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Preventing Computer-Related Elbow Pain & Strain


Traumatic injuries may be unavoidable. However, the risk of pain caused by stressful, forceful or repetitive activities can be controlled. Sportsinjuryclinic.net offers nine tips to reduce the risk of elbow injuries related to sports. I have modified these injury-prevention tips and applied them to the computer athlete or the desk jockey.

1. Warm-up before working. Warming-up increases the temperature of a muscle preparing it for work. It also increases the oxygen and blood flow to a muscle enabling it to work more efficiently with less risk of injury.
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2. Make sure you are using good technique. Sportsinjuryclinic.net provides tips for those playing sports. For the computer athlete or the desk jockey, this means looking at your ergonomic set-up and work methods. For example, avoid reaching forward for the mouse. Place it at keyboard height with your arm relaxed at your side and your elbow at a 90 degree or slightly greater angle. Keep the wrist neutral when using the mouse and manipulate the mouse through small elbow and shoulder movements rather than swiveling at the wrist.
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3. Make sure that you have the correct equipment. Again, in racket sports, this may mean having the correct racket size, grip size and string tension. For the computer athlete or desk jockey, ergonomic equipment and an appropriately fitted ergonomic chair can help prevent pain. Awkward positioning increases the stress on the body and makes the work that the body does less efficient, awkward and more prone to injury.
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4. Get a massage. Whether for the athlete or the computer athlete, massage can help relax the arm muscles and break down any scar tissue and trigger points. Massage along the length of the forearm muscles moving from the hand towards the elbow. Knead the bulk of the forearm muscle below the elbow joint. Plant two or three fingers from the opposite arm at the bony prominence of the elbow and perform small oscillating movements across the bone to improve blood supply to the location that the muscles insert on to the bone.

5. Strengthen. Strengthening the forearm, upper arm and shoulder muscles takes some of the strain away from the elbow joint.

6. Wear a brace around the muscles just below the elbow. This can help by taking some of the pressure off the attachments at the elbow and distributing stress throughout the arm. Sportsinjuryclinic.net explains the use and purpose of a clasp, support and sleeve.

7. Don't overtrain or suddenly change your training routine or daily activities. For the computer athlete or desk jockey, a change in routine, new desk set-up, or special project requiring long hours to complete can have an impact on pain level. If you notice an increase in arm fatigue or soreness, stretch often, use cold packs and take mini-breaks frequently.

8. Stretch. Stretching the muscles around the elbow keeps them flexible which helps to reduce the strain placed on the muscle attachments surrounding the joint.

9. Apply cold packs. For the early stages of elbow pain, whether caused by a sports-related injury or a repetitive or cumulative injury from the keyboard, cold can help reduce inflammation and help relieve muscle pain and spasm.

Marji Hajic is an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist practicing in Santa Barbara, California. For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit Hand Health Resources.



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