Relief for RSI Sufferers
We generally don't review mice as they are about as utilitarian as a USB stick. But when you suffer from RSI or carpal tunnel syndrome your interest in these rodents is elevated to a much higher level.
The Zero Tension Mouse piqued my interest for promising to relieve the rather painful sensation of nervous tenseness in my right hand. The ZTM is not the prettiest of its species and it certainly was one of the hardest to get used to. As they say “no pain, no gain” so I struggled with the ZTM for a number of weeks. Was it all worth it?
First off, this mouse is so big it should be called a rat...
That doesn't sound too nice but it has more the dimensions of a joystick. The idea is that your hand grips the mouse like a joystick with your elbow at a 90° angle with your body. The hand should be as stationary as possible. This is indeed the most natural of hand positions, creating little or no tension in the hand or wrist muscles.
An enormous amount of research went into the subject of RSI and all other related repetitive strain injuries that come from using a mouse for many hours a day. The pioneering work in the area of overuse injuries by Dr P Michael Leahy ultimately led to the design of the ZTM.
There is a lot of background material – all most interesting – on the ZTM website http://zerotensionmouse.com/.
For an ergonomically designed mouse it didn’t feel very comfortable at the outset. I found it hard to move around, particularly to the right as the fingers don't have the same grip as with a joystick. Later on, these problems vanished completely and I find the ZTM now very comfortable. It’s all a matter of expectations and getting used to the minimal efforts needed to operate it.
Another initial problem I experienced was very poor tracking on my desk which happens to be a fairly glossy white.
I've tried my leather, black mouse mat from Piel Frama, which gave good tracking but is way too small for this rather large mouse. A larger, ordinary mouse mat became the perfect solution.
I coped with the stresses and strains of using a normal mouse by also switching to left-handed operation. You can’t do this with the ZTM. It’s strictly made for right-handed use. The one I ordered was the large model. And it IS big and blue… Transparent blue.
There’s also a version for ladies (no, not in pink, just smaller…) In the words of Morris Lukowich from ZTM: “We have recently manufactured a new small and medium ZTM model that comes in black/silver and is improved over our initial blue ZTM medium and large models. The small model will be very good for women with smaller hands.”
The way the grip is moulded allows the hand to rest in a very comfortable and non-stressed, neutral position. The standard buttons are in the proper location for the thumb, index and middle finger to operate the scroll wheel, left (top) button and right button respectively.
More functionality can easily be implemented for the ring finger and pinkie. A couple of programmable buttons below the standard two buttons would greatly help in not having to move your hand to the keyboard for Copy & Paste functions, for instance. Another obvious improvement would be to cut the umbilical cord…Yes, make the thing wireless. There’s enough room in the unit to fill it up with D-sized batteries (just kidding – I hope there will be some sort of a USB recharge way to power the beast).
Again from Morris Lukowich: “Yes, we are considering a wireless model, yet that will come after further sales of these original units.” Not everyone would want a wireless model so the two versions could happily coexist, I reckon. Talking about living together: I now have two rodents flanking my keyboard…
One for left-handed operations and the ZTM for my main work. Yes, you can see why I’m clamouring for wireless mice: the animals get entangled in their own tails… Another note worthy to mention: This mouse does not work with a PS2/USB connector. However, this should hardly be a problem for most users.
Full marks for the WTHITOYD factor (“What the heck is THAT on your desk”?)-factor. It’s obvious you can’t build a Zero Tension Mouse much smaller than the present form so it will always be big. The key factor to ask is: “Will it reduce wrist and hand pain?” That’s a very subjective issue. For me it works. I now actually enjoy using the ZTM.
Most people that I showed it too were not interested in using it as their regular mouse, which is fine. The target group is clearly those who suffer from RSI and CTS. Have a good look at the website. Make your own decision. My recommendation you already have…
The Zero Tension Mouse sells for about 80 bucks US.