Wrists of fury

Date:20 August 2012 Tags:, ,

Q I work on a desktop with a mouse and my wrists are killing me. I’m thinking of changing to a laptop. Which is ergonomically better for your wrists, a trackpad or a mouse?
A Regardless of whether you’re using a mouse or a trackpad, the first thing to consider when alleviating wrist pain is proper ergonomics. In fact, research has shown that products such as padded rests can actually increase the pressure on your wrist. So as motherly as it may sound, correct posture and how you hold your wrist when gripping a mouse or hovering over a trackpad is essential. Make sure your mouse or trackpad are at a comfortable distance (you’re not straining to reach your computer or scrunched in too tight), and keep your wrist straight and off the desk, avoiding jerky motions by using your elbow as the pivot point. With ergonomics out of the way, back to your original question: mouse or trackpad?

Because they allow for more freedom of movement, trackpads are probably the better bet for reducing wrist pain. But Dr. David Rempel, director of the ergonomics training programme at the University of California, Berkeley, admits that there hasn’t been a definitive study on this topic. His own research on touchscreens suggests that touch interfaces are more ergonomically kind, but they’re also associated with slower input speeds. Depending on the nature of your work this might not matter.

Even if it does slow you down, Rempel suggests forcing yourself to switch occasionally to alleviate repetitive- stress injuries. (The stresses become less repetitive.) You might also try changing mouse/trackpad hands. It will be awkward at first, but spreading the load between hands also reduces pain – and the switch-up will be a good workout for your brain.

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