Does your wrist or hand often hurt after work? The problem might be your mouse or trackpad. Wrist pain sucks when all you want to do after work is cook dinner or wind down with a guitar. Years back, I’d come home every day feeling like Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget. My hand hurt like hell from using a dinky computer mouse hours at a time.
For a while, I dreaded Mondays, when I had to go back to work and the mouse. But one day I stopped buying ice packs, and on a whim, I tried a $40 gaming mouse from Corsair instead. I’m not a really a gamer, but this mouse was nothing like the dirt-cheap mouse I’d been using. I haven’t had a twinge of wrist ache in the better part of a decade. As much as we criticize PC gaming gear for looking more over the top than a Lisa Frank binder from the 1990s, these peripherals get one thing right: comfort.
Your body wasn’t designed by nature to shake a lump of plastic side to side all week. It was designed to pick berries and turn leaves into loincloths (or something like that). Using a mouse or a trackpad for a long period of time is going to give you carpal tunnel syndrome or mouse shoulder (or both), and we’re all using them too often.
Carpal tunnel is a condition caused by the swelling of the wrist’s median nerve and is often the result of making the same wrist movements over and over, day in and day out. It’s characterized by tingling, pain, and weakness in the wrist. And then there’s mouse shoulder, the inflammation of shoulder tendons that come from the bad posture of using a computer, often caused or made worse by trying to compensate for wrist pain.
Most of us long ago got used to the idea of using laptop trackpads and junky keyboards and mice that came with our computers. But gamers, willing to spend money on peripherals they feel will improve their performance, were buying things like mechanical keyboards and gaming mice. These peripherals are often built with ergonomics, comfort, and precision in mind, but those are all things everyone should experience, not just gamers.
What to Avoid
Our guide to the Best Gaming Mice has some great tips for what gamers might want in a mouse, but if you’re not gaming, the most important thing to look out for is the shape. The cheap gaming mice tend to share the same basic design you’ll find on the expensive ones. There are a few other specs to be wary about too.
Ignore DPI. DPI, or dots per inch, is an overrated measurement of movement sensitivity that’s more useful to marketing executives than the people who actually use them.
Get one with very few buttons. You don’t need 10 buttons on a mouse. They might be helpful if you’re cycling through weapons to shoot bad guys, but they cost more and are unnecessary if you’re not gaming. Thumb buttons on the grip of the mouse, in particular, always get in my way.
Latency. You’ll see companies touting a near-zero delay for the time it takes the mouse to register your movements on the screen, and they may use this to push wired mice over wireless ones. In reality, mice are so good these days whether they’re wired or wireless. I prefer a cord as it means I don’t need batteries on hand to keep it powered, but whichever you go for, it doesn’t make much of a difference as far as comfort.
Simple, corded mice like the SteelSeries Rival 110 ($23) or the Razer Abyssus Essential ($50) have ridiculous names, but will serve you much better than most of the cheap, non-gaming mice out there. We also like offerings from Cooler Master, Corsair, and Logitech G if you want to look at other options.
Comfort Is Important
Nobody’s job is going to see less screen time in the near future. Many of us have converted kitchen tables and living rooms into home offices these days, and a good mouse is a major part of comfortably working from home. A gaming mouse might feel big at first, but everyone will benefit from using one that properly fits their hand.
I could talk about how it made me a more productive writer, and how I didn’t have to keep taking breaks to ice my wrist during the day. But I didn’t really care about any of that. I just wanted my damn wrist to stop hurting. It might sound crazy, but a gaming mouse did exactly that, and it changed my life.
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