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Ergonomic Alternatives to a Traditional Mouse

Friday, June 12, 2009
By Anne Kramer

Mouse usage is one of the leading contributors to office-place repetitive stress injuries in the hands, wrists, and arms. These injuries include the increasingly prevalent carpal tunnel syndrome.

An easy way to prevent mouse-induced repetitive stress injuries is to replace the mouse with a more ergonomically friendly alternative. Although ergonomic mice are available and safe, it is simple to integrate a touchpad, trackball, or foot switch. These devices are often also more versatile than a traditional mouse.

Touchpads have become a common feature on laptops, but they are also available for desktop computers. To use a touchpad, the user drags a finger lightly over the touch-sensitive surface, which moves the on-screen cursor. Instead of clicking a button, the user taps the touchpad to make a selection. There are several advantages to using a touchpad:
  • They minimize hand and finger usage, since they require little hand pressure to operate.
  • Touchpads help keep the elbow and shoulder more stationary, reducing stress on these joints.
  • Because they are stationary, touchpads save desk space.
  • Many touchpads also feature programmable keys. This feature decreases keyboard usage.

Trackballs are a lesser-known alternative to the mouse, but they are a great solution for computer users who experience shoulder pain. Trackballs feature a large rolling ball fitted into a stationary setting. The user moves the cursor by lightly rolling the ball. To make a selection, the user either presses a button adjacent to the ball, or presses the ball itself. A trackball has multiple benefits:
  • It eliminates movement of the hand and wrist, preventing carpal tunnel and similar injuries.
  • A trackball allows the elbow and shoulder to remain stationary, so that these joints receive less pressure and stress.
  • Like touchpads, trackballs are also stationary and require little desk space.
  • A touchpad’s programmable buttons make it ideal for users who need to reduce overall keyboard usage.
Foot switches completely eliminate use of the fingers, hands, and arms. Plugged in where the mouse would go, foot switches sit on the floor under the desk. Each pedal can be assigned a mousing action (such as left-, right-, or double-click) or a keyboard action (such as “Backspace,” “Shift,” or any keyboard shortcut). The user hits the correct pedal to command the action.
  • Foot switches are highly customizable, so they work for any task.
  • Because they replace a mouse entirely, foot switches are ideal for users who already suffer from mouse-related repetitive stress injuries.
  • Available for one or both feet, foot switches allow the user to balance use of the right and left sides of the body.
  • Unlike other alternatives, foot switches require no desk space at all.
  • No reaching between the mouse and keyboard means that foot switches also increase productivity.
Roller Bar Mouse is a central input device that encourages the equal use of both hands. With the mouse buttons centered beneath the keyboard home keys, mouse control is equidistant from either hand. The RollerMouse Pro and RollerMouse Free allow the elbows to rest comfortably at the sides, supporting a beneficial ergonomic posture. By placing the mouse controls directly under the keyboard, these devices also eliminate pain in the neck and shoulders induced by frequent asymmetrical reaching.

  • The Roller Bar mouse encourages ambidextrous use, to divide mouse use between the left and right hand. This feature equalizes the load on the hands and minimizes repetitive motion.
  • Because Roller Bar mice require no gripping, they decrease the risk of repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. Navigation is done by rolling a narrow bar up and down or side to side, using minimal pressure from the fingertips.
  • The mouse controls are within easy reach of the space bar, so reaching motions are eliminated.
  • The space-saving design of the Roller Bar mouse is designed to sit in front of the keyboard which takes up less desk space.
Touchpads, trackballs, foot switches, and roller bar mice offer ergonomic alternatives to the traditional mouse. By reducing stress on the joints in the hands and arms, these devices decrease repetitive stress injuries and make workers more productive.

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