Musculoskeletal disorders, what a pain in a digital artist’s neck! Here’s my story of how the ergonomic roller mouse and arm support fixed the soreness in my arms and shoulders.
I was fed up. Fed up with regular phases of soreness in my right upper arm, somewhere around the triceps.
I figured the problem had to be somehow connected to me drawing on the monitor. The longer my illustration sessions, the worse the arm got. No amount of exercise and stretching alleviated the symptoms.
I stopped to think about my problem. To figure out the root cause.
I realised I tended to put a lot of weight against my wrist while drawing. And that was because my elbow had nothing to rest on.
I knew that the triceps is responsible for extending the elbow. So while my wrist rested on the monitor, the triceps was a full time employee, constantly resisting the weight my wrist was taking on.
That’s not how it’s supposed to be. My elbow should participate in taking on some of that weight. For that to happen, it needed a proper place to rest on. An arm support sounded like the answer.
Came for an arm support – left with a roller mouse in tow
I started searching for my arm’s salvation. With home offices becoming increasingly common, the consumer market is rife with affordable ergonomics options.
(Maybe a bit too rife.)
While figuring out my ideal arm support among all the options, one particular product caught my attention. It was a bundle pack, containing a U-shaped padded arm support – and a roller mouse.
I remembered an old colleague using such a mouse. Her wrists resting comfortably just next to the device, while her fingers worked on rolling and sliding the cylinder in the middle.
Inspiration hit me.
I had also been suffering from a stubborn stiffness somewhere around my left shoulder. That was definitely connected to using a mouse with my left hand, I thought. (I’m right-handed, but I use the mouse left-handed to even out the strain.)
I grip a lot when I use that mouse. Partly because it’s shaped for right-handed use, partly because it’s heavy. It didn’t help either that I had little room on the desk to move the mouse. I had to raise it often to “reset” its location on the mat, gripping it tightly every single time.
Believe it or not, your shoulders participate quite a lot in what you do with your hands and arms. Gripping is one of such instances.
That’s how I became the owner of the arm support and roller mouse bundle.
(If you’re curious about the specific product, the bundle is called RollerMouse Red Max.)
Arm support – my arm’s saviour
The arm support I got in the bundle is very sturdy. It fixed itself easily and firmly on our thin Ikea table. It has soft padding and a lot of room for my elbows to rest on.
Its most immediate benefit was little surprising to me: it puts more distance between me and the computer screen. Now it’s even harder to stare at the screen too close, which is a good thing. Eyes get to relax better when they can look at things farther away.
I’ve also noticed that I’ve become more motivated to stand at my desk. The U shape makes it easier to support more of my weight on my elbows, which makes extended periods of standing more comfortable. That said, sitting is also more pleasant with the new support.
But that’s enough about the secondary benefits. What about my sore upper arm?
That soreness has vanished. Almost completely. Now that my elbow can rest properly on the soft pad, the triceps doesn’t have to work so much anymore. The triceps is very pleased.
However, I did say that the soreness is almost completely gone. That’s because it tends to come back whenever I accidentally work with my elbow off the pad. But that problem is on me. I don’t always bother rotating the view on the screen into a more ideal angle for myself, which causes my arm to turn into wonky angles sometimes.
I just need to be mindful of that. And keep training myself to always adjust the view to my body – not my body to the view!
Roller mouse – no more unnecessary gripping
Now, on to the roller mouse. First off, I’m very happy about how firmly it stays in place, wedged between the arm support and the desk. No amount of even the most intense moments of flicking and clicking will budge it – and I love that!
The control scheme is substantially different compared to a traditional mouse. However, it didn’t take me too long to get used to the controls. Might be because the controls are reminiscent of the trackpad and mouse buttons I’ve used on my old laptop.
But enough about the tech; what about my stubborn shoulder stiffs? Well, I’ll just repeat what I said to Gheralf after two days of using the roller mouse: it was frightening how fast the stiffness in my shoulder had vanished. I was overjoyed!
Now, the same applies here as it did with the arm support; I need to be mindful of bad habits. The stiffness tends to creep back whenever my posture is too one-sided, so I need to pay better attention to keeping a more balanced pose.
A perfect fit for a busy artist
But that’s not all! The roller mouse brought along some additional benefits. And they are very significant!
First, the device has whopping six programmable buttons. In addition to a regular mouse click, I can now very easily access the “copy” and “paste” shortcuts, as well as my main modifier keys. I don’t need to reach for the keyboard so much anymore, so my work efficiency has improved as a result.
The second benefit, which has also sped up my work, is the insanely fast cursor tracking speed. The setting has a range from a snail’s pace to lightning fast, and I’m pretty close to the latter right now. My cursor zooms through the screen and between apps so quickly that most of my routine tasks have become substantially less time-consuming!
The third and last benefit is that the roller mouse compliments my a digital art station perfectly. I have it snuggly right between the arm support and the drawing monitor, which makes the mouse very easy to access at all times. I like to switch between the pen and the mouse often, because some tasks require more precision than a pen in my wobbly hand can muster.
In conclusion: pricy, but worthy investment
With all the praise I threw at both the arm support and the roller mouse, my conclusion won’t be at all surprising. I had made a very good choice.
The bundle suited my needs perfectly. The arm support got rid of the recurrent pain in my drawing arm. My shoulder stopped its stubborn stiffness when I switched to the roller mouse.
Admittedly, the investment was a bit pricey (as ergonomic solutions tend to be). The purchase set me back by roughly 330 euros, which is about 390 USD. Still, compared to the quality of life improvements I got in return – not to mention the potential of evading costly treatments later on – I’d say the price was more than fair.
If my experience resonated with you, absolutely consider looking up arm supports and roller mice! There are many alternatives out there, so I recommend you do some research first. You might find a solution that’s even more perfect for you!