Repetitive strain injuries or RSIs are not something to take lightly. Mouse injury is not all too common but can easily affect you if you’re not careful. When using your computer, you need to be aware that bad posture and bad ergonomics can lead to injury. This can easily be avoided.
Okay, I’m going to start this PSA off with an embarrassing story. Let’s travel back to the early months of 2014, shall we? Flappy Bird. We all played it, we all hated it, yet we all loved it. And I was actually pretty good at it. Myself and a colleague were in a constant race with each other to see who could outdo the other. After weeks of an endless grind I was still behind him. So when I got home one day, I played Flappy Bird in my bedroom… For 2 and a half hours straight.
Now what does this pitiful marathon have to do with mouse injury? Well hang on. I’m getting there. For 2 and a half hours in my dark bedroom, I sat on my computer chair staring down at the phone between my legs and my hand locked in a firm grasp around it. Not once in those 2 hours did I make it past my high score of 44. Defeated, I deleted Flappy Bird and stood up, only to find that my shoulders, neck, wrist, and hand were all aching.
Sitting in the same position with my phone clenched in a death grip for 2 hours did not do wonders for me. I injured myself. Thankfully, it was only temporary and after weeks without playing Flappy Bird, the aches and pain went away. I may not be a medical adviser, but I know how to keep from being injured while in the office, gaming, or any other time you’d be using a mouse and keyboard.
Types of Injury
There are several ways to hurt yourself if you don’t know how to keep yourself safe. You can hurt your arms and shoulders from stretching them to reach a keyboard or mouse. You can hurt your back from leaning over a desk for too long. And you can hurt your hand by putting too much pressure on nerves in your wrist. This is the main ailment I want to talk about.
Within your wrist, there is a small area where tendons and nerves stretch from your arm to your hand. This area is called the carpal tunnel. The nerves that run through the tunnel bring the sense of touch to your thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers. Unfortunately, there is limited room in your wrist. If you hold your arm, wrist, or hand in a position for too long, or are using too much pressure for the task at hand, you can narrow this tunnel and put pressure on the nerve inside.
Several things can cause this. It can be hereditary, and you can be prone to it through your genetics. Pregnancy can bring about this ailment. Arthritis and other conditions can make it easier for you to fall victim to this problem. Even sleeping with a bent wrist can cause these problems. But What I’m here to prevent is the spread of this condition due to prolonged pressure from repetitive movements, bad posture, and harmful hand and wrist position.
The symptoms for this are fairly straightforward. Tingling, numbness, or pain running up and down your wrist, hand, and fingers is a strong sign that you have put pressure on your nerves. For some people, these symptoms keep them up at night. The pain can come as sharp shocks of pain, or long, droning aches. One thing to keep note of, though, the nerves that run through the carpal tunnel do not effect the pinky finger. If there is any numbness, pain, or tingling in your pinky finger, it is not carpal tunnel syndrome.
For some people, as the condition worsens, the pain travels up their arm and even to their shoulder. After a while, their afflicted hand begins to show apparent weakness and clumsiness. Your hands will drop things and do things you haven’t told them to do. Eventually, fine motor skills become hindered and things as simple as tying your shoes proves to be a difficult task.
If you begin to notice any of these symptoms in any amount, you should treat it as soon as possible. If ignored, the pain will get worse and you could fall victim to permanent nerve damage. You might need an operation, severing tissue in order to stop the pressure. I urge you to seek help immediately if you have experienced these issues.
Luckily, there are several ways to keep this from happening at all. If you are worried about this, you may want to invest in an ergonomic mouse. An ergonomic mouse is a carefully designed mouse shaped to compliment the human hand. This helps prevent injuries due to gripping a mouse too tightly or holding your wrist in a tense position. When using a mouse (and a keyboard for that matter), keep your fingers, wrists, and hands at ease. You should also relax your shoulders. Hunching in order to reach a keyboard or mouse could lead to back problems and other repetitive strain injuries.
Another tip: keep your hands warm. Warmth naturally relaxes you and keeps you from straining anything in your wrist. If you use your computer in a cold area, or your hands get cold, you could be adding unneeded stress to your grip. I also suggest you take a good look at how you place your hands on your keyboard and mouse. Just be observant and careful when using your computer. Don’t overextend your joints. Sit with good posture and relax.
If you feel like you could be at risk of these conditions, take time to treat yourself for it. In many cases, these tips will reverse the ill effects of bad habits.
Take stretch breaks
This activity keeps your muscles from tensing up. Stand up and stretch your back a bit. Stretch out your hands as far as they’ll go. Take some time to make sure you’re a well oiled machine.
This helps especially if you’ve already felt some tingling, numbness, or pain from nerves. The massages could relieve tension in your carpal tunnel.
Avoid activity that could strain your wrists
Workouts like push-ups and dips may be taken back up again after your wrists have healed, but it’s a good idea to take it easy for a while.
Wear a wrist brace to bed
Many people sleep with their wrists bent. This is not normally a problem, but if there is already stress in your wrist, straightening it out at night could keep it loose and relaxed.
Ice your wrist
Do this occasionally if you’ve felt any tingling, numbness, or pain. This could help with the swelling of the carpal tunnel and take pressure off the nerves. Although, in some cases this might just help with pain and not help swelling.
Remember: if you cannot help yourself through these exercises and treatments, seek professional medical assistance.
Just be aware…
Not to get all deep or anything, but the decisions you make today will quite literally shape you in the future. Your posture and the way you handle day to day life affects you more than you’ll ever imagine. Maybe invest in an ergonomic mouse. Sit up straight, relax your muscles, and be careful.