Why is ergonomics important to computer users

Which mouse is right for me?

Which mouse suits you best?
The most common accessory when working with a computer or laptop is still the mouse. Since the selection of a mouse can vary from person to person, we would be happy to take with you what to look out for when choosing a suitable mouse. Working with the computer consists of typing, clicking or looking at it. Typically, most of the time is spent clicking or using the mouse. During our computer time, we use a mouse more than 53 percent ((IJmker et al., 2011). This is considerably more than the time we spend with the keyboard. Choosing a good mouse is therefore very important.

Advantages Ergonomic mouse
  • Reduce physical stress.
  • More comfort;
  • Better performance.
Due to the frequent use, a good mouse is essential to be able to work healthily and comfortably with a computer or laptop. There are many different types of mice on the market, most of which (non-standard) mice are also ergonomically sound. From vertical, precise and central mice to pen tablets. How do you choose the right mouse from all these types?
Why is an ergonomic mouse so important?
Prolonged use of the mouse can lead to pain and discomfort in the shoulders, forearms and hands (Chang et al., 2007; Andersen et al., 2008). An ergonomic mouse can partially counteract these effects and lead to more comfort.

Hand, wrist and forearm loads
A standard mouse creates an awkward hand, wrist, and forearm posture. This is because a standard mouse is loaded on the body in three ways:
  • Pronation: rotating the wrist from the forearm
  • Wrist Extension: Stretching the wrist
  • Ulnar and Radial Deviation: Bend to the side of the wrist

In the forearm, pronation is when the palm of the hand is turned inwards from the neutral starting position.

During this movement, the bones and attached muscles in the forearm cross each other as shown in the picture. This often leads to increased muscle tension. And there is more space in the wrist.

Wrist extension
The wrist is bent backwards due to the normal height of the mouse, this is also known as a wrist extension. In addition, the user has to lift his finger to click, which further increases the strain on the entire wrist area.

Ulnar and Radial Deviation
The most common posture when using a standard mouse is what is known as the ulnar deviation. This means that the hand is bent towards the little finger side, as shown below. In the lateral bend towards the thumb side, the radial deviation, people are very flexible. Because of this position, the wrist is only slightly in the neutral position when using a normal mouse and this ultimately leads to an overload.
Different ergonomic mice
There are several ergonomic mice that make the mouse more comfortable. In addition, all of the types listed below reduce pronation, wrist extension and ulnar deviation to a greater or lesser extent. We explain three types of ergonomic mice.

1. Central mice

  • Less muscle strain in the shoulder;
  • There is less muscle activity in the forearms;
  • Centrally positioned mice have the advantage that they are directly in front of the user, between the user and the keyboard. This ensures less muscle tension in the shoulder compared to a standard mouse that lies next to the keyboard. With a central mouse, the shoulder does not have to be turned outwards for this central position (Lin et al. 2014).
The muscle activity in the forearms is also lower compared to a normal mouse (Lin et al., 2014). There are two reasons:
  • First of all, with a standard mouse, the wrist is bent more backwards, so that we are talking about an extension of the wrist.
  • In addition, the fingers are very stretched and the user has to click from this position. A central mouse does not enforce these postures, which results in less muscle strain.

2. Precision mice
Precision mice are grasped with the fingertips. As a result, the fingers of these mice are often more flexed and the wrist less bent backwards, as the following picture shows. These precision mice therefore have roughly the same advantages as the central mice.

  • Less muscle strain on the shoulder (Kotani & Horii, 2003; Ulmann et al., 2003).
  • Wrist with natural posture for more comfort and less pronation when using a precision mouse. This does not apply if you are using a Penclic mouse.
3. Vertical mice
With vertical mice, the mouse is held in a "handshake" position, as shown in the picture. Because of this position, the wrist leans less to the side and the forearm has to turn inward less.

  • When using a vertical mouse, there is less deviation and pronation of the ulnars (Schmid et al., 2015). As a result, muscle activity in the forearm is lower than that of a standard mouse (Quemelo & Vieira, 2013)

Use: Studies show that the use of a vertical joystick mouse ensures faster restoration of symptoms in the forearm, wrist and hand (Aarås et al., 2001). However, it is not known whether all vertical mice have the same effect.
Positioning the mouse
It is not only the shape and control of the mouse that affects posture, but also the position of the mouse on the desk. Because of the numeric part, traditional full-size keyboards are very wide, while a large proportion of computer users (almost) do not use this numeric part. Due to the width of the keyboard, the mouse is not directly in front of the user's shoulder and the working posture is not optimal. Compact keyboards without a numeric part reduce the reach to the mouse and take the strain off the shoulder and forearm. The use of a compact keyboard therefore also helps to achieve good posture.
Alternative for the mouse
Using the mouse is not always the most effective way to perform computer tasks. For example, tasks are performed an average of 30% faster with the help of shortcuts (Lane et al., 2005 / Tak, 2007). In addition, there is evidence that using keyboard shortcuts can improve work comfort and that users with more keyboard shortcuts can go home fitter (Blok et al., 2008). Hotkeys are therefore a good solution to structurally reduce the use of the mouse and also to work faster and more efficiently.
Research has shown that the average computer user uses the mouse behind the computer about half the time. If the use of the mouse is halved, the user can already save 20 minutes per day. However, the use of mice will always be necessary as many modern applications have limited or no shortcut options.

Performance effects
Studies show that a separate mouse in connection with a laptop leads to a significant improvement in performance (Sommerich et al., 2002). If you replace a standard mouse with an ergonomic version, the comfort increases considerably. At the same time, however, it slows down the speed. Because although you often work healthier with an ergonomic mouse, this happens (somewhat) less quickly than with a standard mouse.

Scott Mackenzie from York University in Canada has convincingly demonstrated the slower speed of ergonomic mice. He often had test subjects run the same type of mouse. The test subjects got faster and faster with the touchpad and the joystick mouse. As the graphic shows, the speed was highest for the normal mouse, followed by the touchpad and joystick (MacKenzie et al., 2001).

Ergonomic mice with performance effects

Central mice
In line with the Mackenzie study mentioned above, several studies found that a touchpad is significantly slower than a standard mouse. Depending on the task performed, the time required for the touchpad was at least 25% less (Hertzum & Hornbaek, 2010; Lee & Su, 2008). This is because you cannot reach the destination in one motion with a touchpad. This also applies to the central mice.

Precision mice
Pen tablets perform mouse tasks more slowly than standard mice (Müller et al., 2010). However, for very precise tasks such as photo editing, a pen mouse is actually faster than a standard mouse (Chen et al., 2011). Learning to use a pen and tablet is quick and easy, so the performance after a day of training corresponds to that of a standard mouse (Kotani & Horii, 2003).

It should be noted that the task in the investigation only required mouse actions. Of course, this is not in line with everyday computer use, in which keyboard and mouse actions always alternate. Picking up a pen takes more time than grabbing a mouse.

Vertical mice
The handshake mouse or: a vertical mouse is 10 to 19% slower than the normal mouse (Quemelo & Ramos Vieira, 2013; Scarlett et al., 2005). The vertical mouse is considerably faster than a joystick mouse (Scarlett et al., 2005).
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