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Published on March 13, 2017

Switch your mouse hand to save your wristSwitch your mouse hand to save your wrist

Grab your mouse. No, not with that hand – with the other hand.

Feels funny, doesn’t it? But if you switch mouse hands back and forth over the day, you might save yourself from an overuse injury.

“It’s worth giving it a try, especially if you’re already prone to wrist problems,” said Sharon Hall, a Cape Cod Hospital physical therapist with a certificate of advanced study in orthopedics.

If you have a desk job, you might spend 8 or 10 or more hours a day sitting at a computer, frequently moving that mouse around – and probably using only one hand. That kind of use of the mouse can lead to wrist problems, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis,” said Hall, who works at the Cape Cod Hospital Rehabilitation Center, an outpatient clinic in Hyannis.

Switching hands is one way to relieve stress on the wrist and shoulders, she said, although she admitted it’s not a quick and easy thing to learn,

“I know I’m very right-handed. When I try using a mouse on the left, it’s very klutzy,” she said. “It’s something you can practice doing at home, since at the workplace you might not have time to work on those fine motor skills. At first, it may seem unnatural to you, but if you start doing it a lot, suddenly it becomes natural.”

Becoming ambidextrous with your mouse use is just one way to ease the strain on your wrist and shoulders, she said.

Computer ergonomics makes a difference for the entire body, Hall said.

“It starts with your basic posture. I compare it to a golf instructor advising someone on the proper stance or a batting coach teaching someone to swing. You need to sit in the right way when you’re at your computer.”

Some of Hall’s tips for computer ergonomics:

  • “Your arms should be parallel to the desk, which will make a difference in the wrist placement on the mouse. You want your shoulder blades kind of settled, as opposed to people who have a high chair and a low desk. You see them hunched over. That’s not a good position.”
  • “Keep the mouse near you, so you don’t have to reach all over the place. Make sure your wrist is relatively neutral. You don’t want your wrist pointed back or bent down.”
  • “You want a supportive chair, one that feels relatively comfortable, so you’re not sitting all slumped over. Sit up straight – just like your parents and grandparents always told you.”
  • “Make sure your feet are on the ground and your legs aren’t just hanging there. Your knees should be at a 90-degree angle.”
  • “The monitor should be at eye level so you don’t have to strain to look up or look down. That will reduce strain on your neck.”

Sitting at a desk for hours at a time is an unnatural activity, Hall said.

“The body is meant to move. The ideal job is one where you’re up and down and you don’t have to sit all day. But it’s not like you have to stop every hour and go out and play tennis. Just get up, walk around and stretch a little bit.”