Mighty Mice

As I mentioned earlier, the mouse can be responsible for as much, if not more, aggravation than the keyboard, so it's worth investing in a good one. A 1999 report by Keir, Bach and Rempel at the University of California began with the premise that "Intensive mouse use has been associated with increased risk of upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders, including carpal tunnel syndrome. Sustained, elevated fluid pressure in the carpal tunnel may play a role in the pathophysiology of carpal tunnel syndrome." Tests concluded that "In many participants the carpal tunnel pressures measured during mouse use were greater than pressures known to alter nerve function and structure, indicating that jobs with long periods of intensive mouse use may be at an increased risk of median mononeuropathy."

The key is long-term comfort and support. Early mice kept the hand in an unnatural position parallel with the desktop and not well supported. In recent years, ergonomic specialists working for the major mouse manufacturers have discovered the importance of changing the angle at the wrist so that the hand sits closer to vertical, and that use is more comfortable when what's called the metacarpophalangeal ridge - the pad on the palm under the knuckles - is supported. In addition, carving a slot for the thumb to sit in helps position the hand in the most ergonomically correct way.


The basic mouse shape of Microsoft's Intellimouse Explorer can still be seen in most mice today.


That's why you'll see the same basic shape in mice like Microsoft's Intellimouse Explorer (approx £27) and Wireless Laser Mouse 5000 (under £30) or Logitech's G5 gaming mouse (approx. £40) and VX Revolution Wireless Laser Mouse (under £30), not to mention similar mice from Genius, SpeedLink, Saitek, Razor and others. Microsoft's Natural Wireless Laser Mouse 6000 (approx. £30) is an evolution of this basic shape, placing the hand in a higher, more steeply angled position that should put even less pressure on the carpal tunnel and the wrist.


The Logitech G5 brought adjustable weight to the party, allowing gamers a new level of customisation.


As with the keyboards, most of these devices also include additional buttons, zoom sliders and the now ubiquitous scroll wheel (and usually one that tilts in four directions, to enable horizontal as well as vertical scrolling). The latter feature can be tricky. From anecdotal evidence, some RSI sufferers believe that using the scroll wheel aggravates their condition because it encourages them to work the middle finger in an uncomfortable position. Others, however, suggest ramping up the sensitivity of the scroll wheel as high as it will go then using it, because it saves so much wrist movement spent in dragging and clicking on scroll bars.

As with buying keyboards, it's well worth finding a store with a number of different mice on display just so you can get a little hands on try. Get your thumb in the thumbslot, let your hand fall on the mouse and just check that your hand feels supported and that your wrist isn't being twisted at any strange angle. If a mouse feels too small or too cumbersome in your hand, then it's not going to do you any favours over its working life. Watch, too, for excessively stiff or clicky buttons. If you have to use anything more than a light touch to get a click, then you're going to be putting more strain on your hands than you need to.

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