What Is Computer Elbow and How to Treat It?
May 10, 2021
Have you observed a tingling feeling in your elbow? Or maybe you experience continuous elbow pain when you move your arm?
These are classic symptoms of computer elbow (or mouse elbow). It’s one of the steadily increasing health issues associated with physical inactivity at work. Expect this condition to develop when you overuse your elbow joint. Repetitive actions like typing for extended periods, gripping, and squeezing your mouse/console can lead to intense muscle pain.
This article discusses computer elbow in greater detail along with recommending practical steps to alleviate pain.
The Basics: What Is Computer Elbow?
Computer elbow can be considered a modern version of tennis elbow (or lateral epicondylitis). It targets the same location (i.e. muscles and tendons of elbow joint) but develops by digitally-inclined activities rather than whacking balls around the court.
We know what you’re thinking. Working on your computer is not exactly a strenuous activity. You do not moving your arms around as you’d do in tennis or golf. Yet, if you look at the anatomical aspects of the situation, you understand why your elbow hurts.
How Does This Happen?
The overuse injury develops over time when the extensor muscles in your forearm face undue stress due to excessive wear and tear. It’s especially true for desk workers who work non-stop without stretching their muscles or taking a break. Sitting at odd angles can accelerate the situation, causing your muscles to wear down faster.
In turn, this causes your muscles and tendons to become inflamed and fatigued. They start contracting and constricting, resulting in elbow pain. It’s usually located in the outer portion of your elbow. Without intervention, the pain shoots down your forearm, often spreading to your wrist and hand.
Consequently, it can lead to further health complications.
Your best bet is to act as soon as you observe the first signs of computer elbow. Seeking immediate medical help or changing your routine can restore joint health.
Symptoms of Computer Elbow
In the beginning, you will experience mild soreness in the affected elbow. It can lead to chronic muscle fatigue, a dull throbbing, or ache. Additionally, your muscles might cramp. It may cause discomfort when you move your arm.
In extreme conditions, these symptoms escalate, causing:
· Intense burning pain
· Sharp, stabbing pain that does not subside after rest
· Numbness in hands
· Limited flexibility and range of motion
Over time, your condition will worsen. The persistent pain will make everyday activities such as typing, writing, lifting/grasping things challenging. Things can get problematic if you continue working on your desk without proper treatment.
Fortunately, investing in a standing desk setup will save you from medical bills. Other ergonomic upgrades and home remedies are equally beneficial for treatment.
Like many health issues associated with physical inactivity at work, this one requires ergonomic adjustments for treatment. The changed work routine and setup prevents further relapse and offers your affected muscles some much-needed pain relief.
If you’re dealing with a computer elbow, you need to heal before implementing ergonomic suggestions.
Here are a few recovery tips you can apply to your daily routine:
· Rest and Recreation
Get off work (if possible) and rest for a few days. If you can’t take a leave from work, reduce typing time and hours spent on digital devices. In turn, this will give strained muscles and tendons time to sufficiently heal.
· Hot and Cold Therapy
Ice the affected elbow for 5-10 minutes and then rotate it with a heating pad. It boosts blood circulation in the targeted area. You can massage the elbow to achieve a similar level of comfort and relaxation.
· Take Breaks and Stretch
Your elbow muscles and tendons tense up when you work on a computer/laptop for extended hours. Incorporate an active sitting regime within your workday to prevent extensive trauma on your elbow joints.
Do this through simple stretches and at-desk exercises after 30-minute intervals.
Apart from this, look at how you sleep. Avoid resting on the side with the affected elbow to ensure that it does not get pressed while you are sleeping.
When Should You Seek Medical Advice?
Computer elbow can have many debilitating effects on your daily life. These do not last long if you self-manage physical symptoms in the early stages. The right treatment and altered routine can cause elbow pain to subside within three-six weeks. It all depends on the severity of your condition, age, and previous elbow injuries.
Nevertheless, if the problem persists instead of improving, you must consult a medical professional. There are two options for this route. You can either visit your general physician for medical treatment. Or, you might seek advice from a physical therapist.
Both practitioners will conduct a series of physical tests and ask questions related to your current condition—these help rule out other possibilities for elbow pain.
