Carpal tunnel and my trackball

This blog post by Umar about carpal tunnel got me writing about something I’m asked a lot these days. Since my home PC is out of order for now, I’ve moved my Logitech trackball to my laptop bag and am using it instead of the finger-grinding and annoying touch-pad.

Though the large trackball looks weird next to an ultra-slim laptop, I find it very comfortable since I hardly ever use the laptop from my lap. This naturally prompts a lot of questions from people who have never even seen a trackball before. I doubt you can even get one in Pakistan. Then I have to recount the reasons as to why I use it and it starts to get more frustrating when nobody seems to have heard about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or RSI.

I got the trackball about six years ago when I started full-time system administration. Using the mouse and keyboard all day had started to take its toll and my arms and wrists developed pain that kept getting worse. At first I tried those soft gel wrist rests, but that seemed to make the matter worse. Three things I did finally solved the problem and I haven’t had any such trouble since then.

Firstly, I replaced the mouse with a trackball, or a thumb-ball to be My Logitech trackball exact. At that time, Logitech was concentrating on making something actually useful than the “funky” stuff they came out with later. Their later trackballs were smaller and better to look at, but less comfortable and effective at easing your pain. I was lucky to get the classic model. And though slightly worn out, it is still working as good as new (with the required scum removal every couple of months). Not recommended for hardcore gaming, but excellent for virtually everything else.

I’ve probably already written about the other measures I took. Changed my keyboard to the Ergonomic Microsoft Natural keyboard, probably the only thing I liked from MS more than the other alternatives. Not the newer one with diamond-shaped arrow keys and vertical home/page up/page down keys, but the big one with extra Internet keys at the top and a built-in USB hub. That also seems impossible to find these days. I once had two of those, both of which were lost in Japan.

Lastly, I switched my keyboard layout to Dvorak which I still stick to today. Less travelling for your fingers and more comfort while typing.

With more and more Pakistanis spending more and more hours in front of the PC, carpal tunnel and RSI could become a problem, but without anyone knowing about what it is and how to prevent it, it is going to be much worse.