I recently read an article in the London Evening Standard entitled “iPad Hand: the new RSIs.” The article discussed a new type of repetitive strain injury (RSI) which is cropping up due to the way people are using their hands to maneuver around an iPad or tablet, and the Alexander Technique is recommended as a method to help prevent or alleviate the problems. As part 5 of my series on help for computer users, I’m considering the more widespread and long-standing phenomenon of “mouse hand” – the way we use a computer mouse.
While I have no specific data to back me up, I would hazard a guess that the introduction of the computer mouse greatly increased the prevalence of RSI and other musculoskeletal problems. Compared with using a keyboard, which involves more movement of the fingers and hands (though typing can cause problems, too), using a mouse requires the hand to be in one position, while controlling the movement of a little arrow on our screen with small movements of our arm/hand and using just one finger to make those clicks over and over again. For many people these are perfect conditions for the creation of lots of excess tension!
So – are you holding your mouse as you read this blog? Maybe you don’t need to actually hold it as you read? And do you grip that mouse for dear life? Are you using tension in your hand, arm, shoulder and neck to control it? Are you bearing down on it with every click – compressing your neck, your back, in fact your whole body?
When I first started learning the Alexander Technique I soon noticed that I was almost always gripping my hands to some extent. As I started to let go of that gripping, the tension in my neck (the reason I started lessons) dramatically decreased. I realized that even at times when I thought I was relaxing – sitting watching TV for instance – I was gripping my hands like crazy. And that tension traveled all the way up my arms to my shoulders and neck.
Let’s experiment! How much less effort can you use to make that click? Must you tense your neck to move that finger up and down? How tightly are you gripping the mouse? Can you do less? Can you let your hand just rest over the mouse, for instance?
- How tightly are you holding the mouse? How much is necessary? Can you hold it a little less tightly? (or a lot less?)
- How much pressure are you using to click the mouse? Can you use less?
- Do you keep holding the mouse even when you’re not using it – for instance as you’re reading an article or blog? Maybe you can let go and let your hand rest for a few seconds!
- Is your hand still acting as if it’s gripping onto the mouse when you’re not even at the computer anymore? Notice your hands when you’re relaxing on the couch not holding anything – are you still carrying that tension in them? Can you let go? Even just a little bit?
What have you noticed about your hands – especially your mouse hand? Do you think you grip your hands and fingers more tightly than necessary? Let me know in the comments below.