Home Two Things to Consider when Using a Mouse Pad/Wrist Rest Ergonomics Done Right®

Written by: humantech on December 18th, 2012

by Katie Grosteffon, AEP

One pervasive “ergonomic” desk accessory is the mouse pad with an elevated wrist rest. People like these because they can rest their wrists on the gel instead of the hard desk. Here are a coupleMouse Pad and Wrist Rest, image courtesy of Amazon.com reasons why I am hesitant to recommend one of these items:

1. Compression: When you rest on your wrist, you can compress the blood vessels, tendons, and nerves that travel through your wrist. But you may ask “isn’t it better to rest on the gel than on a hard desk?”. Not necessarily, because often the wrist rest padding is quite stiff, and the presence of the rest makes users think it is good to rest their wrist, so they tend to rest them more often. Resting your wrist for too long can potentially cause inflamed tendons and nerve entrapment

Solution: Change your desk height (if possible) or your chair height so that your desk is the same height as your elbows. Also, if your desk has an adjustable angle, make sure it is flat or slightly tilted away from you (never toward you). These adjustments help keep your wrist straight while you are using the mouse.

2. Improper mouse movement: In order to reduce the risk of injury and discomfort, the proper way to move the mouse is with whole arm movements that originate at the shoulder. But an elevated wrist rest can get in the way of this. If you try to move your arm, your wrist drags across the wrist rest, so you cannot move the mouse efficiently. Instead, you plant your wrist and control your mouse with small wrist movements.

Solution: Eliminating the use of the wrist rest and moving to an alternative mouse will position the wrist away from the desk and reduce the chance of causing discomfort and pain.  Look for a mouse that is designed to keep your wrist off of the desk, preventing compression. Options include larger mice, which support your whole hand so you are not resting on the desk surface, and angled mice, which rotate your wrist (up to 90°) so that you are resting on bone instead of the soft palmar side of your wrist.

14 responses to “Two Things to Consider when Using a Mouse Pad/Wrist Rest”

  1. Shaun Gupta says:

    Thank you! This article helped me! I recently bought one of these gel rests thinking it would be good for me, then started wondering (later on, so I didn’t connect the two) why my wrist was aching. I never considered what you’re saying before, but I definitely see the problem now and am removing the mouse wrist rest. Instantly feeling more comfortable! Thanks again!

  2. kris says:

    I’ve found that this product is quite helpful in relieving hand pain. A coworker recommended it to me four years ago as I was having quite a bit of wrist & thumb pain. Now I can’t imagine working without it. It’s designed to move with your hand/mouse so you can properly move your entire arm. Highly recommended!!!

  3. Stephen says:

    I was interested to read the comment about whole arm movements being preferable. I have read elsewhere this is not the case, that whole arm and shoulder movements are suitable for gross motor movements, not the generally small movements that are used in mousework and for the which the hand and wrist are designed.

    • G H says:

      I completely agree. A few years ago I decided to try a larger mouse that required arm movements, rather than wrist movements. My desk was set at the right height, etc…. I ended up with severe shoulder/neck pain that has never fully resolved.

  4. Maverick Roberts says:

    Thank you – this article is very useful. I have recently noticed a dull but uncomfortable ache in my forearm and I think that the culprit may be my new wrist guard, now guarding the paperclips at the bottom of my drawer instead.

  5. Andrew says:

    First of all, thank you for this article. After using a mouse rest I’ve found my wrist to hurt more than when it’s rested on the hard desk. On the other hand, I have doubts as to whether it’s preferable to move a mouse at the elbow or the shoulder. In which case, you could then argue that moving the shoulder too much would cause shoulder blade inflammation so it’s best to turn our hips while using the mouse. We don’t rotate at the elbow or shoulder when writing either. I’m wondering what the difference is and if there are any studies done to compare these habits.

    • Rudy says:

      Oddly enough, I started using my entire arm to write, elbow and shoulder and all. It’s something I started doing after reading several articles in order to improve my penmanship and to avoid my wrist/fingers from cramping and going numb when writing for extended periods. I’ve have no issues to date with my shoulder, however I have felt a lot of relief in my wrist, and my writing has become a lot more uniform. Alas, time will tell if my should ever starts to hurt, but its good now in case you are wondering (about 8 months in)

  6. Greg says:

    as physiotherapist and osteopath I have to say that the advice to move the mouse with the whole arm is totally wrong.
    First: the wrist is biomechaniccaly designed for small repetitive movement, as the fingers, infact, the correct way to use the mouse is with the fingers and not the wrist.
    Second, overloading 3 different articulations instead of 1 with repetitive actions will drive to pain and easiy nerve entrapment in the shoulder.
    Third, the precisione is given by the wrist, not the shoulder.
    I am sorry. I understand your intent are good, but this are wrong information.

  7. Seth Aicklen says:

    The best solution is a trackball for me (e.g. the Logitec M570), but it pretty much boils down to personal preference before pain becomes the prime motivator. Thanks for your article, Katie! Seth

  8. Eli says:

    Thanks for the info but it would be helpful if provide pic on how to set up the desk or advise wich are the best mice to use

  9. Scott Parker says:

    Don’t ever use a gel wrist rest. Doing so for years gave me irreversable carpel tunnel syndrome.

  10. Erma says:

    Ergonomics aids harmonize items that interact with
    folks in terms of people’s requirements, skills and limitations.

  11. P. Seibold says:

    I tried, but I can’t work with wrist rest. My pads need to be flat.

  12. timmy gong says:

    I have found a perfect solution and a perfect pad from eBay. I find it more comfortable to rest my wrist on the flat surface of the pad and always use the pad without using the wrist rest but turning it to the right hand side. I use the wrist rest only when I do extensive small movement with my fingers. I have choices of both worlds.


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