Common Computer-Related Elbow Injuries and Pain Conditions
Posted Jan 13 2009 7:23pm
Common Computer-Related Elbow Injuries & Conditions Lateral Epicondylitis/ Tendonitis: Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis is actually a tendonitis condition. It is an extremely common injury with computer users however it originally got its name because it is a frequent tennis injury, appearing in a large proportion of tennis players. Lateral epicondylitis occurs most commonly in the tendon of the extensor carpi radialis brevis muscle at approximately 2cm below the outer edge of the elbow joint or lateral epicondyle of the humerus bone (vist our elbow anatomy page) . There is commonly localized inflammation at this site and tenderness with resistance and touch.
Bursitis: The elbow pain originates from below the tip of the elbow where there is a sack of fluid called a bursa. A bursa is used to help lubricate the movement of tissues in joints. However if you take a hard impact onto the back of the elbow or are constantly leaning on the elbows the bursa, such as can occur with computer work, the bursa can become inflamed or irritated. The result is elbow pain and swelling at the back of the elbow.
Radial Nerve Entrapment: The radial nerve passes just below the bony bit on the outside of the elbow (lateral epicondyle). The symptoms of radial nerve entrapment are very similar to those of tennis elbow. If the muscles and tendons in the forearm become inflamed they can trap the nerve. This can cause changes or decreases in sensation and weakness in the forearm and hand.
Ulnar Nerve Entrapment: The ulnar nerve runs down the inside of the elbow, also known as your funny bone. When the ulnar nerve gets inlammed or entrapped you may feel numbness or tingling down the 4th and 5th fingers. The muscles in the forearm may become inflammed as from computer work in poor postures or with ergonomic risk factors present, they then can trap the ulnar nerve causing symptoms.
Symptoms: 1) Pain about 1-2 cm down from bony area at the outside of the elbow, pain is worst with resisted movements to the wrist extensor group.
2) Weakness in the wrist with difficulty doing simple tasks such as opening a door handle or shaking hands with someone.
3) Loss of motion, pain may limit movement and ability to function.
Common Computer Ergonomics-Related Causes and Risk Factors: 1) Poor computer ergonomic set-up which results in excessive and prolonged elbow flexion or extension with forearm pronation (forearm turned downwards), and /or repetitive elbow bending and straightening, and /or continuous computer mouse activities with the elbow in greater than 90 degress of flexion. All of these postures put excessive and continuous stress on the extensor carpialis brevis muscle tendons.
2) The most common direct cause of these computer-related injuries is from the computer mouse being placed too high and too far away from the body and keyboard tray, thus causing the shoulders to remain elevated or up and the elbow to be stretched out (extended ) and pronated while performing mouse click and drag functions.
3) The second most common cause of computer-related elbow injuries is from a poorly fitted computer mouse. When the computer mouse does not properly fit the hand, it causes excessive strain on the muscles and tendons of the wrist and elbow in order to over compensate for the poor fit. Using a computer mouse that does not offer ergonomic design to fit the hand properly, using the wrong hand mouse or the wrong sized mouse will all cause computer-related elbow injuries.
4) Poor organization of the work area, causing the computer-user to reach out and up in order to find and use items on the desk surface. This also causes excessive stress on the elbow muscles and tendons.
5) Most common ergonomic risk factors that may cause or exacerbate elbow pain from computer use are: sustained work postures, poor positioning/awkward postures and high task repetition. For more details about these Ergonomic Risk Factors, please see our Ergonomics Risk Factors Page.
2) Make sure your computer keyboard and computer mouse is at the appropriate height. The majority of computer users need an adjustable keyboard tray in order to optimize and properly position their keyboard and computer mouse in order to reduce stress on the elbow. Visit our Ergonomic Adjustable Keyboard Trays for ideas.
4) Ensure you organize your computer area according to the three primary reaching zones (see Posture Tips ). Eliminate excessive clutter and over reaching by organzing and using an office document holder to keep your desk neat and clear.