Is Your Computer Mouse Giving You Carpal Tunnel?

by JoHarrington

If you are getting pain or a tingling sensation in your wrist, then maybe it's time to change your mouse. I have just the one for you!

It's the curse of geeks, gamers and freelance writers. That is bad news for me. Triple score on the risk of carpal tunnel spectrum!

Fortunately for me, a work colleague once took a long, hard look at me, and decided to save me from myself. At the time, I thought that she was being fussy and over-cautious. Now I wish that I could go back and give her a big hug.

She gave me the most wonderful gift of my computing life.

Kensington Orbit Optical Trackball Mouse 64327

Buy this computer mouse for surfing the internet in comfort. Its trackball optics means that your wrist never actually moves.

The Durability of the Kensington Trackball Mouse

I have to smile looking at that image above.  My eyes flit from it to its near twin sitting right beside me. 

The major difference between them is that mine is about six years old and still going strong. These things are light-weight, but sturdy.  It will probably out-live me and become an heirloom for my nearest and dearest.  (They probably wouldn't want my jewelry anyway.)

But over half a decade of having my sweaty paw all over it hasn't half made a change in the coloring. You can tell where my hand sits! 

Image: Kensington Orbit Optical Trackball on my desk.
Image: Kensington Orbit Optical Trackball on my desk.
Jo Harrington

Yes, I did give it all a good polish before you saw it.  And no, that isn't dust on the edge of my mouse-pad. It's gone a bit frayed with age.  The books are: a Welsh-English dictionary dating from 1922; a dictionary & thesaurus; and a tiny white corner of The Sims 2 Deluxe

Back to the mouse. 

After over half a decade of using it, those light grey parts are where my palm and thumb rest.  It's not like the paint comes off on your hand.  That's gradually happened over time, in the same way as an old staircase eventually gets worn in the middle.

But those marks also give the clue to how this mouse works; and why it's so good for your wrist.  It's really comfortable too!

Image: My Kensington Orbit Trackball.
Image: My Kensington Orbit Trackball.
Jo Harrington
Image: Using my Kensington Orbit Trackball.
Image: Using my Kensington Orbit Trac...
Jo Harrington

You merely place your whole hand over it.  My palm rests on the long pad.  That never moves at all. 

My thumb and little finger sit over the two wide buttons.  My index and middle fingers are on the trackball.  It moves in every direction, which you can control precisely with your fingertips. 

This makes it a fantastic mouse for a gamer.  You can twitch play with this far, far more easily than you can with ordinary computer mice. 

The only part of my hand regularly moving are those digits on the trackball.  I can even be lazy about it and just use my index finger.  Not so precise, but perfectly adequate for randomly clicking on Reddit links.

Image: My Kensington Orbit Trackball.
Image: My Kensington Orbit Trackball.
Jo Harrington
Image: This is a little awkward, as it as a terrible angle from which to take a photograph!
Image: This is a little awkward, as i...
Jo Harrington

Please ignore the angle of that last image.  My wrist isn't usually so twisted.  I had to turn the mouse so that you could see where my little finger is placed. 

In normal, day to day use, my arm, wrist and hand are in beautiful alignment.  No strain, no stress, and no risk of the dreaded carpal tunnel.

Which leads me nicely onto why I was given this gift; and how I believe it's led to me dodging a bullet here.

The Kensington Trackball Demonstrated and Explained

This lady is really moving her fingers way too much. In reality, mine don't move off the trackball at all. They don't need to!

Do You Like Using a Trackball Mouse?

Another Kensington Trackball Mouse

Kensington Expert Mouse Optical USB Trackball for PC or Mac 64325

The best trackball ever made has just gotten better. Designed for PCs and Mac's, the new Expert Mouse® employs Kensington's Diamond Eye™ optical technology for smooth, precise c...

View on Amazon

Trackball Mice Help Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

By keeping your wrist still, you reduce the risk of repetitive strain while surfing the 'net.

A few weeks ago, I started to get a pins and needles sensation in my wrist.  It began right at the base of my thumb and continued down.

I naturally ignored it.

Over the course of several days, the tingling spread up through my index finger and down towards my elbow. It remained centered on my wrist and seemed worse in the mornings.

With the morbid half-panic of someone just weeks away from her fortieth birthday, I decided that I was having a heart-attack, or a stroke, or something equally horrific. 

