Use these ten Ergonomic, muscle health and self-help treatment tactics to break your Computer Elbow or wrist pain cycle
Do you have pain in your elbow, wrist or hand – due to your computer, tablet or phone use?...
You may have Mouse Elbow, Computer Elbow or Computer Wrist – Is there REALLY such a thing? Absolutely – (Although it usually goes by other, more technical names!)
And regardless whether you're just starting to feel discomfort – OR have been in pain for months or longer, this resource will help you take the right steps toward:
- Breaking the vicious cycle of muscle tension + imbalance that's causing you pain,
- Recovering fully if you're injured or at risk of injury, AND
- Preventing your injury from recurring…
Here are the 3 essential areas you need to address as a computer pain sufferer – You'll get 3 key tips in each area + 1 powerful extra at the end, for a total of 10.
(The video above is strictly about the first three tips, which are all ergonomic adjustments having to do with keyboard types, alignment and mouse positioning. Self-care tips are in the post below.)
Outline / Table Of Contents
Part One: Optimize Your Ergonomics – Align your equipment with your body and improve your work habits Part 1
- Get a narrow keyboard
- Use a quality keyboard tray
- Remove “supports” and avoid contact points
Part Two: Boost Your Self Care – Rest, nutrition, hydration, stretching and exercise Part 2
- Stretch and exercise more
- Get more rest and relaxation
- Optimize your nutrition
Part Three: Get The Right Treatment – What to do and what NOT to do when it comes to treatment Part 3
- Avoid the typical treatment mistakes!
- Get Massage Therapy or other Bodywork
- Learn self-massage Techniques
AND, IF you definitely have Mouse / Computer / Tennis Elbow – (There's probably a 90% chance it's Golfer's or Tennis Elbow)...
- Consider enrolling in Tennis Elbow Classroom and start using the best Tennis and Golfer's Elbow self-help program available anyswhere!
Podcast: 3 Key Ergo Tips For Computer-Related Wrist And Elbow Pain
Like the video, this podcast covers the first three suggestions, which are all ergonomic tips – The "Big Three" adjustments that have benefited me tremendously over the years with all the time I've spent on my computer, which is pretty substantial! (I produce and edit all the content on this site, myself.)
(You can download this podcast episode, play it later and keep it if you want.) Just click the "download" link below or button above on the player - And please subscribe on your favorite platform:
What Is Mouse Elbow Or Computer Elbow?
First of all, what is "Mouse Elbow" or Computer Wrist / Elbow?
These are simply the non-technical ways of referring to a couple of problems that are clinically classified as Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs.)
Assuming the injury is the result of months or even years of accumulated patterns of tension, stress and overloaded tissues from computer, tablet or Smart Phone use.
Mouse Elbow most often turns out to be either:
Tennis Elbow – If it's the OUTER elbow (Technically Lateral Epicondylopathy) OR...
Golfer's Elbow – If it's the INNER elbow (Technically Medial Epicondylopathy)
And, once in a while, something nerve-related, like Cubital Tunnel Syndrome – or, less likely, part of a Carpal Tunnel Syndrome injury.
Here's more on the overall treatment strategy for Tennis Elbow / Mouse Elbow
On the milder side, the symptoms of Mouse Elbow can be:
- Chronic muscle fatigue and/or soreness,
- Persistent muscle tension that won't subside with rest,
- A dull and/or throbbing muscle or tendon ache
And on the extreme side, symptoms can be:
- A more intense, burning pain,
- Sharp, stabbing pain – more serious if in the tendons,
- Nervy tingling, pain or numbness
And with these kinds of RSIs / 'Overuse Injuries' it's not uncommon to also have pain in your neck, shoulders and upper arms (in addition to your elbows or hands.)
PART ONE: Optimize Your Ergonomics
In this section you're going to get key suggestions on aligning your computer keyboard, mouse and monitor to your body and improving your work (or leisure) habits.
Basic Workstation Ergonomics – For The Office Or Home
I'm not going to exhaustively cover every possible factor here – Instead I'm going to focus on what I believe are the key factors that most people may need to address.
