We have an employee that has recently had shoulder surgery. All of our workstations are all desktop PC's, no laptops, tablets, etc... By the end of the day, this employee has a lot of discomfort in their shoulder from moving around the mouse all day.

We have looked at the options of getting a trackball mouse, such as this one here or a USB touch-pad like this one. Having their arm extended out using the PC all day doesn't bother them that much, it's just all the rotation from using the mouse.

What other options can I look at to help this user out and ease their discomfort during the work day with their shoulder, specifically when it comes to using the mouse? Also, what other options can I present to management that could accommodate this user in the future? This is a long time employee so they will be here for the long haul.

Edit: To answer the question of what role this user performs, they are our Credit Manager for Loan Processing. So they are constantly going through forms, paperwork, switching between different screens, etc... a lot of mouse movement and keyboard usage as well.

  • No personal experience, but I've heard from colleagues that using a graphics tablet as a mouse replacement works well. I have no idea how it would affect an injured shoulder.
    – HPierce
    Mar 15, 2016 at 14:21
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    When I was temporarily disabled with a carpal tunnel issue, the company I worked for had to provide me with someone who could type for me since my doctor did not allow me to type for 6 weeks. Consider hiring a temp to do the same for this person, but first have him check with his doctor about any actual restrictions he has. It could be that he should not be working 8 hours a day.
    – HLGEM
    Mar 15, 2016 at 15:28
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    I think it is up to the employee and his doctor to find solutions that you can provide for him. How are you supposed to know what his physical and medical limits are?
    – David K
    Mar 15, 2016 at 15:33
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    If this is a developer it is generally faster to avoid the mouse as much as possible (regardless of shoulder). While this is hard to parctice in windows - it is possible in *nix. Mar 15, 2016 at 16:19
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it concerns an ergonomic issue that's not specific to navigating the workplace as defined in the help center.
    – Lilienthal
    Mar 16, 2016 at 10:14

5 Answers 5


Depending on the type of role this user is in, he/she can move into a temporary mentoring position. In a developer's world, this can be paired programming. Not sure what kind of mentoring, but that would be up to the company. Use could try a rollerball/trackball mouse, or you can have them use a mouse on their other hand, making a right-handed person use a mouse set up for the left hand. There is also a pointer/presenting mice that they could use, although it's just an idea.


If using the keyboard is not a problem, I would suggest a keyboard with a built in trackpoint, like those on thinkpads (but also available standalone like this one), it requires barely any movement from the home row position in order to move the cursor (and no shoulder movement at all). If you are unfamiliar with the trackpoint it is basically a finger operated mini joystick placed between the g and h keys, along with two thumb operated buttons below the space bar (for mouse clicks).

  • +1 I believe the issue is moving the hand from the keyboard to the mouse, which requires significant shoulder movement. Mar 15, 2016 at 20:49
  • The trackpoint can be used while keeping the shoulder entirely still--just put your finger between the G&H on your keypad and jiggle it, you'll see. The Thinkpad one doesn't even actually move, it just senses pressure.
    – jimm101
    Mar 15, 2016 at 21:07

What works best for your employee is going to depend on precisely what type of movement causes the pain, and their personal preferences and working style. That said, a trackball or touchpad isn't expensive, so it's worth trying. Even if it doesn't help this employee, chances are someone else in the office will like it, so it probably won't go to waste. You may need to try a few before you find the best one for your employee.

I would recommend the trackball over the touchpad, because I think it's easier for a (former) mouse user to become accustomed to. I used that particular trackball (the one you linked to) for years, bought several of them so I would have one for work, home, and a spare in case they became hard to find. It's my favourite of all the pointing devices I've ever used. I eventually gave them up because they seemed to interfere with a special keyboard I had, but chances are you won't have that problem.

  • I know someone who work with voice recognition for several years, while his carpal tunnel syndrome recovered. He managed to make it work. And it has gotten better since then. It won't work for everything, but, well, I dictated this note.
    – keshlam
    Mar 15, 2016 at 17:10

It would depend a lot on the type of surgery. I tore a rotator cuff and what I did was use a gaming mouse and mouse pad and turn up the sensitivity. It was still painful. For part of the day I would just use my left hand only and turn the sensitivity down. A touch pad was even worse for me. Getting up and shuffle papers is hard even using the other hand as the arm swings. He should ask his Dr. A roller ball may work. It will be very dependent on the type of surgery.


If it was me I would do one of two things.

Either give them extended sick leave with pay until they have recovered.

Or give them a laptop to use for a while. And perhaps even let them work remotely from home.

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