Repetitive strain injury is one of the most common ailments that affect office workers and of all body parts, the wrists and hands are commonly affected areas.
Just like the keyboard, the mouse is an indispensable part of the office workstation. The touchpad that comes with your laptop may be acceptable for casual web surfing, but for real work that takes hours of typing and clicking, the mouse is a necessity.
It makes sense that having an ergonomic mouse would complete your healthy and ergonomic workstation.
This guide aims to take you through some of the features of ergonomic mice and help you narrow down the kind of mouse that is most suitable for your needs.
Different Ergonomic Mouse Styles
Standard horizontal (traditional) mouse
This is your standard two-button mouse that may or may not come with a scroll in between. It lies flat on the desk and depending on the height of the mouse, you may have to cock your wrist at an awkward angle to use it.
It may be fine to use this kind of mouse for short periods of time, but after long term use and many continuous hours spent clicking away, you may start to feel the strain on your wrists and forearms. All-in-all it is not very ergonomic.
This futuristic looking gadget may not look like your standard mouse, but it is a mouse nevertheless. To use these funky looking mice, you need to position your hands in way that is more ergonomically healthy for your wrists, often in a more vertical or sideways position.
There is a learning curve involved, especially if you have been using traditional mice all your life, but it is well worth the effort.
Also, compared to the traditional mouse, you have to use the stronger muscles of your arms to move this mouse. If you already have repetitive strain injury like carpal tunnel syndrome, using this type of mouse may have you breathing a sigh of relief, as it allows you to rest the injured muscle groups.
One vertical mouse favorite that we love is the Anker Vertical Ergonomic Mouse, reviewed here.
The trackball mouse is quite simply a mouse with a moveable trackball on it. To move your cursor, just move the trackball instead of the mouse. As a result, moving the cursor around requires a lot less effort than the traditional mouse, giving your wrists a much-needed break.
This is also a great option if you have a lack of space on your desk, or if the surface you work on is uneven.
On the other hand, if you are a gamer, this kind of mouse may not be the best choice as you would struggle with speed and precision.
Just like the vertical mouse, there is a learning curve. It takes time to get used to the trackball mouse but once again, we feel the time spent learning how to use a trackball mouse may be worth the trouble, especially if you already have wrist pain.
Ergonomic horizontal mouse
If the vertical mouse is too big of a jump for you, consider an upgrade to a more ergonomic version of the typical horizontal mouse. This type of mouse usually has minor tweaks made to the traditional model to make it kinder to your wrists and more comfortable to use.
For example, like the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Mouse, it can be adjusted to an angle to remove some pressure off your wrists.
Another great example of the ergonomic horizontal mouse is the Razer Deathadder Elite wired mouse reviewed in detail here. It looks like your conventional mouse from a distance, but its rubber sided grips with textured indentations for the thumb, pinky and ring fingers make it more ergonomic than a traditional mouse.
Apart from that, this type of mouse also typically comes with more features than the conventional mouse that usually has two clicks and scroll. They are designed in such a way that you should be able to spend hours working with the mouse with no pain or discomfort to your hands and wrists.
9 important ergonomic mouse factors
Now that we have briefly explored the different categories of mice, let’s get to the crucial part – the features to consider when looking for a new mouse.
1. Overall Ergonomics
This is the key factor separating an ergonomic mouse from a conventional mouse – the design. Look for a mouse that sits well in your hand, supports your thumb and wrists, and has a comfortable feel even after hours of use.
Not everyone will feel comfortable using a vertical mouse or a trackball mouse, and the same can be said for a more simple horizontal mouse. The key is to find one that you find comfortable and that you won’t mind using for hours on end.
2. Dots per Inch or DPI
This is a common specification you will come across when shopping for mice. DPI literally refers to the number of dots/pixels the cursor on the screen moves when you move the mouse an inch. It is a reflection of how sensitive the mouse is.
For example, if the mouse has 1600 DPI, when you move the mouse 1 inch, the cursor theoretically moves across 1600 pixels on the screen. A lower DPI may give you faster reaction time, but a higher DPI may give you better precision. The best DPI depends on your needs, a graphic designer may enjoy a higher DPI, but for more usual activities such as checking emails, it can be annoying to have your cursor move across the screen too much.
Many people, even gamers, are of the opinion that DPI does not really matter. But that said, it still matters to some. If DPI is truly important to your needs, we suggest getting a mouse with an adjustable DPI setting. This way you can choose the best mouse sensitivity for the specific activity that you are doing.
