Mouse and keyboard use can cause finger pain. One common cause of finger pain is called trigger finger. Trigger finger is a swelling of the tendon or tendon sheath in the palm of the hand of the tendons that bend the fingers. This swelling prevents the tendon from gliding smoothly through the sheath and the "pulley" (ligament) which holds the tendon to the bone. Trigger finger occurs most frequently in the middle finger and the ring finger, but it can occur in any finger or the thumb.
- A locking, snapping, popping or catching sensation in the finger while making a fist.
- This "triggering" of the finger can be quite painful at times.
- The finger may "lock" into a bent position.
- There will most likely be pain or tenderness in the palm of the hand over the site of the pulley which holds the tendon close to the bone.
- There may be joint stiffness and pain in the affected finger.
- Repetitively gripping or bending and straightening the fingers (e.g. - mouse clicking)
- Sustained gripping (e.g. - squeezing the mouse forcefully or holding a pen in a "death grip")
- Using tools that have handles with sharp or hard edges
- Avoid repetitive grasping and releasing of objects. Modify the activity if you are unable to avoid it. Look for ergonomic mice or larger barreled pens. Change your typing style so that your fingers are relaxed on the keyboard and mouse.
- Avoid sustained grasp.
- Keep the fingers relaxed over the keyboard. Do not plant your wrist down on the wrist rest while typing as this causes excessive and stressful finger movements to reach all the keys. Rather, the wrist should glide over the wrist rest, allowing the fingers to be positioned over the keys in a relaxed manner.
- Purchase tools with padded, comfortable handles.
- Handles should have some texture for easier holding. Slippery surfaces require more forceful grasping.
- Minimize repetition. Periodically rest the hands during repetitive or stressful activity. Stretch frequently during repetitive activity.
- Slow down!
- Use the lightest grip possible (on tools, pens, the mouse, the steering wheel, etc.) that still allows you to maintain good control.
- Use the least amount of force necessary during the activity.
- Use the appropriate tool for the job.
- Use ergonomically designed tools if available (modified or padded handles, larger grips with good traction, handles with modified designs).
- Make sure that tools are in good condition and that cutting edges are sharp (reduces the force needed to use the tool).
- Alternate work activities so the hands are not performing any one task repetitively for any length of time.
Here are examples of an ergonomic mouse that can help relieve hand, wrist and elbow pain and an ergonomically designed tool (scissors) that can help take the stress off the fingers.
Marji Hajic is an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist practicing in Santa Barbara, California. For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit Hand Health Resources.