Ask DN: How you manage your work when your arm is broke?

over 5 years ago from , Creative Project Manager

Hello designers, I work in freelance for a friend of mine but I broke my right clavicle. I can barely move my arm with the mouse. How do you manage your work in moments like that? Should I learn to use my left hand? Is it long to learn gestures with the hand you don't use normally?

Thank you for sharing your experiences!


  • John PJohn P, over 5 years ago

    You don't.

    Pro-tip: Don't break your arms if you need them to make money

    7 points
    • Laurens SpangenbergLaurens Spangenberg, over 5 years ago

      Please be nice.

      9 points
      • John PJohn P, over 5 years ago (edited over 5 years ago )

        I am being nice, it's the reality especially in countries without free medical care.

        If it happens to you then you shouldn't be doing things that might damage the healing. So don't do things in the first place that could cause you to break your arms unless you can afford the time off work and medical care.

        2 points
    • Todd SielingTodd Sieling, over 5 years ago


      0 points
  • Laurens SpangenbergLaurens Spangenberg, over 5 years ago

    Perhaps it would be easier to use a trackpad? You can also use something like BetterTouchTool to make some pretty advanced trackpad gestures to get work done more efficiently. I hope your arm gets better!

    4 points
  • Todd SielingTodd Sieling, over 5 years ago

    I’m sorry to hear about the accident.

    I broke my right radius near the wrist and displaced the ulna in a bike accident in 2010.

    I'm right-handed, but I started using my left hand right away for almost everything. Believe it or not, you can get pretty adept in a short period of time. Trackpad started slowly, but got better within about a week, and within 3 weeks it started to feel natural, but it would get tired more quickly (all those years build up a lot of muscle tone on one side).

    Where things were very hard was in holding down modifier keys while performing a gesture. I never found a great way around that.

    What I did notice though was that I started using my left hand more unconsciously, like I had used my right. There are all kinds of little performative advantages that your dominant hand has, but your less dominant hand can learn over time.

    I love Lauren’s suggestion of Better Touch Tool, and would suggest exploring the accessibility options. But beyond that, besides practice, the most effective thing was to decide more carefully what I’d spend my limited movement on: which emails to write, how much to say, what things to try in other apps. You still have movement, but a tighter budget, so spend it as best you can.

    Lastly, as a freelancer, contact your clients right away and let them know what’s up and what to expect. Hopefully they will be understanding.

    Take care, work the physio they give you and more, eat well and rest lots. It’ll get better.

    2 points
    • , over 5 years ago

      Hey Todd, thanks for your advices. you're right, switching to the left hand is not complicated as I expected! For my clients it's all right, I do this in my free time and work generally for long date friends

      0 points
  • Dennis KramerDennis Kramer, over 5 years ago

    Bummer to hear! I also broke my clavicle recently. Happened 4 weeks ago on the left side, so luckily it's not my dominant arm.

    It's possible that your break is worse than mine, but after initial swelling went away, I found myself fairly capable at using the mouse and keyboard once my hand was positioned in the right spot. It took some getting used to, using my other arm to move the broken one into place, but once it was stabilized on the desk surface, I didn't notice too much discomfort using a computer.

    Hopefully you'll be able to get back to work in a day or two!

    2 points
    • , over 5 years ago

      Hey Dennis, thank you for sharing! My break is ok, I can move my shoulder and my others arm's parts, it's just my clavicle who get damaged. So yes, being in the right position is a good solution, I'm experimenting with this and switching hand, will see in the future

      0 points
  • Erik DjupvikErik Djupvik, over 5 years ago

    Can you move your thumb? If you can, you could use a trackball mouse. I've used the Logitech M570 on and off for the past year or so as I've had problems with RSI. It takes a little getting used to, but when you get the hang of it, it's pretty alright.

    0 points