Cornell University Ergonomics Web
10 Tips for Using a Computer Mouse
The following tips should help you avoid a mouse-related musculoskeletal
injury. The same posture principles apply to other input devices (e.g.
trackball, touchpad, pen, digitizing puck etc.).
Postural variation is a key factor for good ergonomics. Try to regularly vary
your posture when you work with a mouse, and in this way you will help to
minimize the risk of ergonomic problems. remember, the best ergonomic mice are
designed to allow you to vary your posture while working with the mouse.
- Mouse Grip - don't throttle your mouse (it's already dead)! Hold the
mouse gently to move it over a mousing surface.
- Mouse from the Elbow - don't skate or flick the mouse with your wrist. Make
controlled mouse movements using your elbow as the pivot point and keep your
wrist straight and neutral.
- Optimal Mouse position- sit back in your chair, relax your arms then lift
your mousing hand up, pivoting at the elbow, until your hand is just above
elbow level. Your mouse should be positioned somewhere around this point.
Don't use a mouse by stretching to the desk or out to the side of a
keyboard. With a flat mouse platform, position this 1-2" above
the keyboard and over the numeric keypad if you are right handed - you can
easily move it out of the way if you need to access these keys. With a downward
sloping mouse platform, position this close to the side of the
keyboard so that you can use the mouse in a neutral wrist position. Position adjustable mouse platforms
are commercially available (e.g. Humanscale,
- Protect your wrist - if you look at the anatomy of the wrist it is
curved away from any contact surface (you can easily see this by resting
your hand/arm on a flat surface - you'll see light under the wrist and can
probably even pass a thin pen under this). The forearm is shaped liked this
for the wrist to remain free of surface pressure contact.
- Avoid restricting circulation - For may people there are exposed
blood vessels near the skin at the wrist, which is where the pulse is often
taken. Any pressure in this region will disrupt circulation into the hand
and this will increase the risks of injury.
- Don't use a Wrist Rest - research has shown that using a wrist rest
doubles the pressure inside the carpal tunnel, because the floor of the
tunnel is a more flexible ligament that transmits external pressure changes
directly into the carpal tunnel (the roof of the tunnel is bone so the
pressure doesn't get transmitted on through the hand). Indeed, one test for
carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), know as Tinel's sign, simply involves tapping
on the palmar surface of the wrist, which is enough to cause tingling and
numbness in someone developing CTS.
- Avoid Restricting Arm Movement - with a softly padded wrist rest,
especially one that is rounded, or a soft chair arm rest the forearm becomes
"locked" into position and this encourages people to make mouse
movements by flicking the wrist, which also increases intracarpal pressure.
- Keep the Mouse Free Moving - The base of the palm of the hand is
the part of the body designed to support the hand when resting on a surface.
For keyboard use a broad palm support is best. However, mouse use is
different from keyboard use. With a keyboard the best posture is for users to
float their hands over the keyboard when typing and then to rest on the palm
support in microbreaks between typing bursts. You can use rest-breaking
software (e.g.Break reminder etc)
to help track and advise on your mouse use. With mousing this doesn't
happen. A mouse is used by moving its position over a surface, and resting
usually occurs when mouse movements stop but with the mouse still being held
in the hand. Mouse movements should be made using the elbow as the pivot
point, not the wrist. Anything that impairs free movement of the
forearm/hand and mouse will increase injury risks.
- Mouse shape - choose a mouse design that fits your hand but is as
flat as possible to reduce wrist extension. Don't use a curved mouse. Use a
symmetrically shaped mouse. Consider a larger mouse and there are several
new interesting products on the market , such as the Whale
mouse or the Perfit
mouse, that encourage arm rather than wrist movements or that encouirage
postural variety and one or two-handed use. Pen-based mice
designs also allow a more comfortable grip. Some types of mouse palm support
can be attached to the mouse, such as the
- Load sharing - if you want to load share between your right and
left hands, that is using the mouse for some of the time with each hand. For
this you need to choose a mouse platform that can easily be configured to
the left or/and right, and a symmetrical shaped mouse that can be used by
Other input devices - whether you choose a different mouse design, a
trackball, a joystick, a pen, a touchpad, a multitouch pad or some other
input device, make sure that your position this comfortably, and that your
wrist is in a neutral position when using the device.
Summary recommendations for mouse position:
If you are using your mouse on a surface then:
- Best arrangement for a mouse is a platform over the number keypad
and just above the keyboard.
- Good arrangement is a pad on an angled platform to the side of the
- Poor arrangement is a flat surface to the side of the
- Worst arrangement is on the desk out to the side of the keyboard.
Other input options that don't cover the numeric keypad
If you needs to frequently use the numeric keypad consider the following:
on our Mouse research studies.
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© Professor Alan Hedge, Cornell University, content
March 04, 2011