Health Beat

Beware the Mouse Trap: Pointers for Safe Mouse Use

By Barbara Pottgen

For today's computer user, a "pointing device" such as a mouse or trackball has become an essential tool of the trade. Using one that fits your hand comfortably, and learning the right technique for using it, may prevent aches and pains.

Easy Reach

Positioning your mouse or trackball within easy reach can prevent shoulder pain. "Easy reach means your mouse and keyboard are positioned so that your shoulders are relaxed, your upper arms are resting at your sides and your elbows are bent with your forearms, wrists and hands approximately parallel to the floor," says UC Ergonomics Lab researcher Pete Johnson.

"You should not have to reach with your arm extended straight out or upward to use your mouse or trackball," says Johnson. "This is a common trap for those who use a keyboard tray or drawer that does not provide room for the pointing device. Mouse trays or extended keyboard trays may help you relocate your pointing device within easy reach."

Pointers on Technique

There are generally two techniques utilized by mouse and trackball users. The first, employing mainly arm-based movement, may put less strain on your wrist and forearm. The other style, resting the wrist on the desk and moving the mouse or trackball by bending the wrist, may place less strain on your shoulder. Evaluate which is most comfortable for you.

Constantly bending your hand up, down or sideways may strain tendons in your wrist, back of your hand or forearm.

"Avoid resting your wrist or forearm on the edge of the desk," Johnson recommends. "The key is to keep your wrist straight when using your pointing device." To avoid bending your wrist upwards while using your pointing device, try a padded mouse wrist rest that is the same height as the front of your mouse or track ball.

Increased force is another potential risk factor for musculoskeletal problems. "Squeezing your mouse, holding the click button for the drag function or lifting your mouse to reposition it may increase the pinch grip force you are using," says Johnson.

When mousing, keep your fingers relaxed and slightly curved. Drape your hand over your mouse and hold it lightly with all your fingers. Click as gently as possible. Remember to take your hand off your mouse or trackball when you're not using it.

If you use the drag function often, consider a mouse with a drag-lock feature that allows you to drag without holding down the button. Or use keyboard commands instead of the mouse, if possible. If you often pick up your mouse to reposition it, experiment with the mouse acceleration speed.

Tool Design

Using a mouse that fits your hand comfortably may also help you work more safely. People with smaller hands may find a smaller mouse a better fit, while those with larger hands may find a larger mouse more comfortable. Some users may want to try other pointing devices such as trackballs, tablets, touchpads, pucks, styluses and joysticks. Some of these may be harder to control and may work better for some job tasks than others.

Take a Break

Using any pointing device may be physically demanding. Take short breaks often or rotate your mouse work with different work tasks. Practice stretching exercises to rest your tendons and keep oxygen-rich blood circulating in your muscles.

"Listen to your body," advises Johnson. "If you're experiencing discomfort, try to correct the situation immediately. Minor aches and pains can turn into a persistent problem, if ignored."

Resources for Further Help

o Books on safe computer/mouse use: "The Computer User's Survival Guide" by Joan Stigliani and "The HAND Book" by Stephanie Brown. Available at local bookstores or for reference at the Tang Center Self-Care Resource Center.

o Computer and Desk Stretches: Free exercise guide. Call Health*Matters at 643-4646.

o Medical care for Berkeley faculty and staff with work-related injuries. Call the campus Occupational Health Clinic at 642-6891 for an appointment.

o Pointing device summary document by ergonomics lab researcher Pete Johnson. Includes information on alternative devices. Look for "Tips for healthy computer use" on the ergonomics lab web site:

o Workshop on safe computer use, including workstation design and stretching exercises. Next scheduled class: May 7, 10:30 a.m. to noon. Call 643-4646 to enroll. Free.

o Workstation furniture/accessories, including extended keyboard trays, mouse trays and wrist rests. Call Campus Supply at 642-1073.

Barbara Pottgen is a health educator with HEALTH*MATTERS at University Health Services and chairs the campus Ergonomics Task Force.

Next Month's Topic: "Your Back Matters"

Photos from "The HAND Book: Preventing Computer Injury" and "KeyMoves: The Software for Comfortable Computing." Reprinted courtesy of Ergonome Incorporated, New York (212) 222-9600.


