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Alexander Technique Help for Computer Users – Part 5: "Mouse Hand!" — 41 Comments

  1. Imogen, I love reading your posts because I always end up moving my body in a different way or at least become aware of what is going on in my body. I so appreciate that! When you asked “are you holding the mouse as you read this blog?” I immediately realized I was (and for no reason – I’m reading, not typing!). I became aware of where I felt the tension in my arm and shoulder and let go.

    Thanks for bringing these types of things to our attention!

    Trish
    http://www.robertssister.com
    caregiving. family. advocacy.

  2. Caught myself gripping (ever so slightly, of course!) my mouse just now. Wouldn’t it be great if the mouse gave out a little squeal when it was squeezed?

    On a more serious note: using the OTHER hand for the mouse is kind of interesting as an awareness project.

    • Glad you weren’t squeezing that poor mouse too tightly, and I think you have a great idea for a new product!!
      Actually I switched hands a couple of years ago – just because I do so much work on the computer to give the right hand/arm a break. Very difficult at first, but I adapted amazingly quickly. And you are so much more aware of what you are doing and what needs to be done with the non-dominant hand – it’s definitely an interesting exercise. Now I can switch around easily, which is nice too.

      • After giving myself trigger finger from cutting out too many photos for collages, I switched the mouse to my left hand. It’s been good to have my right hand a rest, but possible not so good for my left hand. I agree with Robert–if the mouse squealed, I might be more aware!

        • Yes – unfortunately all too easy to develop new poor habits, isn’t it!! Switching around occasionally might be helpful. And of course, whichever hand you’re using, allowing freedom in your neck will be helpful 🙂

  3. One other thing that came to my attention is that I tend (tended, I hope) to use too much force on the keys. I’ve noticed this with a lot of other people too, as if banging away on them is more efficient than just the light touch that’s required.
    Robert’s squealing mouse idea is fantastic, and could be adapted to the keyboard too… something like,’Hey, that hurt!’ when someone bangs too hard on the keys.

    • Padmini, you’re absolutely right. We tend to use too much force for pretty much everything… and when it’s a repetitive action that can get us in real trouble. I’m so glad I learned to touch-type while I was at university (so I didn’t have to pay someone else to type up my dissertation, basically). Being able to touch type seems to give a little advantage in not engaging too much tension as you type (and not having to look down at the keys is a big bonus!).
      You and Robert need to go into business together to market some of these great product ideas 🙂

  4. Imogene, Yes! My hand still acts as if it’s gripping onto the mouse when I’m not. I’ve spent the past 30+ years keying and I need help. Actually, it got so bad once that I took a break for a few months and used one of those software programs where you speak into a microphone and it “types” for you! So, chalk me up as someone who is grateful to you for sharing Alexander techniques. Maybe I can reach the point where I see you online and your technique posts immediately pop into my mind.

    • Hi Sue,
      It sounds like you have a track ball mouse, so your thumb performs the left clicks. My advice would be pretty much the same for that as with a regular mouse:
      – notice if you’re gripping it more tightly than necessary, and see if you can do less
      – check out how much pressure you’re using to click – in your case with your thumb – can you use less?
      – try letting go of the trackball completely when you’re not actually using it (when you’re reading something for instance)
      – notice if your thumb remains tense even when you’re doing something completely relaxing, and consciously remind yourself you can let go…
      All the this is within a context of being aware of our whole body as we sit (see my previous posts!). You’ve probably also got a build up of shortened muscles from over-using your thumb, and they’re going to take a while to unravel. Whenever you can, even if just for a moment, just let your hands (fingers and thumbs…) rest in your lap, and try thinking something like, “I’m not tensing my thumb” as you do so! It may feel like nothing is happening (and don’t try to make something happen!), but if you tell yourself this often enough your body will listen.
      Good luck, and let me know how you get on!

  5. Hi Imogen

    I never liked using a mouse because my arm was always a bit to the side and it felt uncomfortable. So I unplugged it about 2 years ago and have just used my fingertips since then. It’s just like extended typing. It means that my hands often go to my lap when I am looking at something for longer.

    • Hi Fiona,
      Sounds like you found your own solution to that one that is working well for you. I think just letting the hands rest in your lap is a great solution for everyone, yet often we just leave them clutching the mouse even when we don’t have to. Staying aware of ourselves as we work is so important. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  6. Eeeek! (That’s my mouse hand exclaiming!) I actually don’t use a mouse all the time, but I was while reading this, which made it more meaningful. Yes, I do let my hand linger on the mouse even when not needed, and I do tend to grip. I am aware of when my hand accrues tension, so I’m used to opening my hand and flexing it at intervals during the day. I used to have some arthritic problems in my fingers, but that stopped when I began exercising. Nevertheless, I think I’m vulnerable.