The 90/90/90 Rule
Ideally, we want our knees, hips and elbows to be at a 90 degree angle – OR slightly greater.
(A greater angle, meaning closer to straight. A lessor angle means sharper, acute or bent.)
Sitting in a chair that fits well, with good back support (and NO arm rests! More on that later.)
Feet on the floor or a foot rest, knees around 90 degrees (which is the least important angle)
Hips at 90 degrees (which may be the most important joint angle) Try really, really hard to sit up straight and break your slumping habit if you have one!
(Because it's really hard to have good alignment in the upper body if one isn't sitting properly.)
Arms HANGING from the shoulders so the elbows are right at the side of the body and not out from the side of the body or in front of it
Elbows at 90 degrees or slightly more – This is very important, in order to allow the wrists to be straight or as close to straight as possible.
With hands and fingers ideally SUSPENDED over the keyboard with NO contact points…
Except fingers on the keys and the mouse hand where it touches the mouse pad.
And the mouse should be as close to the keyboard as you can get it…
You should never have to reach forward or out to the side for your mouse (see advantages of the narrow keyboard below)
If the type of mouse or pointing device itself is a source of trouble there are many different options available to try:
- The Vertical Mouse
- Trackballs and Touchpads
But the LOCATION / positioning of your mouse or other pointing device is the most important factor – Critically important!
And whether you have a keyboard tray or your keyboard and mouse sit on a desk, you ideally want them both right in front of you.
Right THERE in front of you – Again, no reaching forward for either keys or mouse – or out to the side for the mouse.
If your arms are not hanging straight down – and your elbows are not at your side, then move your chair closer to your desk, pull your keyboard tray out (if you have one) or slide your keyboard and mouse closer to the edge of the desk.
TIP 1: Get a "narrow" keyboard and bring that mouse in closer
I'm a big advocate of the keyboard tray, but the most important Ergonomic tactical change I ever made was to toss the regular keyboard and switch to a narrow one.
This could easily be the simplest adjustment and cheapest hack you could make…
A narrow keyboard is one where the number pad and other extra keys to the side of the alphabet, shift and enter keys, (most often the Right side – Unless you have a Left-handed keyboard) are ommited.
WORKAROUND: If you do a lot of number crunching / data entry, just get a separate, detached number pad to use for those specific tasks, and then move it aside to make room for your mouse the rest of the time.
By “getting rid of” that extraneous (for most users) 3-4 inches – and, on some keyboards, up to SIX inches of extra crap!…
You are able to bring your mouse in 3-6 inches closer to the ideal alignment with your shoulder – which is right in front of it.
Here's what it looks like if you have a typical, full-sized keyboard with all the extra garbage on the side – forcing you to reach out to the side, away from your body and not allowing your arm to simply hang from your shoulder, naturally:
That may be especially helpful IF your problem is more that your dominant / mouse hand is hurting you – whether at the wrist, elbow or even your shoulder (and you have a full-sized keyboard with all the extra keys on THAT side, whether Right or Left.)
(If it's your other hand/elbow that's bothering you more or it's both equally, this may not be as critical for you, but it's still a good idea for most as a preventative measure to lessen the strain.)
TIP 2: Get a quality Keyboard Tray
As I alluded to earlier, I'm a big fan of the keyboard tray. I have one at my clinic and one in my home office, both made by Workrite.
Here's a Workrite Keyboard Tray very similar to mine - (There should be a picture of it - with a narrow keyboard on it! - in my G+ post below)
This one apparently costs a little more than $200. (No affiliate connection. Just sharing the love.) I paid roughly that much years ago, and it has been one of the best investments I've ever made!
It makes the most sense if you mainly sit at a desk - but if you stand half the time or more at a sit/stand desk, it may not make sense for you. (And it does require installation, FYI.)