New Legislation: Non-resident PensionsCan't Be Taxed

In January, President Clinton signed legislation prohibiting states from taxing retirement plan income paid to non-residents. This legislation affects distributions from the UC Retirement Plan, the Defined Contribution Plan and the Tax-Deferred 403(b) Plan paid to non-California residents.

UC Retirement System policy does not require that California state income tax be withheld from distributions paid to non-residents.

Plan participants who live outside California should contact their local taxing authority for details on how the new rules will apply.

The California Franchise Tax Board is considering the effect of this legislation on California withholding regulations and is expected to issue guidelines on the implementation of the law. UC Benefits will issue additional information as it becomes available.

The following are titles of memos recently mailed to deans, directors, department chairs and administrative officers on the chancellor's mailing lists. For copies, contact originating offices.

Deans and directors memos also are available on Infocal under "campus directives." Connect to Infocal via Gopher, WWW or telnet software at For assistance using Infocal, call 642-8507.

Questions about memos should be directed to Aileen Kim, 642-3100, or email to aileen_kim@maillink.

Feb. 15. New Acting Campus Emergency Preparedness Officer, from Victoria Harrison, chief of police and executive director for public safety and transportation.

Feb. 9. Call for Proposals:1996-97 Multicampus Research Incentive Fund, from Joseph Cerny, vice chancellor--research.

Feb. 7. Request for Outreach Efforts, from Carol T. Christ, the vice chancellor and provost.

Jan. 30. Interim Policies and Guidelines for Implementation of Regents' Resolution SP-2, from Carol T. Christ, the vice chancellor and provost, and Horace Mitchell, vice chancellor--business and administrative services.

Jan. 29. "The Promise of Berkeley" Capital Campaign Announcement, from Chancellor Tien.

Staff Enrichment

Employee Development and Training

For more information, for copies of the 1995-96 Employee Development and Training catalog or for information on how to enroll in classes, call 642-8134.

Managing and Mediating

Conflicts in the Workplace

March 13, 8:30 am-4:30 pm. For managers and supervisors only.

Participants will learn how to analyze and map workplace conflicts, select the appropriate strategy for managing them, maintain neutrality and learn supervisory mediation through role play.

Working Effectively

With Your Supervisor

March 21 and 28, 8:30 am-noon.

Through exercises, lecture and small group discussions, participants will learn strategies for effective communication, giving and receiving feedback and building bridges for an effective partnership. A panel of campus staff will share their experiences with "managing upward."

Redesigning Your Workload

March 26, 8:30 am-noon.

This class will explore methods of assessing work processes and provide tools and techniques for streamlining your workload. It also will help establish priorities, create and use schedules and lists, and learn how to handle interruptions.


For more information, a program flyer or to enroll, call 643-4646. The following classes are free of charge.


Tuesdays, March 5-19, 12-1 pm.

Find out how the body changes during menopause and identify methods to cope with symptoms. Class includes an evaluation of estrogen replacement versus hormone therapy. The last class in the series will be a support group with a CARE counselor.


March 15, noon-1 pm, 234 Hearst Gym, no enrollment necessary.

This class will offer two short stretch routines that can help relieve muscle aches and pains and boost energy. The benefits of stretching and how to incorporate stretching into the day also will be discussed.

Making VDT Workstations

User Friendly

March 12, 8 am-noon.

This class offers training for departmental VDT workstation evaluators, including the ABC's of a successful departmental VDT health and safety program and practice evaluating the basics of a VDT workstation. Also, how to set priorities in modifying VDT workstaitons.

Care Services

For more information on workshops and groups offered by Care Services or to enroll, call 643-7754.

Balancing Work and Parenting

March 5, 11 am-1 pm.

For working parents, topics will include time and financial management, communicating with colleagues and supervisors about special needs, childcare issues and communicating with your children.

New Support Group: Parenting

A Friend's or Relative's Children

March 7, 14 and 21, noon-1 pm.

For faculty and staff in custodial relationships with other people's children, including grandchildren, nieces, nephews, other family and non-relatives.


Frank C. Newman, retired associate justice of the California Supreme Court and former dean and professor emeritus at Boalt Hall, died unexpectedly Feb. 18. He was 78.

Newman was an internationally recognized authority on human rights law. In many forums--particularly at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva--he provided an important voice in major human rights concerns of the last three decades.

An inspiring teacher, Newman continued after his retirement to teach at Boalt Hall and other law schools. Many of his former students are prominent in legislative, administrative and judicial arenas.

