Should you switch from a mouse to a trackball?
Using a mouse for extended periods of time at work can take a major toll on your wrist. According to the New York Times, “a 2003 study suggested that mouse-use poses a higher risk than keyboard use. Replacing the mouse with a trackball device is a helpful substitution.”
By Celeste McLaughlin, Ergonomics Manager
While no tools provide complete protection from carpal tunnel syndrome, the trackball requires much less movement, and is considered by some to be a carpal tunnel gadget. A carpal tunnel gadget is a piece of equipment which may provide relief from the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
What is a trackball?
A trackball, like a mouse, is a pointing device. Unlike a mouse, it remains stationary and has a ball on its top or side. In addition to the ball, a trackball commonly has one or more buttons that work like mouse buttons.
At Solutions Northwest Inc., we recommend trackballs with a ball in the center rather than the side to minimize the risk of thumb tendonitis. Below are examples of a few ambidextrous trackballs:
If we recommend a trackball for an employee, the particular model we recommend depends on his/her hand size and the type of work he/she is doing.
4 things to know when using a trackball:
- Relax the arm
- Rest the hand
- Use the middle three fingers on the trackball, not just one finger
- Make sure no awkward postures are taken
Changing From the Mouse to a Trackball
During ergonomics assessments, we ask employees to accept that change may improve their situations. Office workers commonly express fear of giving up the mouse, which feels familiar, in exchange for a trackball. We’ve developed a few strategies to help employees accept this change:
How to adjust from using the mouse to using a trackball:
- To change over gradually, keep the mouse available while using a trackball. This will give the employee time to learn how to use the trackball without feeling rushed.
- For people who are right handed, we sometimes suggest that they use a trackball on the left, with the left hand. It is helpful to know that it is easier to use a trackball on the left than it is to use a mouse on the left.
- Embrace the health benefits. Moving the ball with the three middle fingers reduces two ergonomics risk factors; static gripping and repetitive wrist movement.
- Users should commit to using a trackball for two weeks whether they like it or not. Usually, by the end of week two, they are comfortable using it.
If you or your employees use the computer for the bulk of the day, you may want to consider switching to the trackball. It will reduce the amount of movement required of the wrist, helping to protect it from wear and tear.
For more expert ergonomics advice, Contact SolutionsNW.com and we’ll be happy to help.