Where's Your Computer Mouse?

Have you ever considered the placement of your mouse on your desk? Where is it in relation to where you sit or stand? Close to you? Far from you? Tucked in front of you? Way off to one side? Each option has implications for your hand, wrist, arm, shoulder, and neck, and some options can really cause trouble. Here are a couple of recent examples from my clients:

E came down with pneumonia. She got on antibiotics, rested, got the all-clear from her doctor that there was no more fluid in her lungs, and yet, she couldn’t breathe easily through the upper right side of her chest. It still felt heavy, even though the pneumonia was gone. Working with her, it became clear that she didn’t have any space in that part of her ribs and lung because her right (dominant) hand, arm, and shoulder were turned strongly in toward her torso. We started talking about how she uses that arm, and knowing she has a high stress desk job, I asked her about mouse. E realized that she places her mouse directly in front of her torso, right in the middle of her desk, even though she has tons of space around her to put it other places.

I saw E a couple of weeks later. She had started experimenting with new places to put her mouse, and her breathing issue was gone! She was very surprised at how strong her mouse placement pattern was though - a few times a day, she’d find her mouse had drifted back to the middle of her desk, directly in front of her again.

Not a great set up. This person probably has some wrist and shoulder pain if they type and mouse like that all day long.

Not a great set up. This person probably has some wrist and shoulder pain if they type and mouse like that all day long.

L came in with what she described as “bitey” neck pain, just below her right ear and jaw line. It’s not there every day, but it shows up pretty regularly. It had been a rough week at work and personally, and the pain had been there all week. She had worked with her physical therapist on it, who gave her neck stretches and exercises to release the knot. They weren’t very helpful. It became immediately clear working with L that her neck pain was not about her neck, but actually about her shoulder, which is why the PT exercises and stretches weren’t helping. It was as though there were a magnet between the tip of L’s right shoulder and the knot in her neck - her shoulder wanted to move directly toward the knot and stay there. I wondered if she leaned on that elbow, and asked her to look for the source of that pattern. She’s a therapist, so I didn’t assume it was work related.

The next morning, about 30 minutes into her work day, L went to do some computer work and ta da! There it was. She reached for her mouse and her shoulder immediately went for her neck. Like E, she spent the week experimenting with mouse placement and with how high her shoulder was, and her neck felt dramatically better.

L made a great observation about computer work. When she’s with clients, she needs to be grounded, she needs to be aware of her body language, and she’s very intentional about those things. However, when she’s doing computer work, she has no immediate need to check in with herself physically, so it’s extremely easy to get disconnected. E works at a computer doing administrative customer service in a busy front office, so she’s got all kinds of distractions throughout her day that make her forget to check in.

So, where’s your mouse? Where’s your keyboard? Where’s your screen in relation to your face?

Where is a moment in your work day when you can check in with your body? No matter how busy your day is, there’s always a moment you can take. Take a breath, feel your feet or your chair, shift your weight, check in with your arms… I promise it’ll make the rest of your day easier.