How My Sister Saved My Hands

Way back in December I had to take a break from blogging because my hands were hurting. I blamed the new laptop since that was the only new activity my hands had been engaged in. At the time I thought my hand posture was to blame, and I took some photos of my hand interacting with the trackpad to see if I could spot any problems.

one finger clicking

one finger clicking

Here is a top view of the one finger click.


And here is the side view. This motion involved pressing down on the trackpad with a single finger (usually my index finger). The sharpest pain I was experiencing was in every joint of my index finger, so I suspected this motion could be the culprit.

Another motion I performed quite a bit, mostly during photo editing, was the click-and-drag.

click and drag


Here is the top view of the click-and-drag.


And here is the side view. Some other areas where I was experiencing pain were a little less obvious. My middle finger joints also had some pain, though not as much as the index finger. My wrist was hurting, but not in the usual areas that get fatigued from knitting too long. Also, my forearm was sore. After much trial and error of moving my hands and fingers around trying to pinpoint the motions that triggered the most pain, the click-and-drag seemed to be the likeliest suspect.

After reviewing the photos, I concluded that I really need to trim my nails. I tried clicking with my finger positioned more vertical to the trackpad, which my long fingernails prevented me from doing before. That only seemed to make the middle joint of my finger hurt worse than the first joint. Other than that, I really couldn’t find any other positions that would still perform the functions I needed.

The next time I was in the Apple store I asked if there was any way to solve my ergonomics problem. Their only suggestion was to get a graphics tablet. Like I have an extra $300 lying around.

After that I tried limiting the amount of time I spent on the computer, paying particular attention to anything that required a lot of clicking. This meant I couldn’t do photo editing for more than 5 minutes at a time. Considering how much photo editing I needed to do, this was a PROBLEM.

Finally, I borrowed my sister’s Wacom Intuos tablet (I have no idea which version this is, but it’s at least 4 years old) so I could get some serious editing done.


Since my sister spends all day every day on her computer and has long since forgotten how to use a mouse, I assured her that I would limit my use of her tablet. I just performed the most taxing function in photo editing – cropping. It’s the click-and-drag on steroids. Unfortunately I had over 1,000 photos to work through, so it still took quite a while.

It was a little awkward to use on my lap, but most of the time I really can’t be bothered to do anything at the desk – there’s no TV there! – so I made it work. The software didn’t work with my Mac, so all it really did was make the clicks and click-and-drag motions easier on my hands. I still had to reach up to the keyboard to perform some of the editing functions. The newer Wacom tablets supposedly do work with Macs, so if I got a tablet for myself this wouldn’t be an issue. Sadly, I still have not found an extra $300 or so lying around.

In the process of trying to get the tablet set up on my computer I discovered something in the system preferences that the Apple store employees really should have mentioned when I asked about this months ago: I can adjust the trackpad settings so I can just tap to click! Instead of pressing down with the full force of my finger, I can just tap on the trackpad. Waaaaay easier on my hands! It still doesn’t solve the click-and-drag problem, but at least with the discovery of the tap-to-click setting it has made it so I can do small-batch photo editing (about 20 minutes at a time) without the graphics tablet. I suppose I can just keep stealing my sister’s tablet for larger batches. Preferably when she’s sleeping.