5 things that are great about a keyboard tray:
- Because it's thin and adjustable, you can get that keyboard and mouse less than half an inch from your lap – That allows you to have your elbows at a greater-than-90-degree angle (straighter) – More like 100-120 degrees (straighter is better for your muscles and circulation)
- And if you can add the slight negative tilt – (away from you) that makes it easier to keep your wrists straight, and your hands lined up with your forearms without any bending.
- Since the keyboard is practically in your lap if you lower the tray as far as it goes or raise your chair to meet it, it makes it easier to keep your hands “suspended” over the keys – without resting your wrists on either the wrist rest/pad if you have one
- It allows you to easily slide forward or back – (all good keyboard trays slide in and out) to get closer or further away from your monitor or desk, as needed.
- And it leaves you with a lot more space free on your desk for writing or paperwork!
TIP 3: Remove “supports” and avoid “contact points”
One of the worst fallacies – leading to some of the biggest ergo mistakes – is the myth of “support!”
There are all KINDS of rests, pads and “supports” out there and they are all a terrible idea, in my opinion and in the opinion of many experts, including Ergonomic Consultants.
- No Armrests – Lower (if possible) or take them off the chair!
- No wrist contact with wrist pads – or so-called “wrist supports”
- Wrist pads are especially bad in front of the mouse – because they put pressure on the wrist and finger tendons right above the Carpal Tunnel: Toss them!
- ABSOLUTELY NO resting on any kind of hard edge or surface – especially not the hard edge of a desk or laptop.
(Resting your hands on rests/pads in front of the keyboard when not typing is a “misdemeanor” and something I do myself, admittedly. Having a pad or rest in front of your mouse is the “felony!”)
WHY are “rests” and “supports” bad? The problem is twofold:
Because your hands and arms are meant to hang – and MOVE from – your shoulders!
It's natural/functional biomechanics – IE: How your body is meant to move.
Your hands and elbows are not meant to be “supported” from below, like your hips and knees are supported by your feet and ankles.
That's not how arms naturally function!
And because any pressure on the surface, as your muscles and tendons are moving back and forth, under the surface tends to cause a drop in circulation and too much friction, leading to adhesion formation.
As adhesions form in your tissues they become more and more restricted and less and less mobile.
Which is one of the largest factors at the root of these kinds of Repetitive Strain Injuries, as far as I can see.
Other Ergonomic Considerations And Suggestions
“Raised Back” Keyboards
Using a keyboard with a “raised back” causing it to tilt toward you is another mistake.
It forces your wrists into extension and you get more unnecessary friction at the your wrist joints, potentially leading to faster adhesion formation and irritation.
Having your keyboard tilt AWAY from you, however, can sometimes be a good thing, but that's generally only when you're using a keyboard tray.
A good chair is one of the most important tools a computer user has.
Don't hesitate to invest in a good one if you mostly sit at your desk. Find on that truly fits you.
And it's not a decorative piece of furniture – It's your health, comfort and productivity we're talking about here.
It kills me to see people sitting on $99. chairs – in front of $2000-$3000. computers!
(Or $1500. chairs that are more fashion than function.)
There are those who have sit/stand desks who stand most of the time and swear by it.
That is certainly a more natural / functional way to work, since we're not meant to sit on our Gluteus Maximus Muscles, either!
If you're comfortable standing in one place for significant periods of time then consider trying it. Standing is so much healthier than sitting!
Here's a simple and fairly affordable solution that sits on top of an existing desk and doesn't require a motor to move it up and down (like the more expensive options.)
(Personally, I'd rather have a root canal or listen to a politician speak than stand in one spot and do anything, though – so to each his own!)
Laptops Suck – When Used "As Is"
Ergonomically speaking, laptop/notebooks really stink! - Especially if you use one to get some work done or surf the web in bed at night!
But even if you're not making that terrible transgression (and, whatever you do, STOP - if you are!) there is an inherent flaw with the notebook computer...
- You either have it so the screen is at the right height for your eyes and neck…
- OR you have it at the right height for typing – (Which is what almost everyone does.)
