Traditionally, we think of tennis elbow, or golfers elbow when we experience elbow pain. The majority of elbow pain is caused by time spent at the computer, not from playing tennis or golf!
The repetitive action of using a computer mouse – scrolling, moving it from side to side and clicking for 8-10 hours a day, five days a week can lead to a strain of the muscles and tendons of the forearm. Other instigators are lifting and carrying items, painting, and anything that requires repetitive actions on the forearms.
Is it muscle or tendon?
If your pain is a hot, sharp pain at the elbow itself, it’s likely that the tendon is involved, if it’s a dull aching pain which spreads around the lower arm, the forearm muscles may be the culprit. The latter is often more respondent to treatment, whereas injury to the tendon can be stubborn.
The first step to getting on top of a repetitive strain injury like tennis elbow, is to avoid the aggravating activity. Easier said than done if your job requires you to do the aggravating action. When using a computer mouse, there are a few things you can try if you have pain:
- Use the opposite hand when using the mouse. This may be tricky at first but you will adjust.
- Wear an elbow brace; this will redirect the force away from the muscle/tendon that is causing pain.
- Introduce exercises that reduce the pain and maintain flexibility. These include isometric exercises, which are great for pain reduction and can be performed numerous times throughout the day (see below for example).
- Trigger point therapy – this treatment works well if your pain is felt within the forearm muscles and the wrist. Your myotherapist can treat you using TPT and they can also teach you how to self-treat.
Once pain has reduced you can move on to more challenging exercises that your therapist can show you how to do at home.
Pain reduction exercise
A simple pain reducing exercise for Computer (tennis) elbow - pain on the outside of the elbow and top of the arm: