An ergonomic optical mouse is designed to minimize repetitive stress injuries of the wrist. Like a standard optical mouse, it uses an LED to sense movement, but it is shaped more like a joystick, with buttons on top for clicking. This shape prevents the wrist from being in a flat position as with a standard mouse, helping to prevent problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome. People who suffer from arthritis or other problems affecting the hands may find an ergonomic mouse easier to use than the standard type. One kind of ergonomic optical mouse is made by 3M and can be purchased from a variety of retailers for $50 to $75 US Dollars (USD), although similar products are also available from other manufacturers.
An ergonomic optical mouse works in the same way as a standard mouse, except that the hand and wrist are not pronated or pressed against the desk surface because of the joystick shape. To use the mouse, grip the joystick with your hand resting on the base. Move the joystick as you would a regular mouse to point to objects on the computer screen. Press the buttons on top of the mouse with your thumb to the left and right click. On some models, there may be a button on the side of the joystick for scrolling.
Like most traditional mice, an ergonomic optical mouse may come in a few different models. Most are battery-powered and connect to a computer using the standard USB port. Wireless models may also be available. The 3M product comes in two sizes for smaller or larger hands and has a special coating on the hand rest for added comfort. Other types of ergonomic mice may feature a cushioned base or come with a cushioned mouse pad to reduce wrist strain.
Heavy use of a standard mouse may be linked to repetitive stress injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome. Repetitive stress injuries occur when the wrist remains in the same position for extended periods of time, causing muscle fatigue and pain. Carpal tunnel syndrome is when the nerve in this area of the wrist is compressed, which can cause numbness, pain, and loss of motion in the hands and fingers. In many cases, surgery is needed to reverse the problem, and sufferers are unable to work for a period of time. An ergonomic optical mouse can help to reduce or prevent these problems by keeping the wrist and hand in a more neutral and relaxed position.