Physiotherapists, in particular, direct you towards non-surgical treatments. They do this by developing holistic therapy plans mixed with onsite manual therapy, stimulation, and massages, and at-home exercises. Many offer ergonomic assessment plans to mitigate potential health risks or relapses.
The Best Practices to Prevent Computer Elbow & Post-Treatment Routines
Practicing workplace ergonomics is a surefire way to prevent computer elbow. Effectiveness can be possible if you upgrade your office furniture with ergonomic items. That way, your behavioral changes, and postural realignment will be supported by your work environment.
Here are a few tips and tricks you can follow:
Maintain the Perfect Posture
Hunched shoulders, slouched back, and curled fingers all contribute to elbow pain. That is because the muscle tension radiates towards the arms, causing distress. Maintaining a good posture can counter the impact of your unhealthy work habits.
All you have to do is follow workplace ergonomics:
· Place your arms at a 90° angle with your upper arms.
· Ensure that your fingers align with your forearm.
· Keep your back and neck straight.
· Place your monitor at an eye level to prevent strain.
· Keep your feet firmly pressed on the ground while the leg forms a 90°-angle.
· Your shoulders should remain relaxed while you work.
These tiny changes in how you sit and work can have a significant effect on your overall health. Consequently, you reduce the risk of developing computer elbow.
Pro-tip: The health benefits of standing desks come into play here. Not only does it promote active sitting, but its ergonomic design ensures that you maintain a proper posture. You can also use our Soutien Ergonomic Office Chair for 3D lumbar back support.
Place Your Digital Accessories Closer
Excessive use of mouse and keyboard are amongst the common causes of computer elbow. You can avoid this fate by ensuring that you do not strain too much when you use these devices.
Place your mouse at your side, preferably next to your hand. If it’s too far away or placed at a height, you will overextend your forearm when you try and reach out for it. Repeating this action numerous times can increase the risk of elbow injury.
Apart from this, your mouse should not be too small or big for your hands. Get a size that fits your hand without placing strain on your fingers and wrist muscles. Otherwise, your hand will remain tensed when your grip your mouse. Subsequently, this position affects your elbow muscles and tendons too.
The main idea is to keep your hand and forearm relaxed when you use your computer.
Keyboard placement is equally important in this situation. Place it directly in front of you, so your wrists extend in a straight line when you type. Buy a split keyboard to distribute the pressure placed on extended wrists and arms.
Moreover, make sure your wrists and fingers are not curled or bent when you type. If you want more access, move your chair or lower the back of the keyboard instead of raising it. Using a clamp-on adjustable keyboard tray can also help with placement.
Stretch and Strengthen Your Muscles
Stretches and muscle strengthening exercises are an excellent way to combat health issues associated with physical inactivity at work. We recommend taking a stretch break after every 30-45 minutes to promote blood circulation and retain flexibility.
Additionally, you can squeeze a tennis ball 20-25 times to strengthen your hand muscles.
Introducing a Standing Desk Setup to Save You from Medical Bills
Theodore Standing Desk 48” W delivers all the health benefits of a height-adjustable standing desk along with serving looks. The classy design blends well with lavish home office interiors. Additionally, its elegant style gives your workstation a sophisticated personality leaving a dull-looking desk behind.
Above all, it features a modern mechanism and design elements that keep elbow pain at bay.
· Having a desk drawer means the clutter stays inside. It minimizes muscle work required to reach the keyboard and mouse.
· The 2-button adjustable height mechanism aligns with your posture goals.
· Having a built-in charging station (with 3 USB Ports) stops you from craning your neck to check texts or overstretching your arms to answer the phone.
· Sturdy and stable construction prevents wobbling and reduces the risk of accidents.
Don’t have the budget to afford a standing desk?
Get the next best thing, a desk converter. This ergonomically designed device provides the height required to work efficiently when you stand and work with a conventional desk. These devices have ample space for a keyboard and mouse. They are also lightweight and simpler to install than advanced devices.
In a Nutshell
Computer elbow is an inevitable health problem remote workers and writers might experience in the coming months. You can treat this condition and prevent reoccurrence by making a healthier lifestyle choice. Working out, stretching, and reducing typing time are a few possible solutions.
Moreover, investing in a standing desk setup will save you from medical bills. It’s a practical way to counter the effects of computer elbow and other health issues associated with physical inactivity at work.
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