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I Cured My Mouse Shoulder Pain With a New Keyboard

For years I had shoulder pain from long hours at the computer, but I remedied it by switching keyboards. It worked for me, and I hope it will work for you too.

What is mouse shoulder pain?

When people think of accidents at work, they usually think of those that are dramatic, such as serious injuries due to an accident with a machine or the like. But for many people whose job involves doing small, repetitive movements, injuries most often take the form of repetitive stress injuries (RSI).

You suffer from shoulder pain not because you tore your rotator cuff, but because you adopted poor posture and poor ergonomics at your workstation. And even if you do your best to pay attention to ergonomics, sometimes you end up with a problem on your arms.

This is the situation I found myself in with persistent stabbing pain in my shoulder, a type of pain I later learned is called “mouse shoulder” due to prolonged use and poorly optimized mouse that causes this pain.

Although the pain tends to be multifaceted – people experience everything from a stabbing sensation in the front part of the shoulder, to general tightness and tenderness in the shoulder as a whole, to stiff neck and headaches – it’s the stabbing pain that makes most people tell there is something wrong with their shoulder.

This throbbing pain in the front of the shoulder, which seems to come from a point just below the anterior deltoid, is usually caused by irritation of the biceps tendon. It’s not the deltoid that hurts in this case, it’s the top of the biceps and the corresponding tendon that runs under the deltoid.

While a variety of factors can contribute to mouse shoulder, including the height of your desk (or keyboard tray) relative to your body, the duration (and intensity) of daily mouse use, etc

While I can’t promise that what worked for me will work for you, I sincerely hope that many people reading this article find relief from their computer-induced shoulder pain like I did. .

Why does this common keyboard cause shoulder pain?

Over the years, I have made various adjustments to the ergonomics of my workstation in an attempt to alleviate the cause of my shoulder pain.

First, I switched from a regular mouse to a trackball mouse, which actually helped reduce the pain. By moving the hand, arm, and shoulder less (with a trackball mouse, the mouse is stationary and all you have to do is move your thumb or fingers), the degree of shoulder irritation decreased.

There are many ergonomic mice on the market, but I’m a big fan of Logitech’s line of trackball mice, like the Logitech MX Ergo.

Then I added an adjustable keyboard tray so I could type and use the mouse with a negative tilt to relieve pressure on my wrists (and hopefully my shoulder too). Again this helped me (it was great for my wrists

I even added a very comfortable and adjustable Steelcase Leap chair to make sure my arms were supported at the right height. This chair turned out to be the most comfortable office chair I’ve ever had and helped me in many ways, but it wasn’t the magic bullet for my shoulder problem.

Then one day, almost by accident, I came across a painless way to use the mouse. I had moved the keyboard to the left side (I’m right-handed) and the mouse was closer to the center line of my body. I realized that my shoulder was no longer painful. It still hurt, but it was residual pain and not recent irritation from using the mouse at the time.

The only problem was that now the keyboard was so hopelessly off center that there was no way for me to use the mouse in the less painful place and type on the keyboard without contorting my body a way that was just going to cause further pain elsewhere.

The keyboard I had — the same one millions of people around the world have — is what’s called a “full-size,” “100%,” or “104-key” computer keyboard. Full-size keyboards feature the standard set of letters, numbers, and basic keys, plus the home key and arrow cluster, and then a full calculator-style number pad on the end. Jumbo keyboards have been the standard format for over forty years.

The “everything and the kitchen sink” approach leads to a keyboard width of around 18 inches. The distance between the center of the main row finger location (the space between the G and H keys) and the edge of the board is approximately 13 inches.

With those distances practically the closest a person using a standard 104 key right numpad keyboard can get their right mouse to the center of the keyboard is about 16 to 20 inches depending on whether they used a ball of controller or a standard mouse and how much space they need to use it.

As a result, most people using such a large keyboard are forced to move their arm away from the midline of their body by about 10-15 degrees. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but the ideal angle would be zero degrees out of alignment, with your arm positioned in a neutral position at 90 degrees to the plane of your torso. The further your arm is from the midline, the more pressure and discomfort you will feel in your shoulder when using the mouse.

Thus, millions of people around the world use a keyboard layout that requires them to hold their arm at a slightly too extended angle, which greatly increases their risk of computer-related injuries and pain.

Switching to a Tenkeyless Plank Banished My Pain

We talked about what causes mouse shoulder. We’ve talked about how the majority of people around the world—myself included, for many years—use a very large keyboard that’s not ergonomic. What is the solution?

The solution is to ditch the numeric keypad and swap your bulky full-size 104-key keyboard for a shortened model, known as a keyless keyboard or 87-key keyboard.

A keyless keyboard is 80% the width of a 104-key keyboard and is essentially the same design in all respects except for the missing number pad. Dropping the number pad reduces the length of the board by about 4 inches and allows you to pull the mouse more tightly. Pulling the mouse harder relieves the strain on your shoulder.

It sounds too good to be true, but after years of the same persistent shoulder pain when I switched from a full-size keyboard to a keyless keyboard, my pain is gone.

I haven’t had physical therapy, stretches or fancy exercises, or anything beyond switching to a keyboard that allowed me to move my trackball mouse more tightly and reduce the angle of my mouse. extension from 10 to 15 degrees to more than 0 to 3 degrees. What shocked me the most was that the pain resolved almost immediately. In the days after the adjustment, he left and never came back.

Now, while I’ve spent all these years typing on a WASD code keypad, you don’t have to shell out more than $150 for a keyless keyboard—although I have nothing but good things to say about the code.

There are plenty of really reasonably priced keyless mechanical keyboards on the market for less than $100, like the HyperX Alloy Origins or the incredibly budget-friendly Redragon K552. I never would have thought a mechanical keyboard under $40 would be worth it, but the K522 is great value for money.

At this point you couldn’t afford me to go back to using a full size board. If I really needed a number pad, I’d rather buy a detachable one and learn to use it with my left hand than go back to having persistent shoulder pain. And I hope after reading this you will give keyless keyboards a try and also enjoy the same experience without shoulder pain.

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