I finally had it checked out; and the diagnosis was one which would have had my old work colleague shrieking, "I told you so!"

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is basically wear and tear on the innards of your wrist. You'll need to check with someone more medically qualified than myself for the fine detail. It's caused by repeatedly performing the same action over and over again.

Like typing, or moving a mouse, or anything else that us gamer, geek, freelance writing types do all day, every day.  Contributory negligence then.

So how did the Kensington Trackball mouse prevent this, if a doctor said that I have it?  My carpal tunnel is only in one wrist.  The left side is screaming out for relief.  The right side is sitting pretty on the mouse and hasn't given me so much as a twinge.

Image: Left hand supported against carpal tunnel syndrome.
Image: Left hand supported against carpal tunnel syndrome.
Jo Harrington

Wrist Supports for Use While Using a Computer

Since wearing this while I type, the tingling has gone away. I caught carpal tunnel in the nick of time. Problem solved!

A Personal Recommendation for a Kensington Orbit Optical Trackball

I wouldn't do without my trackball mouse now.  It's not even the carpal tunnel thing.  I'm not that sensible.  If I could get an edge in gaming with another mouse, I'd just invest in two wrist supports instead.

It's the comfort, speed and precision that I love.

I've taken the ball out, so you can see how it all works. The optical sensors mean that the trackball never sticks. It glides in its socket wherever my finger-tips want the cursor to go.  Which is bad news for the bosses, who meet me in my games.

Luckily for me, it's also beneficial for my health.  If my left wrist nearly fell to carpal tunnel just typing, then imagine what state my right one could have been in!  The mouse is notorious for causing repetitive strain!

I could just swop sides.  Both the Kensington Trackball and I are ambidextrous.  Unlike most computer mice, you don't have to use it with your right hand. The trackball is in the center.

On the off-chance that my mouse should ever fall into disrepair, I will buy another one. It's now an essential computing accessory for me.

More of my Computing Articles

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It is the standard first question of any geek called to troubleshoot a PC. The fact is that 80% of the time, it fixes everything.
Frustrated by trying to fix a computer by telephone? Crossloop is a free must-have for family go-to geeks everywhere.
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Updated: 03/09/2014, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 08/20/2012

Thank you very much. Yes, they do look cool, but they're also great for gaming. I can click with much more precision than with an ordinary mouse.

Jackie on 08/20/2012

Getting one of these is definitely a good idea, especially with how much we all use computers on a day to day basis. The main thing I love about them isn't the health benefits (although it's a bonus) it's how cool they look. They look like hardcore gamer mice!
A great article as always!

JoHarrington on 08/08/2012

It is weird the first time you use one, but you very quickly get used to it. I find it strange going back to the other kind of mouse now.

kate on 08/08/2012

i try and avoid excessive computer use but whilst completing my recent degree i found i had loads of wrist pain from using a regular mouse. I tried a tracker ball but found it difficult to get used to. I guess it takes a bit of time. Do you remember the first time you used a regular mouse or an old skool joystick ? it felt so weird

JoHarrington on 08/07/2012

I concur! :)

lobobrandon on 08/07/2012

Hmm nice :)

JoHarrington on 08/07/2012

It's the same sort of principle, but much bigger. I'm resting my whole hand, in a natural position, on top of it. There are pads you can buy too, which fix on the bottom, if you want to support your wrist more. I've not really seen the need with the size of this!

lobobrandon on 08/07/2012

Wow that's neat! Looks great too :) Like an external touch pad (Somewhat)

JoHarrington on 08/06/2012

Brenda - You would be amazed at the number of writers with carpal tunnel syndrome. We do nothing but type all day, hence the pain. If yours is already painful, then do get a wrist support while you write your Wizzles.

And yes, a trackball mouse too! But in the first instance, I'd definitely get even a cheap throw-away wrist support. It'll help enormously. Mine in my left wrist has totally gone away now. (Until I forget to put the support on for a couple of days writing, then it reminds me to do so.)

JoHarrington on 08/06/2012

I looked up the plural of computer mouses/mice for this! I've used them interchangeably for years, but I thought I'd better get it right. It turns out that the English language hasn't yet decided. We're in one of those wonderful linguistic periods, where something is too new to have fixed itself. Either computer mouses or computer mice are equally fine.

I just prefer mice. If it's good enough for the scurrying variety, it's good enough for the technological ones too.

And yes, as you can tell, I totally recommend a trackball. <3

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