3 Easy Ways to Avoid Elbow Pain

Woman suffering from chronic joint rheumatism

Most of us relate typing discomfort to wrists and arms.  But did you know that the most common injury related to typing, mousing and device use is the elbow?

If you think about your anatomy for a moment, it will will start to make sense.  The tendons  and muscles that power  your fingers and wrists actually begin at the elbow, your epicondyles to be precise. Epicondyles are the bony protrusions that you can feel on the outer edges of your elbow joint.  The outer one is your lateral epicondyle and is the origin and attachment point of your extensor tendons, and the inner one is your medial epicondyle, which is the origin and attachment point of your flexor tendons.

Going a bit deeper, your extensor tendons and muscles are responsible for bending your wrists back, lifting and straightening your fingers.  Your flexors do the opposite,  they flex your wrist, lower and flex (curl) your fingers.   If you think about typing, mousing,  texting  and even holding your devices, none of the movements associated with these activities can be done without engaging your extensors and flexors.  Of course there are other muscles and tendons involved, but these are the primary movers and shakers which work, as muslces do, in pairs.  So when you involve one set of muscles, in this case the extensors, you automatically invite the flexors to the party.  And often, movements related to typing and mousing cause something called co-contraction which means both sets of muscles are firing at the same time.

Want Proof?

Try this little exercise.  Take your right hand and gently wrap your fingers around your left forward towards your elbow.  Make typing motions with your fingers.  And you will feel a lot of activity in your forearm muscles.  Now make a loose fist with your left hand and as you tighten it, feel with your right hand (still wrapped around your forearm) what happens to the muscle wad.

But What’s Causing the Pain?

Well, there are several culprits actually.  But the most common ones related to our laptops, desktops and devices are the following:

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 8.30.25 PMWrist Back Bends:  Any time you use your wrists ina bent back position, you are putting yourself at risk of straining your tendons an muscles anywhere along their path.  But the most common  spot for discomfort to arise is at the epicondyles themselves (known as epicondylitis) or in the forearm itself.

To avoid trouble, place your keyboard and mouse at or slightly below elbow level and keep keyboard as flat as possible.   You may even want to tilt your keyboard or keyboard tray if you use one at a slight negative tilt.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 8.31.33 PMTwisting Your Wrists: Twisting your wrists from side to side can place an enormous amount of strain on your forearms and eblows.   The most common culprits are mousing and twisting your wrists to the right and left, and striking outlier keys such as delete, enter and shift.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 8.32.11 PMInstead of twisting at your wrists, try moving your hand and arm together so that your wrists don’t have to do all of the work.

 

 

Isolated Finger Movements:  This is the most problematic part of typing, especially touch typing.  Think about it.  If you use home row as a reference point, or even rest your wrists on your wrist rests, your fingers have to extend (straighten) to reach the keys towards the top of your keyboard and curl to reach the keys at the rows closest to your body.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 8.34.57 PMInstead, try allowing your arm to follow your fingers as they travel around the keyboard.  It may feel funny at first, but imagine a pianist trying to play the piano with their wrists wedged to the edge of the keyboard?     Exactly, they wouldn’t be able to play very well.  Same goes for working at your computers, laptops and devices. .

So, have you ever experienced pain in your elbows?  Tell us what you did to alleviate your pain?

4577Until the Next Time!

Vivienne & Andrew

 

 

 

 

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