Hey, why would we call it a “Laptop,” otherwise? However…
It's easy enough to use an external keyboard and then raise the laptop itself to the proper screen height, which is where the top of the screen is at eye level (see above/below )
This can be done esthetically and highly practically, although more expensively, with a 'docking station' (which has power, USB and other cable connections, so you just pull the laptop out and go without needing to disconnect cables)…
Or less expensively and still esthetically with a plain laptop holder, which just holds it in place in such a way that it's opened way up and at an angle with the screen up high at the proper eye level…
Or inexpensively (but not so esthetically!) by simply putting the laptop on top of a box or any convenient riser – On a table or desktop, of course…
Although the screen will end up being further away from you than you may otherwise need and like.
Monitor / Screen Height
The top edge of your screen or monitor should be level with your eyes when sitting up straight and looking straight ahead with a level head.
Why? Because that will put the center of the screen at what is considered natural 'gaze level'
It's natural to look slightly down – Not perfectly level and straight ahead.
Think about where you look when you walk…
No, NOT at your little screen on your phone! – Please, don't walk and text! (Although, that's not as bad as texting while driving.)
You naturally look mostly forward – but a little bit down, to see ahead to where you're about to walk.
However, every degree down from that optimal angle puts increasing stress on your head and neck muscles, as they work harder and harder to support that big head of yours!
(We all have heavy heads and when they are forward from our necks, they are out of alignment with the spine and out of balance with gravity.)
In time, this forward-head posture and “looking down” all the time can become really devastating to the joints of the Cervical Spine and the muscles of the head and neck.
A lot of headaches and chronic neck pain result from this – and it's not good for the arms, either, because we tend to slouch and get round-shouldered when our head and necks are in this position.
Ergonomics is only “half the battle” however – Or, in this case, one third of it… Let's move on now to self care...
PART TWO: Boosting Your Self Care Routine
How do you take care of your body when you're NOT working?
Are you eating right, getting enough rest and taking good care of your muscles by stretching and exercising?
These are the key areas we're going to cover in this section...
TIP 4: Take good care of your muscles by stretching often and exercising regularly
Stretching frequently throughout the day – especially while working at your computer is one of the simplest ways to relieve muscle tension.
As a general rule of thumb, try to stretch your wrists in both directions for 30 seconds or so per arm – Every 20-30 minutes that you're in front of a computer.
If you're holding a tablet this is even more critical.
Try to put your iPad/tablet down every every 20-30 minutes and stretch your wrists as well as moving your arms around and rolling your shoulders a few times.
And try to get a little more stretching in in the morning before you start work and after you exercise, which is our next topic:
You're getting at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each day, aren't you?
30 minutes of vigorous exercise each day is essential for not just your heart health and overall well being, but also for the circulation to your extremities.
If you're not getting enough cardio exercise, increasing that should help with your Mouse Elbow or computer-related pain.
Full body exercise that involves your arms, like swimming, running or simply brisk walking or hiking will probably be a lot more beneficial for you than biking.
Biking, whether road, mountain or stationary, unfortunately involves too much static gripping of the handlebars and too little upper-body movement to be helpful when you have a wrist or elbow problem.
Because of all that static holding it's more likely to do more harm than good.
Then, take it to the next level by adding:
Upper Body Strength-Training
One of the most powerful things you can do to combat and prevent recurrences of Mouse Elbow and other types of computer-related pain, is upper-body strength training.
It depends on how much discomfort you're in and whether you have a full-blown injury, of course…
If you have a significant injury you're currently recovering from, you may need to wait to begin strength training.And, if you have or are still recovering from Mouse / Tennis Elbow, then there are some exercises you may want to avoid until you're fully recovered
But I have to say,
95% of the computer-related pain I experienced 15-20 years ago, was undoubtedly due to my weakened physical condition.
I lacked upper-body strength (and the benefits that come from regular strength training of all muscles)
Now that I have an exercise routine that has added over 30 pounds of muscle mass to my body (I was pretty underweight back then!)…
I don't experience any significant symptoms from working way too long at my computer, beyond some temporary muscle stiffness.
(4 long days over the long Thanksgiving weekend writing this, for example!)
