If you are working from home or spending a lot of time on a computer, then it’s a good idea to pay attention to your wrist. Whether you already have carpal tunnel syndrome or are looking to prevent it, it is never too late to start taking the right health and safety measures. Using a mouse may not seem like a strenuous activity but over a long period of time, the tension and stress on your wrist can result in uncomfortable pain, stiffness, and sensitivity.
The human wrist is fragile and contains many nerves that send signals to the brain for coordination of the movements needed to control your mouse or type with your keyboards. When the nerves in your wrist become compressed from too much pressure or strain a pain signal is sent to the brain — ouch!
An ergonomic mouse pad can work to reduce wrist injuries if you keep a few considerations in mind as we will detail below.
Proper support is key
A good mouse pad is needed to ellevate pressure and strain that can result from repetitive usage of your mouse. Activities like scrolling and gaming can sometimes force you into a hunched position that affects your neck and shoulders too.
An ergonomic wrist pad works to reduce wrist injury by keeping your wrist to maintain a neutral position at all times. Alignment is the name of the game here — get a mouse pad that also supports your forearm so that you can rest your wrist while still engaging with your screen.
Account for your hand size
Every person is made differently — some of us have small hands while some of us have larger hands. When looking at a mouse pad, take into account your hand size and the weight of your mouse. If you are someone that does a lot of clicking and dragging — you will want a larger mouse pad in terms of surface area. When you are engaging your wrist, try to use smooth strokes whether you are moving your mouse up, down, left, or right. Your mouse pad should not make you drag your mouse excessively. Too much drag force and you will inadvertently find yourself exerting too much pressure on your fragile wrist.
Consider your needs
Memory foam or gel
Memory form may also be helpful in adapting to your needs and tends to be more responsive to various wrist movements you may make while working with your mouse and keyboard. Memory foam is fairly durable even with standard wear and tear. Be aware that over time, the memory foam inside your mouse pad will wear down over time, which is actually a good sign. Wear and tear patterns within your mouse pad will eventually appear in the form of indentions. You may even find that one side of your mouse pad is higher or lower than the other. Use these signs to help determine where you need to be supported most. You may find that you need a separate wrist rest that attaches from the mouse pad itself for optimal comfort.
Some people may prefer a mouse pad with gel inside over one made with memory foam. This is all a matter of personal preference depending on the type of feel that you prefer when using your computer. A mouse pad with gel will typically have a bouncer feel to it compared to a mouse pad made out of memory foam.Gel pads offer less flexible but more firm support depending on what you are looking for throughout your daily computer use.
Accurate mouse tracking and the breathability of your mouse pad may be a consideration if you are the type of person whose skin frequently is in contact with your mousepad. This can because the rubbing is too irritating to your skin, which causes heat from the friction that is generated from the rubbing. Those who prefer a cooler feel will want to opt for a mouse pad with gel because the gel is not as heat absorbent as memory foam.
Newer mouse pads have increasingly factored in durability in their designs and if that is a priority to you, then look for a mouse pad that has anti-fray stitching for longer durability. Higher quality mouse pads will be more costly, but they will hold better against wear and tear from repetitive usage.
Anti-slippage features & separate wrist reels
You will also want to consider anti-slippage features built into the design of your mouse pad. If your mouse pads slip around too much, then it will not adequately support your wrist.Textured grooves on the back of your mouse pad will help keep it flat so that it stays firmly in place. This will also help to keep your wrist slightly elevated to better align your wrist with the height of your mouse.
The bottom line
Mouse pads are a mere tool when combatting repetitive stress injuries to your wrist. Do not rely on your mouse pad exclusively — take breaks as often as needed and engage in stretches and exercises. Proper stretches and exercise will keep your wrist strong while also maintaining the flexibility your wrist needs to function properly.
Be mindful that your wrist is connected to your forearms, shoulders, and neck. The interconnectedness of the body means that pain may not always be concentrated in one spot. Therefore, it is important to see a doctor with respect to any wrist or health issues that you may be experiencing as part of your computer usage. These professionals can work with you in generating solutions that get to the root of the issue that you may be experiencing, so consult with your doctor as needed the next time you go in for a check up.
Depending on your needs, a doctor may refer you to an occupational therapist who specializes in dealing with wrist related issues. Your occupational therapist can help you work on the form and technique of any wrist exercises that you may need in order to improve or maintain your wrist health.
While mouse pads are not the end all solution, mouse pads do promote safety and health in helping your wrist maintain proper alignment.