Home Selecting a Computer Mouse: Traditional or Vertical Design? Ergonomics Done Right®

Written by: humantech on August 23rd, 2011

There are thousands of office input devices to choose from, but two very common options people find themselves contemplating are a traditional, flat-design mouse and the joystick-like vertical mouse. Here are a few considerations when doing your shopping.

Traditional

  • The traditional mouse positions your hand, wrist, and forearm in a posture similar to that used while typing. This minimizes inward/outward forearm rotations when transitioning between the keyboard and mouse.
  • If the mouse is large enough to support most of the palm and fingers, it requires little effort to maneuver when tracking the cursor because the natural weight of your hand will move it.
  • Many traditional mice have a universal design for right and left buttons with a scroll wheel in the middle, which easily accommodates right- and left-handed users. The clicking orientation (right versus left) can be adjusted in your computer’s Control Panel menu.

Vertical

  • The vertical mouse is often recommended for users who have associated hand/wrist pain because it requires more use of the larger muscles of the upper arm and shoulder. Users often report an initial learning curve to adjust to synchronizing entire arm movements and small cursor tracking.
  • Vertical mice are typically equipped with a scroll button versus a wheel, to reduce repetitive motions of the middle finger. Right and left clicking is achieved with a toggle button using the thumb.
  • Vertical mice are generally designed specifically for either left- or right-hand use, so if you want to share the workload between left and right hands, you may need two mice.

At least both types of mice share one commonly desired feature: wireless models are widely available!

5 responses to “Selecting a Computer Mouse: Traditional or Vertical Design?”

  1. Bill Hostetler says:

    CAN YOU SUGGEST A PARTICULAR VERTICAL MOUSE?

  2. Mark H. says:

    Unfortunately, a disappointing article. This is more of a 30,000 foot view, and I think that you missed some crucial points in this cursory overview of mouse types. You mentioned that “if the mouse is large enough”, without specifying that certain manufacturers do offer different sizes and I think that offering some guidance on how to find a proper mouse size would be helpful.

    Second, you stated, “The vertical mouse is often recommended for users who have associated hand/wrist pain because it requires more use of the larger muscles of the upper arm and shoulder.” The vertical position is actually anatomic neutral, and you seemed to present it as an anomally. Using the larger muscles of the shoulder and forearm is a benefit, since they are physiologically capable of sustaining such movements, which incidentally, if the mouse and keyboard are properly arranged, amounts to small motions, not nearly as taxing as repetitious wrist deviations which cause the many small tendons to repeatedly move and stretch, which is more likely to result in in micro-trauma.

    Finally, you mentioned nothing about the emergence and popularity of the central pointing devices, which are perhaps the most versatle and deserve a review in this article.

    • humantech says:

      Thanks for your reply and apologies for the delay in response – vacation!

      You are right, this is a high level article and achieved exactly what we aim for: discussion. Your points are well made, we didn’t mean to present vertical orientation as a anomaly – though the neutral position is not completely vertical, rather roughly 15 degrees downward from vertical.

      I hope we can count on you for a little help in central pointing devices – are there ones that you would recommend or have seen to have great benefit?

      Thanks again for for the post.

  3. Hi Bill,
    My name is Bret and I work for Contour Design, Inc, manufacturer of the RollerMouse, a central pointing device designed to comprehensively address upper extremity misalignment that can lead to repetitive strain in key joints like wrist/elbow/shoulder, while operating a standard mouse. We have been designing the RollerMouse since 2001.

    I can certainly appreciate the recommended “hand-held” mouse solutions like Evoluent, which we recognize as a potentially viable solution for many who suffer from isolated wrist injuries, like carpal tunnel syndrome.

    17 years ago, we designed a similar hand-held solution, the Contour Mouse, in 6 sizes (4 right, 2 left). The Contour Mouse opens the Carpal Tunnel through its minimally vertical position of 17 deg, while promoting the user to click with the middle knuckle, as opposed to the tip of the finger with the hand cramped. The key, though, is we do not recommend this mouse to users who are experiencing pain closer to the elbow and shoulder.

    I would like to take the opportunity to add that for the population of users who are affected by injuries to the elbow (i.e., lateral epicondylitis, etc), and shoulder (i.e., bursitis, etc), a “hand-held” mouse, whether ergonomically designed in a vertical position or not, will not effectively address the issue. Operating a hand-held mouse on the right/left side of the body center requires repetitive movements of the arm like arm abduction (raising arm to the side), internal rotation (turning the arm inward), and elbow flexion/extension (bending back and forth). Although a vertically-positioned mouse can reduce internal rotation of the arm, it doesn’t address the other two potentially damaging motions when repeated excessively over time.

    This injury paradigm is what motivated the design of the RollerMouse, which allows the user to maintain a central-facing position while operating the mouse. Arm abduction/internal rotation/elbow flexion/extension are spared while allowing the user to share the load between two hands. Ergonomic principles in the office space indicate the minimal muscle activation required to use a mouse is key in reducing the incidence of workplace RSI conditions. The RollerMouse has been determined, through peer-reviewed research, to significantly reduce muscle activation while optimizing upper-body posture. A report of this study can be found at:

    http://ergo.contour-design.com/benefits/research

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