Whereas, back then, my computer work often caused me a lot of pain – Even utilizing many, if not most of the tips and tactics in this article!
Which has made me realize that millions of people – Men and Women – are in that boat right now:
Not exercising enough – Or not doing any upper-body strength training / weight lifting at all!
You don't necessarily need to join a gym and do bench presses with big iron or other “power moves”
Just doing a few exercises 2-5 times a week using your own weights and/or stretch bands, covering your major upper-body muscles…
Taking those muscles through their range of motion against moderate resistance – Even if it feels pretty easy and comfortable – will be highly beneficial...
Whatever is right for you and your body!…
Tip 5: Try to get more rest! (Sleep, breaks and recovery time)
Are you getting enough sleep, rest and recovery time?
In this age, we go from working on a computer to checking our personal email and social on our phones on our breaks…
Walking around, looking down instead of forward, stroking our screens – On the go...
To surfing the web on our tablets and laptops while lying on the couch in the evenings…
And worst of all…
Taking our devices to bed with us to surf, read and “stay connected” - and then, for all too many, not getting enough sleep!
THIS isn't rest! Where is the downtime for healing and recharging?
Prior to being in pain – or suffering a full-blown Repetitive Strain injury…
Most of us are simply unaware of the tension, fatigue and stress that's gradually building up in our bodies.
It sneaks up on us so insidiously!
But it's real – It hurts us in time – And we need to take more breaks for recovery.
I know it's hard to disconnect.
Even if we spend most of our workday in front of a “work screen,” we still want to come home and switch to our “fun screen” to do whatever it is that we enjoy!
Whatever you do, though, try to draw the line in the bedroom!…
Don't take your phone, tablet or, worst of all, your laptop to bed with you.
There's too much evidence that it can be disruptive to your sleep to do that. It's twofold:
- Engaging in mental activity at night can prevent the mind (and, as a result, the body) from winding down
- And the blue/white-spectrum light from the device, by stimulating to the retina, signals the brain that it's still daytime and not time to sleep yet
And there's no substitute for sleep.
Most of our healing, repair – Recharge and regeneration happens while we are sleeping.
And one of the easiest things we can do to lesson the load on our bodies when we have Computer or Mouse Elbow is to get more sleep.
At LEAST 8 hours – No cheating!
Tip 6: Optimize Your Nutrition And Stay Hydrated
Yes!... I know that the question of diet, nutrition and hydration may seem somewhat removed from the issue AT HAND!
But this IS an important area where there's a lot of room for improvement for many people with computer-related pain and injury.
Chances are, if you don't have a very good diet and you're overweight you don't need me to tell you that you'd probably be a lot better off if you ate healthier and lost some weight.
I certainly empathize with you if you have a highly sedentary job that's “feeding” the problem, though.
I'm not a nutritionist, so I'm just going to touch on a couple of things that I think are important.
Vitamins C and D
Vitamin C is very important because you need it in order to synthesize new collagen.
Collagen is the most common protein in the body – (It's what our tendons, and many other 'Connective Tissues' are mostly composed of)…
AND we need to be able to make new collage to repair all those tissues when they are injured or simply to regenerate and strengthen them.
Vitamin D is essential for many different things related to bone, joint and tendon/ligament health.
However, evidence suggests that up to HALF the population may not be getting enough of it:
“Vitamin D insufficiency affects almost 50% of the population...”
“An estimated 1 billion people worldwide, across all ethnicities and age groups, have a vitamin D deficiency (VDD).”
See my post here on this site about vitamins and Tennis Elbow, especially the section on:
Nutrition, Vitamins C and D and Tendon Healing
And this is purely anecdotal, but I've noticed huge benefits in my muscle and tendon recovery times (less soreness and quicker resolution of soreness) after workouts in the winter months since I began supplementing with 2-4000 units of D3 daily during the darker months.
Staying hydrated is an important factor in our muscular health.
AND for our bodies' health and good function, in general!
It keeps the waste products of our metabolism and muscular activity moving out and our tissue lubricated.
The human body is over 60% water, after all!
