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Working from home might offer a lot of advantages over the traditional office, but if you’re still hunched over your laptop at the dining room table, you probably aren’t doing your body any favors (and might want to consider a laptop stand, among other things). A traditional desk setup can go a long way, but if you’re still experiencing wrist pain with a regular mouse and keyboard, it may be time to try an alternate, “ergonomic” design.
How to buy the right mouse
Contrary to what marketing labels may claim, there is no one mouse design that works for everyone. In fact, if you’re not experiencing any pain, you’re probably fine using the gear you have — don’t fix what isn’t broken. But if your setup might be leaving you uncomfortable, sore or hurting otherwise , a few tweaks and some alternate form factors may help. As a longtime remote worker-from-home with years of experience reviewing mice and keyboards, there are a few things I recommend looking out for.
The shape of your mouse
Mice come in different shapes and sizes — in general, you’re looking for mice that reduce wrist extension. Your wrist should be as straight as possible, not bent up or down. When it comes to traditional mice, that means a mouse that doesn’t curve too high. “Vertical” mice offer an alternate form factor, making it easier to keep your wrist straight. Many modern mice are contoured to your hand, as well. If you’re left-handed, it’s particularly important to look for ambidextrous (or symmetrical) mice.
Mouse control scheme
In addition to those multiple shapes, you’ll also find some mice offer different ways of navigating the screen, including mice with trackballs and pen mice. Again, these are not panaceas, but they’re worth trying if the traditional mouse just isn’t doing it for you.
Wired mouse versus wireless mouse
While not specific to ergonomics, consider whether you prefer a wired mouse or a wireless mouse. Wires can be annoying to deal with, but wireless mice require occasional recharging (or new batteries), and introduce another point of failure that no one wants to handle in the middle of a workday.
While mouse pads are no longer necessary for a modern mouse to work well, they bear mention here for one reason: wrist rests. Cornell University’s Human Factors and Ergonomics Research Group notes that “studies haven't demonstrated any substantial benefits for wrist rests,” and in fact, they can increase pressure on your wrist, potentially causing more pain. Ultimately, do what’s comfortable for you, but if you use a mouse pad — and I do recommend them since they protect your desk from damage — grab one without a built-in wrist rest.
It should be mentioned that the rules of ergonomic keyboard use apply here, too — if your keyboard has a number pad, for example, you’ll have to reach farther to grab the mouse, which isn’t ideal as your arms should be close to your sides. Consider getting a tenkeyless keyboard with a separate (and optional) USB number pad. As the aforementioned guide from Cornell Ergonomics Research Group puts it, “overreaching to an ‘ergonomic mouse’ defeats any benefits of [its] design.” You can check out their list of tips for using a mouse to learn more.
Best ergonomic mouse to shop
Of the ergonomic mice I’ve used, Logitech’s MX Vertical is by far my favorite. It’s large and fits beautifully in your hand, and its vertical form factor means it’s super easy to keep your wrist straight. Like anything new, using a vertical mouse takes a bit of getting used to at first — any mouse with an alternate design will — so give yourself a few days or weeks to become proficient with it and see if it works for you. It works over Bluetooth or wireless USB, allows you to adjust the sensitivity on-the-fly, and sports a rechargeable battery that allows you to use it wired to your PC when you need to charge.
Microsoft’s Sculpt mouse occupies a sort of in-between space — it’s not quite a vertical mouse nor a traditional mouse, either. Instead, it has an almost spherical shape that puts your hand at more of a 45-degree angle. Plus, it’s relatively affordable, a good ergonomic mouse for those just starting to try out different form factors.
On the other side of the fence, some people have chosen to forego the traditional mouse entirely and use a trackball. Instead of moving it around on your desk, the Kensington Expert Wireless Trackball stays stationary: You spin the ball to move the cursor on screen. It definitely takes some getting used to, but some people swear by it — plus, it’s ambidextrous, and Kensington offers a wired version and a budget-friendly version if you have different needs.
Logitech also offers their own trackball mouse with a slightly more traditional mouse-like shape, allowing you to move the trackball with your thumb. You can adjust the angle of the mouse up to 20 degrees, and you connect it over Bluetooth or wireless USB. The many buttons shaped to meet your finger ends are customizable to allow for your preferred style of navigation, and you can create button-trackball combo actions (for example, left click and scroll right to change applications).
Finally, while pen mice aren’t as popular as their more traditional counterparts, they offer yet another form factor for those with wrist pain (or anyone looking for a more traditional writing or drawing feel). They work much like you’d expect: You hold it like a pen and move the tip around your desk to move the cursor. You can click using the buttons on the side of the pen. Lychee’s wireless USB mouse pen is very affordable, too, so there isn’t a huge barrier to entry if you just want to try it out.
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