Often, the first sign of RSI is in the mousing hand. We may not realize it, but over years of mousing millions of clicks add up.
There are three main ways that mice can cause problems in your wrist and forearm:
- Tendinitis (and later tendinosis) in the flexor tendons on the bottom part of your forearm (these tendons are involved in the clicking motions for your index finger and middle finger)
- Carpal tunnel syndrome, where the tendons in your wrist right below the thumb become inflamed and squeeze on the nerve that passes through the small opening called the carpal tunnel.
- Mouse shoulder, also known as rotator cuff tendinitis, is caused by repeatedly moving your hand from the keyboard to the right or left for the mouse.
It appears the folks at Contour have set out to solve all three of these problems at once with this new ergonomic mouse, and I think they have mostly succeeded.
What is the Contour Rollermouse?
The Rollermouse is unlike any mouse you have ever used. It is an ergonomic mouse that fits just in front of your keyboard.
With a normal mouse, you move the cursor by pushing the mouse around the desk surface. With the roller mouse, you move the cursor by rolling your fingers across a roller on the very top edge. The action is very much like rolling a pencil across a tabletop, except that the pencil in this case does not move.
Rolling your fingers forward moves the cursor up, moving them back moves the cursor down, and left to right movement is accomplished by sliding the roller along a metal rail.
The rolling action is incredibly smooth and incredibly precise. I didn’t notice any loss in precision when switching from my Logitech mouse man optical, although I wouldn’t recommend it for gaming such as first-person shooters. The roller material is rubbery and grips well without feeling sticky, and the metal rail itself is smooth enough that the left right motion feels as if it is oiled.
If you find yourself stuck on one side of the screen (say, your cursor is on the left and your roller is all the way to the right), you can fix the problem easily by sliding the roller to the end of the rail. You will hear (and feel) a gentle click, and the cursor will skip to that side of the screen.
I’m going to say the roller mouse has 3+2 buttons.
The three main buttons are positioned in the center and are meant to be used by the left and right thumb. The buttons are large and are arranged in a semicircle with the left click button on the left, the right-click button on the right, and a button in the middle that performs a double-click. The double-click button is just awesome, and I can’t quite figure out why more mice don’t incorporate this feature.
The other two buttons are sort of hidden buttons. The scroll wheel, right above the double-click button, is clickable and operates the scroll lock function, which I never found very useful.
Also, the main roller bar is clickable, and when pressed down performs a left click. This is a really useful feature generally, but I think RSI sufferers will avoid it, as I did. It essentially uses the same motion in the same muscles and tendons as clicking a mouse. The roller mouse does have a toggle switch on the bottom that allows you to set the amount of force required to click the main roller bar, but even on the lightest setting I think it is counterproductive.
The construction is solid, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say you could use it in a mobile environment, as the main roller bar slides back and forth pretty easily when carried.
The included detachable wrist rest is very comfortable, neither too soft nor too hard. I highly recommend using it because it very effectively prevents you from using “the claw”.
The tactile feedback on the buttons is crisp, which is great for those of you who like that kind of thing. I think it is a bit too much, especially for RSI sufferers, and I worry a little bit about the possibility of thumb related RSI (i.e. Blackberry thumb). Just to be careful, I use it in rotation with a Wacom Bamboo Pen Tablet.
The learning curve is very easy. I found that it took me a couple of days to get comfortable with positioning the cursor, and about a day to get used to the button placement.
I highly recommend the Contour RollerMouse Free2 as a solution to mouse related RSI problems. Although the strong tactile feedback keeps me from giving it a perfect score, it still manages to solve the three main causes of mouse related RSI symptoms.
- Solves all three causes of mouse related RSI
- Sturdy construction and smooth operation
- Precision is as good as most mice
- Easy learning curve
- Included optional wrist rest
- Tactile feedback on the buttons is a bit too strong