Try to keep a bottle or glass of water with you at your computer at all times.
And get up and get more whenever you run out.
Admittedly, one of my challenges can be staying hydrated while working at my computer.
I often drink all my water up and wait too long to get up, take a break and get another glass.
Some people say they don't want to drink more water because they'll have to get up more often to go to the bathroom…
But this is actually an advantage – not a disadvantage – anything that regularly “nudges” us to get up and take a break can be a good thing!
Alcohol may be enjoyable and it may help us relax, but it's not our friend if we have muscle and tendon pain – or an outright injury.
Alcohol is a toxic drug that's very hard on the liver, as everyone knows…
But the other key thing to keep in mind is that it is a very strong irritant.
Any irritation in the body will tend to be exacerbated by alcohols presence in the bloodstream.
While alcohol is circulating is not when we experience the effect, though.
Since it's a central nervous system depressant, we become numb to it's immediate effects on our muscles and tendons…
And it's a vasodilator (opens and expands capillaries) increasing blood flow and relaxing our muscles.
But then there's a “rebound” constricting effect later on, when it wears off, and then things don't feel so great.
Alcohol is also a diuretic, causing dehydration, which worsens the state of things in our tissues.
Caffeine is a powerful drug that stresses the body in several different ways, leading to increased muscle tension and often muscle-related pain.
Caffeine's Effects are Long-Lasting and Compound Stress
“A study by researchers at Duke University Medical Center shows that caffeine taken in the morning has effects on the body that persist until bedtime and amplifies stress consistently throughout the day.”
Paradoxically, Caffeine can also help temporarily relieve some kinds of pain...
And it's a very common ingredient in over-the-counter pain medications, as it can also help speed the delivery of the other drugs in the medication.
Stimulant – Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that increases your heart rate and blood pressure
Diuretic – It depletes water from your body potentially causing dehydration
Toxic – Like all drugs it is toxic, and so are many of the other components of coffee (Green Tea is much, much healthier)
Coffee is also very acidic.
The worst thing about Caffeine when we have muscle-related pain is that it causes involuntary muscular activity – In the form of tension and twitching.
And the more Caffeine we consume the more tension builds up.
PART THREE: Get The Right Treatment For Your Mouse Elbow
If you only have very mild, fleeting symptoms that come and go; a little stiffness or soreness that resolves with a good nights sleep, for instance, you may not need this section…
You may only need to follow some of the tips in the previous two sections; optimizing your ergonomics and improving your habits and self care.
However, if you have more than what seem to be mild, early-warning signs…
More than just a little, temporary stiffness or soreness…
IF you have stubbornly persistent muscle tension, soreness or fatigue – Or recurring bouts of outright pain, whether dull or sharp…
Or you already KNOW you have a “full-blown” Mouse Elbow or other Repetitive Stress Injury, then keep reading...
See your Doctor (if you feel it's necessary) – However, at the same time...
Be realistic that conventional, 'Allopathic Medicine' does not have the greatest track record with these kinds of muscle/tendon injuries and pain patterns.
In my opinion, (admittedly a biased one!) conventional medicine's approach to these problems is a disaster.
What you're going to get is largely symptom “chasing” and suppression.
And, if you want REAL treatment for the underlying problem (in the muscles and tendons) you're probably going to have to look elsewhere.
So, this section is devoted to helping you find treatment for your injury – OR treat yourself!
But, first off, here's what NOT to do!
Tip 7: Avoid making all the “usual” treatment blunders and mistakes that everyone else makes
The standard treatments for these kinds of things (especially if tendon-related, which is highly likely) are probably going to sound appealing to you, at first
And it's VERY easy to fall into the trap of following the common wisdom.
You will read and be told by almost everyone that the way to treat Mouse Elbow, which usually = Golfer's or Tennis Elbow is to:
- Take anti-inflammatories, – to “fight” inflammation
- Apply ice or cold packs – also to “reduce” inflammation,
- Rub lotions on the area – (for the same misguided reason)
- Wear a brace or other “support” – to “protect” the area,
- Get a Cortisone Shot – as a desperate measure if the first 4 don't work.