This may sound obvious, but it is worth emphasizing. When it comes to computer mice, size matters.
If you have small hands, you may want to stay clear of the larger sized trackball mice. Using a mouse that is too large for you will cause you to stretch out your fingers. It will also take more effort to click. Similarly, if you have large hands, a very small mouse may not be comfortable to use as you would have to claw your hands over it.
With a correctly sized mouse, the tips of your fingers should just about reach the edge of your mouse when your palm is relaxed on the mouse. The sense of movement when moving the mouse should not be limited to your wrists. To encourage a more equal distribution of pressure, try to move the mouse using your forearms and arms as well.
In the past, your average mouse only had buttons for you to left click, right click and that’s it!
Thankfully, those days are gone, and now we have mice with lots of buttons and lots of options. Having a choice of different buttons to carry out various functions will make your work life a lot easier – especially if these buttons are programmable.
Whether you are a gamer or just using a mouse for work, having certain “hot-keys” at your fingertips can save to time, effort, and remove excessive movements that may be causing you long-term pain.
5. Purpose of the mouse
When looking for a suitable mouse, always take into account your own activity levels.
If you are a gamer, there is a whole market of mice specifically for gamers that should accommodate all budgets, from the limited to the more flexible. There is almost no reason for an avid gamer to risk wrist pain from using a regular mouse.
Similarly, if you use the mouse casually for a few hours a day at the most, perhaps a high-end mouse is not a necessary investment.
You may still want to slightly upgrade your current traditional mouse into a more ergonomic model. However, for the regular office worker who uses the mouse at least 40 hours a week, we suggest a vertical mouse or at the very least, a decent horizontal ergonomic mouse.
Wireless mice are becoming more common these days – I use one myself! The convenience is unmatched. Wireless mice usually use Bluetooth, infrared or radio frequency technology to remain connected with your laptop, and having one less clunky cable cluttering up the desk makes a big difference.
The lack of wires also means you can place your mouse wherever it is comfortable for you. If you have a multi-tier desk, you even may find that the mouse feels easier to use when placed on the lower shelf.
You can easily take a step back from the monitor every now and then to ease your eyes and still keep working as long as you have a surface to place your mouse on.
The downside is in the charging. Some mice will require replaceable batteries, whereas others may come with a charger, but in both cases, you’ll need to make sure you have sufficient charge to use the mouse. A wired mouse, on the other hand, is always ready to go!
Being left-handed in a right-handed world is not always easy.
From table settings to scissors, you may have experienced trouble using ‘regular’ items. Well, thankfully you won’t have to struggle with the computer mouse.
There are specific mice made for left-handed people, and if you are a leftie, we strongly suggest you pick one up. The difference in comfort and usability is well worth it!
If you are lucky enough to be ambidextrous, there are also mice made specifically for ambidextrous people, allowing you to alternate easily between your left and right hand.
8. Battery life
There are few things more annoying than running out of battery in the middle of a busy workday. A battery life of a few months with normal use is typical of a good quality ergonomic mouse.
Check if the mouse you are interested in has a ‘sleep’ function to let the mouse conserve battery after a period of inactivity. Another factor to consider would be whether the mouse is recharged via a connection to the mains, or if you need to add replaceable batteries to power it up.
Replaceable batteries are less environmentally friendly as they are often disposable, but if you run out battery life in an urgent situation, it is much easier to pop new ones in than to go looking for a charger. If the mouse needs replaceable batteries, find out if the batteries are included with the purchase.
Of course, we may want to own the very best model for every office furniture item, but the cost is a necessary consideration for most of us.
While a computer mouse may not be at the top of your priority list, a cheap but uncomfortable mouse isn’t worth sacrificing your wrist health for.
Ergonomic mice do not have to be expensive. Even a budget-friendly option with a few ergonomic tweaks like textured indentations can be a good buy.
An ergonomic mouse is worth the investment. A more comfortable mouse translates to a better workday, increased productivity and less pain after work.
We hope this buying guide helped you narrow down your choices somewhat on the best mouse for you. For more ideas on specific mice to purchase, check out our article on The Best Ergonomic Mouse for Wrist Pain where we review the pros and cons of 7 ergonomic mice.
Dr. Praveena Asokan, MBChB has a background in medicine, having graduated from the University of Leicester before working in various hospitals. Her additional experience as a medical researcher helped her transition to a career as a writer, and she now enjoys researching and writing on a number of health-related topics.