    Most of the time I use the trackball on my laptop. Do you think that might be helpful?

    Judy Stone-Goldman
    The Reflective Writer
    http://www.thereflectivewriter.com
    Personal-Professional Balance Through Writing

    • Hi Judy,
      I definitely think varying the way we work can be helpful, so if you’re using a mouse part of the time, and a trackball part of the time, that probably helps, as you’ll be using your hand in a somewhat different way for each. Having said that, most of us are still likely to use more tension than necessary, which isn’t just in the hands, but the arms, shoulders, neck, back… you get the picture. To be honest, learning to let go of tension in your neck goes a huge way toward letting go of tension in the arms and hands. Just letting your hands rest off the mouse whenever possible will be helpful 🙂

  7. Good information and I think I will be “mousing” differently now. I don’t tend to tighten and grip, but I do end up holding the mouse when I am just reading. The main thing is now I am aware of what I am doing and everything can change from that…

  8. I’m surprised to hear there are problems related to the iPad. I would have thought that the hand and wrist movements used on that type of equipment would be easy on you seeing as there seems to be more of a variety of movement and it’s much more free and loose.

    • I agree, I think using an iPad generally requires lighter, more restful movements – however anything done with too much tension, repetitively can cause problems. The article suggests the problem stems from holding the iPad or tablet up like a plate with one hand and using the other to touch the screen, hunching over and arms unsupported, which makes sense to me. I pretty much always rest my iPad on a table, or my lap (or better still on a cushion on my lap, so it is not so far away from me) – the handy cover that I bought to go with it is also really helpful. The way we use our body whatever we’re doing – working at a regular computer or a tablet, or doing the dishes for that matter – is going to make the difference.

  9. Years ago, I got carpal tunnel. And I realized it was from the mouse. It was also causing major neck problems. I found a different mouse. A ball mouse that fits inside my whole hand. I don’t have to move the mouse with my arm at all. A light touch is needed for the clicks. The ball is rolled with the thumb or the first finger. I have had little problem since. But I will pay more attention to my holding it for too long and to tension in my neck!

    Julieanne Case
    Always from the heart!

    Reconnecting you to your Original Blueprint, Your Essence, Your Joy| Healing you from the Inside Out |Reconnective Healing | The Reconnection| Reconnective Art |

    http://thereconnectivehighway.com

    • What we’re doing with our fingers, hands and arms is totally connected to what is going on with our neck – as you found out. Being aware can make all the difference. So glad your carpal tunnel is not bothering you these days 🙂

  10. As I started reading, I was going to reach for the mouse to move down on the page but went for the down arrow instead. I do not hold onto the mouse for dear life. I do tend to let it go when I’m not using it. I like keyboard shortcuts whenever I can use them. I guess I’ve made some progress!

    Susan Berland
    http://susan-berland.com

    • I think any opportunity to remove the hand from the mouse is likely a good thing – and I also like using keys strokes when possible as an alternative to clicks or scrolling. You are on to a good thing 🙂

  11. This is a great reminder. And it made me think that I should get an exercise ball so I can sit on that while working, rather than in a desk chair. My abs will get stronger as I am working!

    • Thanks, Debbie. An exercise ball can be great for helping with posture while sitting, though I found mine far too mobile and low for working at the computer. I do often use a “seating disk” on my chair – like one of those balancing discs for standing on for some exercises – it gives me some of the qualities of the ball, with added height and more stability. It’s not perfect, but it can be helpful… More on this in my next blog!

  12. I actually almost never use a mouse anymore – just too lazy to grab it for my laptop… But a few years ago at the height of some pain problems, I had a problem with a specific wireless mouse. I found that it was too thin and had to switch to a different type. Body mechanics is a fascinating topic. (FYI, I know longer have issues after removing inflammatory foods from my diet.)

    • Glad to hear you found an answer to your problems – your “laziness” may be very helpful in this case! And though it’s certainly not my field, I believe that changes in diet can be very powerful and are often part of the equation.

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  16. Thanks for this really useful series on computer use. I’m working with a student (several actually) who struggles with many of these issues. It’s a great resource that I freely share. Keep writing!

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  18. I find that I tend to “hover” over the mouse when I holding it but not clicking, creating even more tension! Ack! Will try some of the posted suggestions though and see how it goes…

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