“No,” he told me. “You do not have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.”
This is a condition involving a nerve. My problem, the doctor told me, was overuse.
“How many hours a day are you at your computer,” he asked.
“Too long,” he said. “Take a break.”
He sent me to physio for some muscle strengthening exercises. But I still needed to figure out how to cut my mousing time and avoid this overuse stuff.
Again, let me remind you, talk to your doctor. I’m just telling you my story.
I did the strengthening exercises, and the pain subsided. But, hey, I’m a writer. I need to be at my computer. I do use keyboard shortcuts, but I needed to cut down my mouse time even more. So I decided to use my non-dominant hand (Left, for me) to mouse.
I didn’t know anything about Left-handed mousing, so I emailed my Left-handed sister.
Me: I’m assuming you use your left hand to mouse, right? Is it just a regular mouse? Or do they come in Left-hand styles? Do you lay your index and middle fingers on it? Or do you just use your index finger for both buttons? I’m teaching myself to use my left hand.
Left-handed Sister: I use my right hand only. I can’t use a mouse with my left hand. But most mice can be set up for either hand. Just adjust through the mouse software. Why are you using your left hand?
Me: Because I overuse my right hand and then I can’t work. So maybe I’ll become ambidextrous.
Left-handed Sister: Try wrapping a tensor bandage around your arm just below your elbow. Yes, your elbow. It’s amazing how it works!
Me: I’ve done that. I’ve even got the special Velcro bands. However, when you think about it, for you, the best thing is using your right hand to mouse and your left hand to write. You can do two things at once. I think the Lefties had it figured out all along.
Left-handed Sister: I actually started to use my right hand for a calculator when I started using a calculator. I guess I wanted to write with my left hand. Then when computers came along, I just used the mouse with my right hand. I can’t use a mouse with my left.
So, my Left-handed sister uses a Right-hand Mouse with her right hand.
Next, I emailed a Right-handed cousin. He happens to use his left hand to mouse. Here is what he told me:
“Even though I am Right-handed, I use my mouse with my left hand. It’s set up like any other “Right-handed” mouse and I leave it set that way in case anyone else tries to use it. I don’t even think about what buttons I press anymore. It’s ‘automatic’.
Why my left hand? I have been using computers since about 1978. I have gone from punch cards on a card punch machine to the modern PC with its ‘mouse’. I also work in an industry where I need to keep a lot of notes, so I do a LOT of handwriting. Being Right-handed, my right hand, arm, and shoulder get a lot of use.
Computers in industry, up to about 1988 or so, were mostly just keyboard and the arrow keys. About that time they introduced pointing devices, which rapidly acquired the nickname of “mouse”—probably due to the cord resembling a long tail on the small body.
With just a keyboard, my wrists rest on the desk and I tend to use both hands equally. But with the introduction of a ‘mouse’, I was constantly removing one hand to push the thing about the desktop. This uses your entire arm.
With the writing I was doing, coupled with all the other stuff that a Right-handed person tends to do in a day with only their right hand/arm, I rapidly developed a very painful shoulder joint. I puzzled over this for a bit and then made the connection of ‘Hey, this happened not long after I started using a mouse.’
That’s when I switched to my left hand with the mouse to balance the workload on my shoulders and arms. If you are not a ‘heavy’ computer user, I suspect it may not make a lot of difference. However, in my case, it does.”
My cousin also tells this story.
“A lot of accomplished Morse code operators learned to use one hand to copy down the incoming signals and the other hand to run their Morse code key, rather than use the same hand for both. Strangely enough, it appears that the Right-handed operators chose to run the key with their right hand and learned to print with their left!”
Next, I talked to my Right-handed son. He is a gamer. He has his mouse set up as a Right-handed mouse, but he uses either hand. It depends on if there is too much stuff on his desk. If the stack is on the Right, then he mouses on the Left and vice versa.
Setting up the buttons
Unlike my nice cousin, who leaves his mouse set up for Right-hand controls, I do switch the buttons on my mouse to Left-hand mode. I found it easier to think of:
- my Pointer Finger as my “Main” button
- my Middle Finger as my “Right Click” button
Now I am ambidextrous (with a mouse, at least) and I have no problem with those times I encounter a Right-handed Mouse. My fingers just “know” that a Left Click means a Pointer Finger.
Since I don’t want anyone but me at my desk, this has the added advantage of frustrating anyone who tries to borrow my computer.
- If you have pain, check with your doctor.
- Learn keyboard shortcuts (such as CTRL–Z = undo) and use them as often as possible.
- If you decide to mouse with your non-dominant hand, buy an ambidextrous mouse. Some mice have a depression on one side to fit a Right-handed person’s hand. The ambidextrous mouse is symmetrical. It can comfortably be used with either hand.
- If you do a lot of computer work, you will learn to use your non-dominant hand in about two weeks. Play a few games of Solitaire with your non-dominant hand and you will learn faster.
- If you are Right-handed, you probably wear your watch on your left wrist. You may need to remove your watch while typing.
How about you? Are you Right-handed or Left-handed? Do you mouse with your dominant or non-dominant hand? Do you play solitaire?
I’m a right hand mouse user, as is everyone in my family, but my son (10) uses the mouse upside down. I don’t know how it started, but that’s what he does and he’s very good at it too!
Sorry you’re having pain ~ hope it get better soon.
I’m normally right handed, but last year had shoulder surgery and had to switch to using my mouse left handed. Since I normally use a track ball because of arthritis, I had to change to a standard mouse, though. I also tried switching the buttons, but that was one more change than my brain wanted, so I went back to the right handed settings and got fairly adept at it.
Hi Kim – Imagine! Using a mouse upside down! That is so neat :o)
Thx for your good wishes. Pain is all gone now that I mouse with my left hand.
Hi Helen – a Right-handed person using a Right-handed mouse with the left hand. This is what my cousin does.
Good luck with your shoulder. Once it heals, you may find yourself going back and forth between hands.
Fascinating post, Suzanne. You’ve presented some great alternatives.
I’ll be boring and say that I’m right-handed and use my mouse with my right hand. However, I will use my left hand to manipulate the mouse-pad on my laptop, now and then.
well, there’s finally SOMETHING boring about our Roxy!
I use my right hand, but I do try to use as many shortcuts as possible. I have also found that having an ergonomic rest under my wrists helps to support my hand, so it doesn’t get as tired as quickly. I have tried using my left hand – once when my right hand was aching after a lot of computer use and when I am at my mom’s house (she’s a leftie) – wow, does that take a lot of thinking to start with! Congrats on trying to re-train yourself! I can certainly see the benefit! 🙂
Definitely a right handed mouse user, though I’ve had my chiropractor suggest switching to my left due to some shoulder/back problems. Now that I’ve heard about your big success with that, I’ll have to switch around my mouse at work tomorrow. 🙂
Good ideas! I’m usually twinging somewhere along my right neck/shoulder/wrist, but other than Advil, hadn’t come up with anything constructive to do about it.
I’m definitely right-handed in everything I do.
Lorraine & Tami – Once your Right hand is aching, it’s because you are soooo busy and it’s about the worst possible time to have to learn Left-handed mousing.
If there ever is a lull in the workload, you might want to try that time – you’ll need about a month – and just dedicate yourself to learning the Left. Play lots of solitaire! Can you remember what it was like when you FIRST learned to mouse? It just takes some time.
Oh Liv! Advil???
I hope you give your Left hand a chance to learn.
Personally, I find switching the buttons is best. Then you can think Pointer finger is “left” click, and Index finger is “right” click. For the first month, you don’t want to use your right hand at all. That’s where it gets confusing.
Just say NO to Advil!
Hi Mirella – thx for visiting Tuesday Café.
I’m pretty sure I’m mostly Right-handed, although my Left-handed sister taught me to crochet with my Left hand…
I like the idea of playing solitaire to get used to using your non-dominant hand.
I use my dominant hand (right) and don’t usually have any trouble…
But last year I researched an article for work about office ergonomics and learnt a great deal about how workstations should be set up.
When mousing, you are evidently supposed to use your whole arm, from the shoulder, not just from the wrist… The other key factor is desk height… Old style desks are generally too high for computer work (as I’ve worked out after about 20 years using an old-style desk with a keyboard!) — they’re designed for writing with a pen and paper. (Just as newer workstations are too low for lots of handwriting!)
It was all very interesting and has caused me to plan a complete overhaul of my home office (which I’ve yet to get around to!). For the time being, I’m mainly using a netbook on my lap on the sofa, with a track pad… Or in a cafe. 🙂
Thanks Ellen. This is great info.
I need to clear off my desk, so my whole arm has room. But I keep getting “Cluttered Desk Syndrome.”
I am a right handed mouser but am actually ambidextrous. I don’t know why this simple solution for my sore wrist, shoulder and neck didn’t occur to me. I’ve worked on computers since the early 80s and the wear and tear on my body is really starting to show up. If only we had known, or had listened to, the advice from the beginning on using good posture, taking regular breaks, and limiting our time on the beasts maybe we would be able to continue using them pain free now. My future surely lies in voice activated computing so I hope the developers speed up the progress on that. Great blog Suzanne, thanks for sharing.
Let’s hope that switching hands makes a difference for you.