Born in Eureka, Calif., in 1917 and raised in South Pasadena, Newman received his BA from Dartmouth College in 1938 and his LLB from Berkeley in 1941. During World War II, he served with the Office of Price Administration and as an officer in the U.S. Navy's Office of General Counsel.

He then returned to his studies, receiving his LLM in 1947 and his JSD in 1953 from Columbia University. He became a member of the Boalt Hall faculty in 1946 and served as dean from 1961 to 1966. His courses on legislation and administrative law led to his selection in 1964 as chair of the drafting and executive committees of the California Constitution Revision Commission. In 1972, the commission completed the last thorough constitutional revision.

In 1977, Newman was named to the California Supreme Court by then-Gov. Edmund Brown Jr., and served five years. On the court, he joined one of his former students--Chief Justice Rose Bird.

Newman, a civil libertarian, was widely regarded as one of the court's more liberal and free-spirited members. He voted consistently for defendants, workers and consumers.

As a scholar of human rights law, Newman introduced the emerging field to the Boalt Hall curriculum in the late 1960s. He was a frequent lecturer on the topic at many U.S. universities and around the world and had an inspired following of students and young lawyers.

Newman was named Jackson H. Ralston Professor of International Law at the law school and helped bring prominence to its library, where he developed the human rights and United Nations collections.

Newman's vehement protests against gross human rights violations in Greece and Chile helped establish the basis for United Nations procedures to respond to these problems. In 1975, he was the architect of legislation that formed the legal framework for President Carter's human rights campaigns.

He was the author of pioneer course books in the field of human rights: "International Human Rights: Problems of Law and Policy" (with Richard B. Lillich, 1979) and "International Human Rights: Law, Policy and Process" (with David S. Weissbrodt, 1990 and supplement 1994).

He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Frances, of Orinda; and a daughter, Holly Newman Daniels of Novato.

Memorial gifts may be sent to the Frank C. Newman Memorial Fund

c/o David N. Bortin Esq., P.O. Box 3479, Walnut Creek, CA 94598. The fund will be dedicated to further the cause of international human rights. Plans for a memorial service are pending.

Milton R. Stern, for 50 years a recognized leader and spokesperson for university continuing education, died Feb. 16 in St. Petersburg, Fla., of complications associated with lymphoma. He was 78.

Stern came to Berkeley in 1971 as dean of University Extension, retiring in 1991 as dean emeritus. In his retirement he was a visiting fellow of the Institute of Governmental Studies and a faculty associate of the Center for Studies in Higher Education.

Stern was widely recognized for his contributions to the practice and theory of continuing education, particularly in creative programming and innovative marketing. His particular gift was his ability to define the appropriate role for continuing education in American higher education. He coined the term "60-year curriculum" to express the appropriate conception of "post-tertiary" education. In a recent commencement address to graduates of Tulane University, he declared the degree received by each graduate as the equivalent of a "permanent incomplete," emphasizing the importance of continuing education in the lives of the well educated.

Stern frequently was honored for his contributions to higher education and was the recipient of several honorary degrees and national and international awards.

He is survived by his wife, Isabel Andrews Singer of Sarasota, Fla., and four daughters.

Sociologist John A. Clausen, who spent much of his career directing one of the world's longest running studies of human lives, died of cancer Feb. 15 at age 81.

Upon his arrival at Berkeley in 1960 as professor of sociology and director of the Institute of Human Development, Claussen took over three longitudinal research studies begun in the 1920s and '30s. The studies followed the lives of almost 300 men and women, culminating in Claussen's 1993 book. "American Lives: Looking Back at the Children of the Great Depression."

The work provided important evidence that competence in adolescence--dependability, self-confidence and intellectual investment--predicts favorable outcomes in life.

Prior to Berkeley, Clausen taught at Cornell, then joined the staff of the newly established National Institute of Mental Health, where his research focused on schizophrenia and the impact of mental illness on families. At Berkeley, his research shifted to socialization and the life course.

Claussen served as chair of the sociology department from 1976 to 1979. Upon his retirement as professor emeritus in 1982, he received the Berkeley Citation. He also received several top national awards from the American Sociological Association.

His wife of 54 years, Suzanne, died in 1993. He is survived by three sons and three grandchildren.


Copyright 1996, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
Comments? E-mail