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Elbow on fire -- is it you damn mouse?
April 24, 2013 1:42 PM   Subscribe

I looked up this question, but my pain is my elbow and not my hand, arm or wrist. Googling seems to tell me it's "tennis elbow".

Could this be from using a mouse? I had a repetitive strain injury in my wrist, but I got an ergonomic/height adjustable keyboard tray and I use a joystick mouse. Plus I use a wrist brace when it's flaring up as well.

But now it’s the outside of my elbow! I barely move my elbow. Mind you, I do rest it on the arm of my chair when I mouse -- could that be a cause? This pain has been going on for about a week and I will go to my doctor to see what he says. But I am asking: could this be from mousing? If so, what should I do? I have already switched mice and it’s not helping. Should I put the arms of my chair down so my elbows are not resting on anything?
posted by Lescha to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Years ago I developed elbow pain on the arm I use to control a mouse, similar to what you describe. It turned out that I had a mild/moderate condition called Elbow Bursitis which is a swelling of the fluid sac in the elbow. The condition is often caused (or exacerbated) by resting of the elbow on a hard surface for long periods of time, common for computer users.

In my case I made a purposeful effort to not lean on my elbow so much, and I also found a soft gel pad to place between my elbow and my desk for when I did need to lean a little bit. The way I used to sit I was using my elbow to support a lot of my torso weight as I tended to lean forwards towards the screen. Finding a comfortable chair in which I did not need to lean forward as often was also a big help.

You may also want to evaluate the height/type of your desk to find a more ergonomic position if this becomes a real problem for you.

My condition gradually improved over several months and now a few years later it is totally fine.

Good luck!
posted by jameslavelle3 at 1:52 PM on April 24, 2013

I had tennis elbow due to too much mousing (sounds like a euphemism!) Elbow was on fire. It was the clicking that does it (clicking the mouse, or rolling the roller bar).

A few tests
- put your hand in the "mousing position" (upper arm straight, forearm rotated). Does it hurt?
- try tapping your middle finger on the table. Does your elbow hurt / burn?

I tried a gabillion things, and the only solution was this expensive piece of plastic from Wacom. After about 6 months of this mouse (and a LOT of rest) my pain went away. Good luck.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:52 PM on April 24, 2013

Tennis and golf elbows can absolutely be caused by mouse use. I'm successful at avoiding the problem when I:

- do the physical therapy exercises that physical therapists told me about
- use a vertical mouse more than a traditional mouse or trackpad
- diligently switch between trackpad, left hand, right hand, vertical mouse so that no one modality logs too many hours

I suggest going to a physical therapist at least once, to get a run-down of exercises to do. If you can't remember the exercises or don't have the motivation to do them on your own, keep going back for a while. Other than a referral, I'm not sure what a regular doc would do except give you anti-inflammatories, which to me is more masking the pain or addressing an acute issue rather than solving the chronic issue.
posted by daveliepmann at 1:54 PM on April 24, 2013

Do you ever get a tingling or loss of sensation in your pinky or ring finger of the affected elbow as well as elbow pain? I have some ulnar nerve issues / cubital tunnel syndrome that sometimes manifest itself in a searing elbow pain, but most of the time is there as a constant dullness / tingling in my pinky and ring finger. I believe it's brought on not from my wrist being at an odd angle when I use a mouse (I actually use a Wacom tablet), but rather from my elbow resting against the surface of my desk. It actually started after a long car trip where I had my elbow resting on the car door ledge for hours at a time.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:54 PM on April 24, 2013

Mousing certainly makes it worse. Use a band. I really like the AirCast ones.

And stop leaning on it. Remove your chair arm if you have to.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:55 PM on April 24, 2013

Yep, I do that twisty arm movement & rest to deal with it. I need to book mark the nyt article I had on it, but this describes it.

But instead of the same direction with both hands, do them opposite like wringing out a towel.

Passing Over an Obstacle - This is an important drill if you would like to be able to throw higher and longer passes. It will also help you build confidence in your ability to make the puck go where you want it to go. Before beginning this, or any advanced passing drill, be sure to 'warm up' your wrist by doing some figure-8s and throwing 10 or 20 short, easy passes. Start with an obstacle that is short - 2 or 3 inches high, at most. Set the obstacle on the pool bottom and try to throw the puck over it - experiment with different starting distances between the puck and the obstacle - 12 to 18 inches away is probably the easiest. Think about getting your stick under the puck and throwing it up as you push it away from you. This is best done by rocking your stick back with a twisting motion of the wrist (like revving the engine on a motorcycle by twisting the handlegrip) as you start the 'push' phase of your pass. The motion needs to be quick, yet smooth. Once you start to get the hang of it, gradually increase the height of the barrier, and try shooting from further away, too. As with any passing drill, don't get discouraged - it will take a LOT of practice.
posted by tilde at 2:09 PM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Found it - eccentric contractions.

Best dang thing EVER.
posted by tilde at 5:24 PM on April 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

If it's tennis elbow, IANYPT, but I did ask my PT about tennis elbow just this afternoon because my elbow has started to have trouble due to ... excessive knitting. (I'm actually seeing her for achilles tendonosis, but figured, since I was there, it wouldn't hurt to ask.)

She showed me a stretch that's good for preventing or alleviating the pain. Hold your affected arm out straight, with your hand dangling - like you're going to allow someone to kiss your ring. :) Then with the hand on your unaffected arm, slowly pull your other hand in toward your body until you feel a stretch in your forearm. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Do that a couple of times every day. And ice it whenever it hurts.
posted by kythuen at 6:00 PM on April 24, 2013

You say "on fire"--is your elbow inflamed and hot to the touch? It may be cellulitis, which I've had in the elbow and it hurt like crazy. Strong antibiotics will clear it up.
posted by Hogshead at 2:46 AM on April 25, 2013

Seconding getting rid of the arm rest -- it makes it easy to cheat, ergonomically speaking. Glad to hear you're going to a doctor -- hope you feel better soon!
posted by Shoggoth at 5:12 AM on April 25, 2013

Change your mouse to the other hand. (This cured my mousing elbow.)
posted by Carol Anne at 6:11 AM on April 25, 2013

To answer: my elbow is not obviously inflamed or swollen. Nor is it red or hot.

- put your hand in the "mousing position" (upper arm straight, forearm rotated). Does it hurt? No, it does not hurt at all when the arm is stationary, but it hurts a lot when I bend my elbow. So I am not bending my elbow a lot!

- try tapping your middle finger on the table. Does your elbow hurt / burn? No, tapping is not painful. The pain is the bending and extending. It also hurts a lot when I make a fist.

I have removed the arm from my chair and I've got an appointment for the doctor on Tuesday for a referral as I need one for my insurance to cover PT. I am trying to use the other hand to mouse, but boy is that ever hard!

Thank you all.
posted by Lescha at 7:19 AM on April 25, 2013

I began experiencing pain a few years ago; tried different mice, tried the other hand, tried a trackball, ergo keyboards, switching hands, etc. It eased when i used my laptop more than desktop. On the laptop, I use a trackpoint cursor mover, which really does use a different group of muscles. I bought a desktop version of the trackpoint keyboard. That was a several years ago; so far, so good.
posted by at at 8:23 AM on April 25, 2013

Follow-up: Doctor said it was indeed "Tennis Elbow" -- but suggested I just rest it and it should get better by itself in 6 weeks or so. He said I did not need PT. It is indeed feeling better -- still a bit painful but no as much.
posted by Lescha at 11:00 AM on May 28, 2013

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