Is The Traditional Mouse Ergonomic?

What type of mouse do you use at your computer? Is it the typical mouse that most of us identify as the ‘traditional’ computer mouse; take a look at our graphic at the top of this blog to see what I am referring to. Or do you use a more specialized mouse? Side note: we’ve done many product review of alternative mice on this site; such as the Evoluent. The fact is that the traditional mouse is probably the most common type of mouse that is used today. It is the default mouse for a huge majority of us. If you have not seen this type of mouse before you, my friend, need to come out from underneath your rock where you have been living! But in all seriousness, let’s take a look at whether a traditional mouse would be considered to be ergonomic.

ProsLet’s talk about some aspects of a traditional mouse that makes it ‘ergonomic’, To be considered to be ergonomic, in the first place, there should be a generally good fit between it and your hand. So, if you ever would feel any discomfort when using the mouse, then the mouse would not be considered ergonomic. The good thing with the traditional mouse is that if you don’t have any pre-existing conditions or discomfort because of its use, then this is a perfectly OK mouse. Here’s a big disclaimer… if you do ever detect any of the injury warning signs related to the mouse, you should really consider trying out a different mouse, or even switching hands (see the next point) as a no cost solution!

Ambidextrous Design. Due to the perfectly symmetric design, this mouse can easily switch between the right and left hands. This allows you to switch hands as a preventative measure to reduce the risks associated with accumulated strain associated with only using one hand for extended periods of time. It’s a simple yet entirely effective ergonomic solution. I’ve used and recommended this tactic to many of my past clients – many of whom boast about its positive affect on their health after the initial frustrations related to mousing with their non-dominant hand has subsided.

Simplicity. With its design, it’s no wonder why the traditional mouse is so popular. Its simple design makes it intuitive to use with no training required. Compare this to some of the newer mice on the market (like the apple magic trackpad) that require a certain technique to really master.

As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it. But what happens if it is causing you to have pain or discomfort? Let’s shift our focus to some concerns that I have with the traditional mouse. 

Pros

Awkward Posture. This mouse orients the hand in a palm down (or pronated) posture. This is considered to be an awkward ergonomic posture. Overtime this can cause discomfort for some. Combined with additional awkward postures including side to side wrist movements (also known as ulnar and radial deviation) may push you past the tipping point for developing discomfort or pain in the wrist area.

Gripping. In my many years of conducting countless ergonomic assessments in the office, this mouse tends to be associated with gripping the mouse too hard. This could be a combined result of its required Awkward Posture and One Size Does Not Fit All. Either way, using too much effort to grip the mouse may result in overuse types of injuries (like tennis elbow aka lateral epicondylitis for example).

One Size Does Not Fit All. With the traditional mouse, there is usually just one type of of mouse size that is available for use. If you happen to be ‘the average’ hand size, then you are in luck as this mouse was likely designed with you in mind. But, if the mouse is too small for you, then there may be soft tissue compression between the desk surface and the palm of the hand. On the other hand, if the mouse is too big for you this could result in forceful gripping postures.

Clicking Inconvenience. If your job requires you to mouse click frequently or constantly than you know the value of minimal force to press down on the mouse buttons. There can be some discrepancies in the amount of effort to press down on the buttons between the types of traditional mice on the market today, of course. But, it all boils down to that this is not a specialized mouse design and for this reason it can lead to discomfort in your hand if a lot of clicking is required for your job.

Pros (1)

There is major trade-off with this mouse. It’s cheap and convenient but because of this it is in no way a specialized mouse design. In my experience, it can be related to pain and discomfort in the upper extremities so be aware of the musculoskeletal warning signs before an injury begins!

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Through the administration of countless assessments in both private and public sectors, Darcie has gained a wealth of knowledge and built a successful practice in the field of ergonomics. She has extensive expertise in conducting office ergonomics assessments in large scale workplaces for all different types of scenarios, from simple adjustments to incredibly complex cases. Darcie also has vast experience in delivering training presentations on the various aspects of ergonomics “best practices” in the workplace. Darcie is a Certified Professional Ergonomist through the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics, as recognized by the International Ergonomics Association. She also has a Masters of Science, specializing in ergonomics. A little known fact about Darcie is that she once scored from half, off a free kick, in a university varsity soccer (football) match!