- And even consider surgery – as a “last resort” when all else seems to fail!
But please don't just accept this at face value – without questioning the rational for this approach…
You will naturally find the usual treatments have an innately alluringly appeal, because they intuitively “look” correct at first glance.
(Like the enticing shimmer of light reflecting off the shiny lure, which turns out to the hungry fish to be a cold, piercing hook when bitten.)
AND these “remedies” usually provide some measure of temporary relief, making you FEEL better, lulling you into a false sense that things are GETTING better…
But these so-called treatments provide relief largely by suppressing symptoms – Not by correcting the underlying problem and helping the injury heal.
Pills, ice and Cortisone shots are all directed at supposed inflammation…
And inflammation just plain “sounds bad” – Something you surely don't want that tends to hurt…
BUT inflammation is unfairly demonized.
The truth is, inflammation is a natural, necessary part of your healing process, and your body isn't stupid.
If you cut yourself or damage your tissues in any way, there will be inflammation and it WILL be necessary.
And if you succeed in suppressing that inflammation 100% (which is what Cortisone shots come very close to doing) you will not heal.
The other key aspect to this is that most 'Chronic Injuries' (stubborn, persisting injuries) – Especially chronic tendon injuries, like Mouse Elbow – are very seldom inflammatory in nature…
In other words, there is no “raging inflammatory process” going on in or around the tendon, in the first place.
Believe it or not, it's a giant myth that medical researchers proved false decades ago – But which remains very useful and profitable in the selling of pharmaceuticals.
These injuries are much more likely to be (or become) Tendinosis (Degenerative tendon injury) – NOT Tendonitis (a chronically-inflamed tendon injury)
And we'll get into the right way to treat these kinds of tendon injuries, shortly – but, first:
Skip The Braces And Supports
Immobilizing ones wrists and elbows and moving less and less, is usually also a BIG mistake, which also compounds the problem.
For more on why that's such a bad idea, please see my article on:
'Why braces are not the way to treat these kinds of injuries'
The short answer is that immobilizing muscle and tendon problems is not a way to encourage healing!
(Unless there's a major tear: A Sprain or a Strain, for example.)
However, you don't get Sprains and Strains from your computer unless you trip over its cords or it falls on you (which would produce more of a contusion, actually.)
Tip 8: Get Massage Therapy or other Bodywork
Massage Therapy and other forms of Bodywork are the most direct ways of getting to the root of muscle and tendon problems.
Bodywork techniques can be tremendously helpful in a preventative sense at the earliest stage – before there's an injury, or entrenched pain pattern.
As well as intervening after it has become a full-blown injury in need of treatment.
Skilled, hands on manipulation of your muscles and tendons can break the cycle of tension, stagnation, adhesion, and the worst stuff: Degeneration.
If you have a lot of general tension and stiffness in much of your body, in addition to milder arm, wrist or elbow tension or pain, a full-body 'Swedish' relaxation massage might be a good thing for you.
But the more intense and localized your pain is – The more it seems like a classic Mouse Elbow injury…
(Or what they often call 'Tendonitis') the more you may need and appreciate more focused, advanced Bodywork techniques.
You might start by search for a Neuromuscular Therapist in your area…
Or look for a Massage Therapist with extra training and an inclination to help people with specific hand and elbow injuries of a “Soft Tissue” nature (muscles, tendons and ligaments, etc.)
And if you happen to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, or are traveling here, my Neuromuscular Therapy clinic is in Corte Madera, which is central Marin County.
Link to my clinic site: Body In Balance - Marin County, CA
Tip 9: Learn Self-Massage Techniques and work on your own muscles and tendons
As a Bodyworker, myself, I can admit that our services can seem expensive and even sometimes be out of reach for some…
But, seeing a professional is not the only option! You can always learn some massage techniques and work on yourself.See my article and video, here, for more on Self-Massage Techniques
But the truth is, you don't necessarily need to learn anything – (Especially if you don't have a full-blown injury at this point) – You can just rub and massage your own arms without any “special training”
But if you want to do more than just poke and rub yourself, the Internet makes it easy to watch and learn more specific techniques to use on your painful muscles and tendons.
