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Computer Mouse Position Leads to Muscle Tension

Review on June 05, 2009

Muscle tension is a common problem for many people. Those that spend the majority of their workday on a computer are bound to suffer greater muscle tension than other professions. According to a study undertaken at San Francisco State University, mouse users experience twice as much muscle tension of the arms, neck and shoulders than non-mouse users.

muscle tension computer mouse

Erik Peper, professor of holistic health at SFSU, suggests the main cause of muscle tension of mouse users results from extending their arms for a long period of time. He says wide and raised keyboards increase muscle tension in the shoulders even more when coupled with mouse use.

Peper finds the setup of a computer to be the culprit; almost 80% of computer stations are set up incorrectly for the user's body. It is very important that chairs, keyboards are screens are at the right height and angle to avoid muscle tension and long term chronic pain. Simple adjustments will save the user from hard-to-treat pain.

Peper suggests using keyboards with a trackball or track pad in its center instead of a separate mouse to reduce muscle tension. Or one can use of a small keyboard that doesn't require much arm extension for mouse use. Still, even trackball users will experience muscle tension to a degree but with greater awareness of muscle tension, computer users can relieve their muscles and reduce the tension that can result in more permanent pain and injury.

In his study, Peper recorded tension in four muscle groups with test subjects in four keyboarding positions. He found the greatest reduction in muscle tension among trackball or track pad device users. He notes that even frequent one-second breaks, or "micro breaks" from the keyboard can cut muscle tension levels in half.

Adjusting one's computer stations is a fast, easy and free way to avoid muscle tension. It is advised long term computer users make proper alterations to avoid pain and costly treatment.

Sources:
  • MacArthur, John and Catherine. "Muscle Tension". Stockholm University. www.macses.ucsf.edu
  • "Tension". International Stress Management Association. www.isma-usa.org.
  • "Understanding Stress". Helpguide.org.