commentary Input Devices RSI

It’s a mouse! Ouch!!

Computer mouseI constantly see advertisements for ergonomic mice. It seems like every company has an ergonomic mouse out there that has been specifically designed to reduce RSI, improve ergonomics, help avoid injuries etc etc.

Just about every time I eagerly check out a picture of the new super ergonomic mouse, however, I am usually confronted by a picture of – well, a regular two/three buttoned mouse with scroll wheel. So I’m expected to continue clicking and scrolling and reaching out to one side to use these ‘ergonomic’ devices? I take one look at this and automatically think – ouch!

It is my opinion that designers need to start thinking outside the box when developing ergonomic equipment, and not just try to flog to the general public the same old mouse design with perhaps a shinier, rounder, more colourful appearance and expect them to believe it’s a major breakthrough. It is actually amusing to see how many ‘ergonomic’ mice there are available now. Obviously, no-one wants to be responsible for selling ‘un’ergonomic mice, so it has become an over-used label with a view to seeing how many gullible people bite.

If any of these manufacturers were serious about producing an ergonomic product then they should test these with a wider group of RSI sufferers with different types of RSI. Let’s face it, there are enough of us around these days!

One reason I recommend the Contour Rollermouse is that the designers obviously used some lateral thinking when designing this product. I can also attest to the device allowing me to prolong my working life by 2-3 years. I only wish I’d found one earlier so I could have avoided a more permanent injury.

I  don’t know about you, but I have a knack for looking at an ‘ergonomic’ mouse and saying ‘ouch’ without having to try it. Maybe I’m just an old timer at this….

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8 replies on “It’s a mouse! Ouch!!”

I totally agree – the only device that seems genuinely different is the touchpad that can be held remotely while you sit back in your chair – it is basically like the touchpad on a laptop/ notebook, but you hold it tremotely in your hand. It takes a little getting used to and is slightly more fiddly, but otherwise it is a completely different experience and can be used very easily with the left hand (even if you are right handed) – have you seen it on “ergonomic” – I lost mine and am researching again, but you’re right, all these supposedly ergonomic mice are the same. I was thinking the other day that it must be possible to invent a hands free system, and indeed i have just seen one – but you have to stick something on your forehead!

Hi Ben, the touchpads can be ‘un’ergonomic too. I used one for a while trying to rest from clicking a mouse button, but ended up tapping the touchpad instead. This too can hurt a RSI damaged arm/hand. I still don’t think there is an ideal solution. Touch screens offer promise, but they still involve tapping a surface, which is still a small micro movement. I do think they’d be good as a temporary alternative from mouse use. The trouble with input devices is and always has been productivity ie how much effort you take to do your work. If an input device makes you take 2x longer to do your work, then you will resort back to using a regular mouse every time. That is why I liked the Contour Rollermouse, since it offered a completely new experience with ergonomics with a zero throughput hit.


The problem is that so many people still use the traditional mouse and seem to endure it – I read somewhere a few months back that there have been a billion computer mice made since the inception of the GUI years ago. The Contour rollermouse looks like a nice well thought out product. I think the problem is that it’s a fairly pricey device so unless RSI is in the equation, non-RSI sufferers will continue to endure the unergonomic mouse. This means that there tends to be a lack of real innovation when it comes to producing new GUI input devices. As for touchpads, I have read accounts of users having to stop touchpad use because of strange feelings in their finger tips after everyday use.

What I find more surprising is the lack of affordable ergonomic desks with adjustable heights which could greatly reduce shoulder and neck ailments arising from computer use.

I have to agree. The mouse is prevalent in the extreme, and cheap. It’s the constant throwing about of the term ‘ergonomic’ and the lack of innovative ideas that I have issue with.


I must admit that the the tapping action on the touchpad might cause its own problems, but I’ve adapted it to use my thumb, which is a little more comfortable (nevertheless i do get a feeling there is a slight current running through nmy finger sometimes – but could be RSI symptoms). As I say it’s good for left hand use and sometimes a change is as good as rest – I have both a mouse and touchpad in use on my desk.
Yes the rollermouse looks interesting but I’m reluctant to experiment by paying £200 for something that I imagine could be sold for under £50.
The hands free system I was talking about involves moving your head, so I’m not sure any touching of screen is necessary – or it wouldn’t be if used in combination with voice activation, so you can just tell your computer to “right click”, “scroll down” etc (again this is something I was thinking I’d like to propose as an invention, but it’s already been done it seems – I suspect price and complexity of setting it up is an issue).

Hi Ben, yeah the Roller Mouse is expensive, but was in my opinion worth every penny, and no I don’t have a financial interests in it (unfortunately)! Like I said before it all boils down to work throughput in the end of the day so new ideas have to be up to the task of maintaining work throughput, if not they will likely be discarded rapidly in most work environments. The hands free head system I suspect won’t be as easy to control as a standard mouse. This generalisation will depends on the type of career you are using it for though! Keep in mind RSI’s can happen in shoulders and neck, so you could end up with neck strain with the head based system!
I do agree with you that having multiple input devices on hand is the best approach. If you can have 5 input devices that all operate in different ways then you are limiting the exposure to the same stresses that can cause an RSI. Nothing beats taking a break when using these things though, that and a good ergonomic (oops I used that word again!) setup.


What do you make of vertical mice alternatives? They are designed to stop un-natural twisting of the forearm and transfer force onto the shoulder muscles to prevent RSI.

I recently bought a Penguin vertical mouse from Posturite

I found the mouse a little difficult to start with. Using the shoulder muscles takes a little getting used to. But now I find it just as precise as a standard flat mouse and get less wrist pain.

Hi Jack,

Vertical mice help with the wrist aspect of RSI. I have problems in my right hand wrist, and vertical mice certainly help avoid lateral wrist motion as well as some some forearm extensor tension. My experience of vertical mice is limited to older mice for example the Anir Vertical Mouse, which had buttons that were clicked by using the thumb. For me this brought a lot of relief from clicking with forefingers, but eventually caused aches and pains in my thumb joints. The model that you refer to looks like it still uses the forefingers to do the clicking, this is fine if you don’t have RSI in your forefingers, if it were me, I would be in pain with clicking the buttons irrespective of my wrist position. You need to be careful with your shoulder motion, the shoulder is also susceptible to muscle strains if not used in a relaxed manner. What I mean by this is if you are raising your shoulder even slightly to get your mouse moving, it could eventually lead to some shoulder or neck pain. It may be advisable to use it in conjunction with a drop down keyboard/mouse tray combination to allow the shoulder to be more naturally relaxed.

Good luck with your vertical mouse.


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