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What to do when technology hurts

Writer: Dr. Mariah Smith Morgan, MSU Extension Service

Technology hurts. Whether you’re banging your head on the desk in frustration or watching money disappear with the purchase of the new, must-have gadget, technology can hurt both physically and mentally.

Like many of you, I spend a great deal of quality time with my mouse and keyboard. During a recent workday, my wrist and forearm began to hurt so badly I had to stop altogether. Most of us know this type of pain as the beginning of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Clearly, I am not the only one feeling the burn. According the National Institutes of Health, carpal tunnel is three times as likely to occur in women as it is in men. As I was teaching a class of senior citizens, I noticed that they too needed help making technology hurt less. Even simple double-clicks of the mouse on an icon can cause pain. One dear lady told me her rheumatoid arthritis prevented this simple maneuver.

As I looked around the room, several participants were using both hands to move the mouse and click because it was too difficult to do with just one hand. There must be a better way, and technology has to be able to hurt less.

The first victim in a war on hurtful technology could be the keyboard. Trade in your old clunker keyboard for a lightweight keyboard. Go to the store and try out the keyboard before purchasing. Make sure you can press the keys easily and without too much force. Personally, I use an Apply keyboard with my PC computer because of how easy the keys depress. It’s like typing on air.

If using the mouse is where your challenge lies, consider using shortcut keys on the keyboard instead. Shortcut keys – such as pressing the control key and the letter “s” (Ctrl + S) on your keyboard simultaneously – will help you avoid using the mouse to select menu functions. There are a lot of shortcut keys. You can find many of them at

If you don’t find one you like, you can always create your own. One website that allows you to make personal shortcuts is at

The mouse can be a slippery beast running to and fro over the mouse pad. If you have trouble keeping the mouse contained, cut the mouse pad in half to limit your wrist and arm motions. Also consider using a mouse with a roller ball rather than the standard optical mouse.

Under the “Control Panel” of your computer, you should see a mouse icon. If you click this icon, you will get the “Mouse Properties” window. Here, you can adjust the speed of the double-click, as well as other mouse functions. For my friend who had trouble doing a quick double-click, we reduced the clicking speed to help her arthritic fingers click on icons.

For the rest of us, taking short breaks of just a few minutes can give aching wrists and forearms a break. Also, pay attention to your mother. When she said, “Sit up straight; your posture is important,” she was right. Good posture and keeping your feet on the floor or on a footrest can also help alleviate muscle pain.

If your technology is hurting you, take corrective measures. Technology shouldn’t hurt.

Source: What to do when technology hurts

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