Photo by DJA99 on AliExpress
Relieve RSI Pain with This Armrest Mouse Pad
After publishing “Anker’s Vertical Mouse Provides Cheap RSI Relief” (7 December 2018), I heard from many of you who also use a vertical mouse or are thinking about trying one. What I didn’t reveal in that review is that I’ve also been testing another accessory that further optimizes the vertical mouse’s ergonomics: an armrest-mounted mousepad.
While a vertical mouse relieves forearm strain by putting your hand and wrist in a more natural position, extending your arm to reach the mouse on your desk might still cause some pain in your shoulder and upper arm. You may also find the corner of the desk painful against your wrist, as I did.
I decided that if I could somehow use my mouse on my chair’s armrest, that would solve the problem. A bit of searching revealed just the ticket: the Skyzonal Ergonomic Adjustable Wrist Rest, which costs $29.99 from Amazon. But that price seemed steep for a piece of plastic, so I turned to AliExpress, where I found the same product for $17. It took about a week to arrive, but it’s always a crapshoot when ordering direct from China, so if you’re in a hurry, it might be worth paying the Amazon markup.
The soft, black mouse pad gel material on both ends makes the armrest more comfortable than a DIY solution would likely be. I’ve also been pleased with the included wrist rest, which has just the right amount of give and a nice, smooth texture. Many gel wrist rests are covered in a rough synthetic material that feels awful to me.
The problematic thing about this wrist rest is that its included straps aren’t nearly long enough to wrap around my chair’s armrest, something I had anticipated after reading Amazon reviews. I found a quick fix by channeling my inner Red Green, duct-taping the thing to my expensive Herman Miller Aeron chair, which worked better than expected. I eventually purchased some 27-inch Velcro straps, which are maybe a bit too long, but do the job quite nicely. The AliExpress listing for the mouse pad implied that it would include a desk clamp that would theoretically serve as an alternative to the straps, but there was no evidence of it in my package.
You might guess that there is some inherent awkwardness when using a mouse from your chair, and you’d be right, but I find the trade-offs worth it. I have to be careful when moving the chair so I don’t knock my mouse onto the floor, which happens more often than I care to admit. Another thing is, because I generally recline, the mouse tends to slide back onto the wrist rest. Before I take my hands off the mouse, such as when I need to type, I try to place the mouse against the wrist rest so it doesn’t slide around. I also had to disable the bottom-left hot corner for activating Mission Control, because I kept triggering it every time I let go of the mouse.
Typing took a bit of getting used to. I tend to scoot away from my desk while I’m just mousing, but I slide closer to type. I set the height of the armrest so that the mouse pad is an inch or two above the keyboard, which works okay, but prevents me from accessing the number keys. Also, I have to be careful not to tilt forward, which causes the mousepad to mash the keyboard. This is one time that not having a numeric keypad would be a win.
But the slight inconveniences that come with the armrest mouse pad are worth it because, for the first time in years, my right arm doesn’t hurt, regardless of how much mousing I do in a given day.
How is the elbow padding?
(I could use something like that on the couch which would be very hard to strap to. I currently use a KB and trackpad fixed to a board I made with custom slots.)
I have a similar configuration without the strap-on device. . . I have my chair close enough to my desk (an electric sit-stand UpDesk) that my wrist lays on a gel pad and my hand rests on a Kensington Orbit trackball. My elbow remains on my chair arm rest.
Next to the trackball is a “tenkeyless” mechanical keyboard. Not having a numerical keypad (I don’t need one) means I don’t need to move my right hand far to access the keys I regularly use. At the bottom of the keyboard is a foam wrist pad Grifiti.com which is the perfect height for typing.
If I had a need for a numerical keypad I would add a standalone USB keypad that I can place next to the keyboard or to the right of my trackball. The latter option is my preference. . . If you happen to be left-handed the keypad can be placed to the left of the keyboard. (Leopold, the maker of my keyboard, just happens to offer such a keypad.)
My two mechanical Orbits are over 15 years old. The Kensington programming software is no longer compatible so I use USB Overdrive. The two buttons on the Orbit can be programmed in a variety of ways.
I’ve used this setup for many years. I experience no discomfort even though I work at my Mac 8+ hours most days. It also helps me to maintain proper posture when sitting so I do not slouch and put unnecessary strain on my low-back.
The black pads you see on the front and rear are some kind of gel, so it’s pretty comfortable, at least to me, as long as the straps don’t get in the way.
Cfan the Armrest Mouse Pad be used with a regular mouse, or does it work only with the vertical mouse you also discussed in the article. Thanks.
You can use whatever you like with it. I swap my mouse out for my Magic Trackpad when editing video in iMovie.
Thanks so much!
For 25 years I’ve worked at an L-shaped arrangement of two desks. The monitor is on the desk in front of me. My arm rests on the desk to my right so that the arm and wrist are supported. My carpal pain ended a few weeks after setting this up and has never returned.
Be careful with any device that requires you to rest your arm on a surface, even if it’s a soft one. How well this works depends on your unique body, and one person’s miracle is another person’s torture device. Resting your arm compresses the tissues (including nerves) and can reduce blood flow. That can end up hurting more than the problem you’re trying to solve; I had that problem years ago with a foam rubber wrist rest. Seemed to work fine, and then the pain began…
I wrote an article about RSI many years back and had it reviewed by an RSI expert. The updated version, which covers all the key points to keep in mind, begins here: http://geoff-hart.com/articles/2016/protect-1.html
The TL;DR version is that any time you change your workstation setup, you need to stop periodically and check how your body is feeling. If you’re feeling any new twinges, stop and figure out why before they become pain or injury.
Great advice, Geoff. It is absolutely true that everyone is different, and we have to remember that there’s nothing “natural” about using a Mac, iPhone, or iPad, so our bodies have to adjust.
My sole experience of RSI was when I switched from a trackball to the Magic Mouse. Crippling pain after a few weeks. A physical therapist working on the tendons tracked down the culprit. Bought the Magic Trackpad, happy ever since. I also find myself increasingly happier physically at my standing desk which I alternate with a regular one.
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