye movement, and hook that into a mouse controller? Touch a button, look at a different part of the screen, the mouse moves there. Touch a different button, and as your eyes move to the bottom of a window you're reading, and it scrolls a page.

    I always thought the Apple paradigm of a mouse with no buttons was asinine, but I think every movement type that came out of the Windows world, ala right-clicking, scroll wheels, and click-scroll wheel, was thought up by a person who never had to use said feature 50,000 times an hour and/or someone who never had to explain it to someone in print or over the phone.

    I just got a Chinese knock-off MS Ergo keyboard at work, and it has dual scroll wheels under the space bars. It's perfect, except I forget that they're there, and the rest of the keyboard is a piece of shit and probably won't last another week.

  19. mutiny says:

    Out of curiosity, what kind of chair do you use? That's the missing link in my ergonomic package of Kinesis Ergo, Trackman Marble, and adjustable height desk. Aerons seem to be de rigueur for the serious hacker, but I never liked them when I had one back in my dot-bomb 1.0 days, and I think they're unnecessarily overpriced.

  20. 205guy says:

    4 years ago, Microsoft sold a large trackball surprisingly similar to the Marble FX for only $30 or $40. It was called the Trackball Explorer and I was going to recommend that. The thumb controls all the mouse buttons (left, middle scroll wheel, and right), the first two fingers are on the big red marble, and the last two fingers fall on small random buttons I could probably program to something useful if I bothered (they're mapped to browse back and forward). The marble won't fall out when it's upside down, but I don't know if would sit well enough on the little pins to move as effortlessly.

    But now I see it's a collector's item and sells used for $250 on Amazon--my first piece of computer hardware to appreciate. Now I don't know whether to cherish it or sell it. Anyways, if I didn't put a thick wrist pad under it, I ended up with the same problem that using a standard scroll wheel has, straining to lift the fingers when the wrist is already bent backwards.

    Of course, when I asked for a trackball at work, I got the thumb-ball kind. So, kinda like the ambidextrous mouse users above, it keeps my mind young and agile to go back and forth--or so I like to believe.

    But I did get a nice keyboard at work, looks like a Chinese knockoff of the newest MS ergonomic keyboard. Except it has a trackpad under the thumbs--I thought it would keep me from using the moving my hand to the mouse for small cursor movements, but I haven't really trained myself to do that yet. I hated those old Microsoft bent keyboards because the arrow and edit/paging keys were nonstandard--that's something my flexible mind couldn't handle.

    However, when researching keyboards, I saw all the reverse tilt mechanisms so I propped this ergonomic split keyboard backwards with some stacks of post-its, and it really is the most comfortable position I've found, regardless of keyboard. Reverse tilting the keyboard forces you to raise your wrists and unbend them so the finger movement isn't stressful. It helps to have the ergonomic keyboard for resting your palms so you don't actually have to lift your arms all the time.

    Has anyone tried the orbitouch keyless keyboard (http://www.keybowl.com/)? It seems to rely on a principle like that joytotype driver that may avoid the finger movements, but it seems to still have bad wrist positioning.

    As for reading eye movements, I always thought that there should be a way to read brain waves, and then we could learn to make simple variations in our brain waves to indicate basic mouse movement and click. I think it's already been done for a basic control, not a multi-dimensional one.

    Finally, either I'm fortunate or all these gadgets have worked because I don't really suffer from carpal tunnel pain. Except when playing pinball, sadly enough.

  21. kraquehaus says:

    My Logitech Marble FX has saved my right hand from the RSI that has plagued my left hand (for the most part). It is also the only piece of gear I own that has gone UP in price.

    Yes, it is a trackball, but it is unlike any trackball I have every used. Many people say, "I refuse to use a trackball," and they are usually right. This is the exception.

    It was discontinued in ~2001; I have two just in case. Last time I checked they were going for $80 on ebay, but I just checked Amazon and they seem to start at around $150:

    http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-TrackMan-Marble-FX-Trackball/dp/B00000JBUI

    Trust me, it is not a normal trackball. It is the most ergo thing for mousing and is accurate enough for someone like me who is doing design work all the time.

    (FYI, I also have a Datahand keyboard, which are now discontinued, I need to get rid of if you are interested.)

    I'm not selling my Marble FX though; those bastards are MINE.