December 23, 2008

The Dark Side of your Computer Mouse

A New Voice for the Blog
Just thought I'd give you a brief intro to the new "blog voice." I'm Jan, and I've been a massage therapist for close to 30 years (hmmm, sounds like an AA confession - "My name is Jan and I am..."). In additional to being an LMP, my background includes some geekiness - I've written about 20 computer books, taught software classes, and worked as a tech writer for a sadly departed internet start-up.

I look forward to sharing stuff with you like: interviews with establishments that employ massage therapists, tips you can share with your clients, professional development tidbits (CEU info, etc.), and self-care. I'd love to hear any comments you have about my posts, answer questions, and find out about topics you'd like to see included in the blog.

Ergonomics and Your Clients
Enough of that for now. On to my major soapbox issue: ERGONOMICS. I've been researching and counseling my clients on this for many years, and I put together a series of ergonomics brown bags for downtown offices when I was working as a software training coordinator back in the early 90's. (Fair warning: ergonomics is one of my favorite topics).

I learned that a lot of your clients' aches, pains and other issues could be greatly alleviated by paying more attention to what they're doing with their bodies on a daily basis. I often talk to my massage clients about lifestyle/ergonomic changes that can be helpful. Here's one area you can explore with yours. If you or your clients have upper back and/or shoulder pain that gets progressively worse as the day goes on, that sneaky mouse might be the culprit.

Mouse Test
There's no such thing as an ergonomic mouse. I realize this is considered heresy, but bear with me for a moment. You'll need a partner for this little experiment. Just grab anyone and sit them down at the computer. Now, rest your open palm gently over their right shoulder blade area and have them move the mouse around for about 30 seconds.

Just notice the muscle movement under your hand. That's it. The muscle action will be slight, but realize that every single time you move the mouse, you're initiating that muscle action. That muscle and several others. Several hundred times a day. Doesn't matter how cute the mouse looks; that arm still has to move. No wonder your client's neck, shoulder, and possibly forearm are painful and maybe burning at the end of those 13 hour days! In honor of Jacob, a Biznik friend of mine, this issue shall henceforth be called Computer Mouse Syndrome. AKA CMS (gotta have an acronym).

Why Should You Use a Touchpad?
If you've used a laptop, you've probably used a touchpad. Instead of having to move your whole arm every time, you just move your index finger and tap (it doesn't even have to be your index finger). So you're not activating those back and shoulder muscles that get so overworked with heavy mouse use. Next time you use a laptop, pay attention and see if you notice a difference.

Of course, laptops create different ergonomic issues because the monitor's connected to the keyboard, so you're usually looking down... - but that's another story for another day.

If you notice a difference when you use a touchpad, consider buying one to replace your mouse and suggesting touchpads to your clients with computer-related neck and shoulder issues. Cirque makes several versions of their Glidepoint touchpads with various levels of bells and whistles.

I hope you're all having a fabulous holiday. And I REALLY hope you're all managing to stay safe, warm and dry with this seemingly never-ending snow and ice.

Jan W, LMP


Dan said...

I don't know about that.
I would think using a touch pad would just be trading one issue for another!
I understand you deal with back issues, but what about those who have rsi's in the wrist and such?
I've used the Humanscale switchmouse for a few months and my wrist issues are gone!

Jan W LMP said...

Hi Dan - I took a look at the Humanscale Switchmouse, and I can see why it might help with wrist issues because of the angled base, the adjustable length, and the palm rest. But... moving this mouse requires the same arm movement as every other mouse, no matter how "ergonomic" its design.

And if you use a touchpad, you can easily adjust its angle and use a palm rest to alleviate any wrist issues. To me, still the best option.

But if you're happy with your solution, that's great! Different strokes and all that...