What Is Mouse Elbow (Computer Elbow) And How to Heal It
Do you experience pain your outer elbow or upper forearm after a long day clicking away at the office? Or maybe you play a large amount of computer games and after a long session you feel a sharp pain in your elbow. Believe it or not you could be one of millions of those affected by what is commonly known as Mouse Elbow or Computer Elbow.
With nearly 50% of the American workforce using computers throughout the workday, this injury is extremely common in the United States. Because of the nature of this injury and the pain that it causes, dealing with Mouse Elbow or Computer Elbow can put a huge strain on your career.
What is Mouse Elbow/Computer Elbow?
Computer Elbow or as it’s medically known, a Lateral Epicondylitis Overuse Injury, is an injury that is caused by inflammation and degeneration of the tissue connecting the forearm and the elbow, and causes a sharp pain in the outside of the elbow or forearm.
This inflammation of the surrounding tissues can cause pain all day long, and can result in weakened grip strength and mobility. That being said, you will often hear the term Tennis Elbow. Computer Elbow and Tennis Elbow are different names for the same injury. They both are irritation or inflammation of lateral or outside epicondyle.
Along with this, Mouse Elbow is generally considered a mirror injury of Golfer’s Elbow, because it affects the opposite side of the elbow (Golfer’s Elbow affects the medial or inside epicondyle).
What Causes Mouse Elbow?
Mouse Elbow or Lateral Epicondylitis Overuse injuries in general are usually caused by the repetitive movements that cause stress on joints and tendons. In the case of mouse elbow, the muscles involved are the extensors on the outside of the elbow and upper forearm, and the main will manifest around this area.
With Mouse Elbow even the most minuscule movements done day in and day out in an office setting, can add up to serious stress on your tendons and joints. For example, below are some seemingly innocent activities that can add up, and attribute to an overuse injury:
- Repeated Clicking on a Mouse
- Repeated Typing on a Computer Keyboard
- Poor Computer Posture
That being said, as is the case with any Lateral Epicondylitis Overuse injuries, although the movements and actions might seem small and insignificant, when you do them hundreds if not thousands of times each day, then the stress really adds up.
How to Heal and Treat Mouse Elbow
Because of how debilitating mouse elbow can be to your career and your well being, it’s important to start treatment as soon as you diagnose your pain as mouse elbow. That being said there are a handful of tips and tricks to help reduce your pain, and reduce the inflammation.
Tip 1: Icing the Elbow:
One of the first things you should start implementing into your daily life is icing the injury. Because mouse elbow is caused by inflammation of the tissue around the elbow or forearm, applying ice 2 or 3 times daily for about 15 minutes each time, will help to reduce this inflammation.
Apply the ice to the outside epicondyle or the outside area of your elbow. You can also apply the ice to the upper elbow on the outside as well.
Tip 2: Stretching:
Along with icing, stretching is a great way to alleviate inflammation and reduce pain in injuries similar to this. Below you will find a handful of different stretches for your fingers, wrist, and forearm; all of which play a part in your mouse elbow.
Finger and Hand Stretches:
Although not always the root of the problem, some people have found relief by stretching their fingers and palms. One simple finger and hand stretch is to make a thumbs up sign with your hand with your fingers curled into your palm. From there, slowly stretch your four fingers towards your wrist of the same hand. You will feel a slight stretch in your palm, hold this for 10-15 seconds.
Forearm and Elbow Stretches:
Stretching your elbow can relieve a huge amount of stress on your elbow, and can definitely improves mouse elbow.
The first forearm stretch, start with your arms out ahead of you with palms together and your fingers pointing forward. From there, slowly rotate your hands and try to point your fingers as low to the floor as possible. You will feel a stretch along your forearm and wrist. Hold this stretch for 10-15 seconds.
The second forearm stretch, start with one arm straight out in front of you. Use your other arm to bend your wrist and fingers towards the floor. You will feel a stretch along your upper forearm up to your elbow. Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat 4 or 5 times a day.
Tip 3: Using a Different Type of Mouse
If you are someone that works in an office, then you most likely use a computer for a large majority of the day. That being said, it’s more than likely that you are still using a standard mouse, when you really need a computer mouse for tendonitis or elbow pain.
Because of the way the standard computer mouse is designed, it forces you to twist your elbow and forearm to maneuver the mouse. That being said, this isn’t the best wrist position for a mouse, the best position is obtained through a vertical computer mouse.
A vertical computer mouse is designed slightly differently, and it allows the mouse to be operated in a vertical position which eliminates the need to twist your forearm or elbow. This reduces the stress put on the muscles and tendons in the elbow and forearm and puts these muscles in a better more natural position for the human body. That being said, a vertical mouse is probably the best mouse for tennis elbow or computer elbow.
Tip 4: Using Computer Elbow Pads
Similar to using a different type of computer mouse, you can also experiment with using computer elbow and wrist support pads. As the name suggests, these pads are made of comfortable and supportive rubberlike material that helps to alleviate some of the stress that is put on your elbow and forearm through constant computer use.
There are quite a few different types available online, some of these pads are rubber and some are made of a gel like material. They generally have non-slip bottoms that help them stick to your desk, and you rest your elbow on the pad as you use your mouse or keyboard. That being said, some people have had these pads completely solve all their pain issues, but to others they feel an improvement, but it isn’t the complete solution.
Tip 5: Exercises for Elbow Pain
Strengthening the muscles that support the elbow and the upper forearm can ultimately reduce elbow pain, and fix your computer elbow issues. The muscle groups you want to really focus on are your forearm, grip strength, and your biceps and triceps. All of these muscles help to stabilize your elbow and forearm, and the stronger they are, the more they can help with stability, and ultimately reduce elbow pain.
One good exercise for forearm strength that you can do at your office is working a stress ball. All you have to do is hold a stress ball, or a tennis ball in your hand and do 10-15 reps of squeezing the ball as hard as you can. I would do this 2 or 3 times a day, and make sure you work both hands!
Tip 6: Improve Your Computer Posture and Mouse Placement
Another huge cause of this elbow pain is ultimately caused by your computer posture. Having good typing and computer posture can drastically reduce the stress put on your forearms and elbows. Below are some tips to follow:
- Keep upper arms and forearms at a 90-degree angle. This can mean sitting up straight, and adjusting the height of your chair.
- Relax your shoulders. If you are hunched over or have tight shoulders, it can translate into your elbow and forearms compensating.
- You want your keyboard and mouse to be around shoulder width apart. This keeps the two at a natural position apart, and is easier and more natural to maneuver.
Final Thoughts on Computer Elbow and How to Heal It!
Overall mouse elbow or computer elbow can be an extremely frustrating and painful injury that can keep you from effectively doing your job. As is common with Lateral Epicondylitis injuries, if you aren’t actively working to correct the issue, then it rarely will go away on its own.
You really have to identify what is causing the issue, (if you work in an office, you can definitely get tennis elbow from typing or from using your mouse), then you have to actively work to reduce the inflammation and irritation of the connective tissues in your elbow and forearm. That being said, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Once you have identified that you have computer elbow or even tennis elbow, you are on the right path towards feeling better!