“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?