From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Got a Pain From Mousing Around? Ergonomist Wants to Help

Think your mouse is just a big pain in the wrist or shoulder? David McFarlane wants to know. And, as an ergonomist with the Health and Community Services Industry Team for the WorkCover Authority of New South Wales, McFarlane is even willing to give you a little advice on how to cure that pain with the hope that you’ll let him know if his advice worked.

McFarlane, with assistance from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES)-Europe Chapter, is conducting an on-line survey to determine how valuable his mousing advice is at reducing shoulder and wrist pain. While studies continually show that the mouse may not be the most ergonomic input device, McFarlane believes that some of his advice could help.

“The goal,” says McFarlane, “[is] to discover how long people need to persist with trying the recommended wrist and shoulder postures before they could expect to notice an improvement.” While the response to the public survey at hasn’t been as overwhelming as McFarlane had hoped, even in the early stages, McFarlane has been able to spot a few trends associated with his mousing advice.

“Most people reported both wrist and shoulder problems,” McFarlane said. “In the sample I have received so far, I have noticed that, for those who reported improvements, the reduction in wrist discomfort seems to happen very quickly, typically less than an hour, and the [reduction of] shoulder symptoms less quickly, typically within a week.” Approximately a third of the respondents, said McFarlane, reported these rapid improvement rates.

The recommendations McFarlane is testing are the ones he regularly offers, and were developed from a variety of sources regarding mouse use and arm positioning. McFarlane believes that the discomfort from using a mouse can be lessened by holding the mouse in a “neutral position,” minimizing the amount of time spent using a mouse, placing the mouse in a more desirable location near the keyboard to minimize reach, and by replacing mouse use with keystrokes whenever feasible.

More information on the survey, as well as a detailed explanation with images depicting McFarlane’s advice for mousing, are available at the HFES-Europe Chapter website, At present, McFarlane hasn’t announced a completion date for the survey.