You could always just seek out free resources online and piece something together – However…
If you have a significant elbow pain pattern – or full-blown injury, consider whether it might be worth it to invest in my program…
Which, finally, brings us to tip #10...
TIP 10: Enroll as a student here at Tennis Elbow Classroom!
If you have Mouse Elbow or Computer-related elbow pain there's probably an 80-90% chance it's either Tennis Elbow or Golfer's Elbow…
And I have the best self-help programs for these stubborn injuries you will find anywhere, guaranteed, so here's where you can learn more about them:
The Tennis Elbow self-help program – Learn more about the program and join here
The Golfer's Elbow self-help program – Learn more about the program and join here
(By the way, if you decide to join, you'll get access to BOTH programs, as well as a host of other elbow-area-related treatment techniques.
So, if it feels right for you, join + log in, watch & learn, and start treating and helping yourself recover, and free yourself from this annoying pain.
Heather Hughes says
Fantastic podcast, I have terrible golfer’s elbow but never lifted a golf club, I’ve got it from my computer! Looking forward to reducing the pain with your suggestions.
Allen Willette, Neuromuscular Therapist says
Thanks so much, Heather! (There are a lot of computer-related injuries out there.) I wish you all the best!
David R says
Thanks for all the info! I’ve typically spent a full working day for the past 20 years working at my computer at a regular desk using a chair with arm rests but no keyboard rest. However I never experienced tennis below until this past year. After a few months of WFH full-time because of COVID, I started having some hip flexor issues flare up which made me switch to a stool (so no arm rests) and then a standing desk setup with stool. That fixed the hip flexor issues (90 for sitting means tight hip flexors) but of late I’ve been struggling with “mouse elbow”. I chalked up my arm fatigue and tennis elbow to not having arm rests anymore. So I just bought one of those “articulating ergonomic support for elbows” (like ErgoRest) devices and a narrow keyboard. IIT’s only been a few days though so I’m not sure if the elbow supports will make a difference. Based on your article it seems the narrow keyboard is a must but the elbow support (even though it allows me to move freely) is a bad idea. I understand our arms are meant to hang, so won’t there be added stress/fatigue from keeping your arms in a 90-100 degree position for hours on end without some kind of support?
Allen Willette, Neuromuscular Therapist says
I think the key concept here is “for hours on end” – Aren’t you taking any breaks? That’s not a good practice – especially for someone with Mouse Elbow! Work on taking more breaks and moving around more. Even a 30 second break every so often to stretch and move your wrists and elbows, would go a long way. Get up and move around at least once an hour, too! Forget about the elbow support.
Hi do you have any programs specifically catered to computer elbow? I have a sense of inflammation (little to no pain, when there’s pain it’s in that tennis elbow spot) down my forearm and once in a while a bit of tingling/numbness in my hand/fingers, usually my ring finger & pinky.
I read about your tennis/golfer elbow programs, and they seem to be catered to people who incurred the injury from playing tennis/golf/weightlifting/etc. I have developed it in both arms (mostly tennis elbow, but also a bit of golfer’s elbow it seems) from using the computer 10+ hours a day with poor posture for 10ish years (there was a time where I tried too hard to do pull ups and temporarily developed a similar thing in my right arm but that was a few years ago). Will your programs help me with what I’ve got?
I’ve cut down my computer time greatly to maybe a few hours a day (spending a lot of the time standing or not using keyboard and mouse) and now I spend most of the time lying down on my couch with arms straight, which seems to at least not exacerbate it. I am also taking daily walks of 30-60 mins to help with my overall posture and health. My physiotherapist told me to do some wall slides everyday because I have rounded shoulders, and spend time in front of the computer with the shoulder blades squeezed together and that does seem to help. But after a couple of weeks it doesn’t seem to be particularly improving, so I’m wondering if your program could be right for me.
Thanks for your insight.