Tennis Elbow- Mouse Use can cause Elbow Pain

Tennis Elbow- Mouse Use can cause Elbow Pain

Epicondylitis is pain at either side of the elbow where the finger and wrist muscles originate at the bony bumps of the humerus (upper arm bone).

Although frequently mistakenly thought of as a tendinitis, epicondylitis is caused by the accumulation of microscopic tearing and damage. The gradual accumulation of tearing and scarring that can be caused by repetitive trauma initially causes inflammation; However, eventually, as the body is unable to heal the build-up of daily injury, the condition changes from one of inflammation to one of degeneration. A physical change in the cellular structure of the tendons occurs including disorganization of the collagen fibers, calcifications, and loss of blood flow to the area.

The proper classification of this injury is a tendinosis, a failed healing of microscopic tissue tears. This can become an important distinction in prevention and healing of these injuries. In the early stages, treatments for inflammation such as the use of cold packs and the use of anti-inflammatory medications may be helpful. In the later stages, however, the goal may be to improve circulation to promote healing in addition to specific conditioning exercises to help organize the tissues around the elbow.

Tennis Elbow
  • Lateral epicondylitis, commonly described as tennis elbow, is caused by injury to the outside edge of the elbow.
  • The damage is specific to the tendons of the muscles that straighten the fingers, pull the wrist back, and turn the palm up.
  • Only 20% of lateral epicondylitis is caused by actually playing tennis.

Golfer's Elbow
  • Medial epicondylitis, or golfer's elbow, is caused by injury to the inside edge of the elbow.
  • The damage is specific to the tendons of the muscles that close the fingers, bend the wrist forward, and turn the palm down.
  • Golfer's elbow occurs only 10-20% as frequently as tennis elbow.

    Classic Symptoms
    • Tenderness at the sides of the elbow over the bony protuberances.
    • Localized swelling at the point of tenderness.
    • Pain may radiate from the elbow down the forearm and into the upper arm in more severe cases.
    • Activity increases pain.
      • Tennis elbow is aggravated by gripping objects with the wrist bent backwards.
      • Golfer's elbow is aggravated by gripping objects with the wrist bent forward.

    Other Possible Symptoms
    • A loss of full elbow and wrist motion because of pain.
    • A feeling of weakness in the arm muscles because of pain.
    • Generalized swelling of the elbow.


One of the most common causes of tennis or golfer�s elbow for computer users can be positioning of the mouse.

  • Reaching forward for the mouse onto a desk that is higher than the keyboard.
  • Reaching for the mouse placed to the far side of the keyboard.
  • Gripping the mouse tightly while using wrist motion to activate.
  • Planting the wrist down and swiveling the mouse using wrist motion.


  • Reaching frequently for the phone or to take heavy manuals or binders down from high shelves.
  • Pulling thick files out of densely packed cabinets or drawers.


Those using laptops or traveling frequently on business are also at high risk.

  • Carrying heavy objects such as a suitcase, briefcase or back pack.
  • Lifting these objects onto surfaces with the palm down and the elbow straight (such as swinging them onto the security table at an airport).


Mouse use
  • Activate the mouse by using the shoulder muscles.
  • The mouse should be at about the same level of the keyboard and positioned as closely to the keyboard as possible.
  • Don't reach forward or out to the side.
  • The shoulder should be directly positioned over the elbow. Keep the shoulders relaxed.
  • Hold the mouse lightly.
  • See Ergonomic ABCs for additional information.

Mouse Positioning
  • Use an attachable mouse holder.
  • Or use a keyboard bridge over the numerical keys if you do not use the 10-key portion of the keyboard.
  • Or use a keyboard station such as the Contour Roller Pro which has a rollerbar mouse that is positioned immediately below the space bar.

Mouse Style

  • Use an ergonomic mouse.
  • Vertical mice are good choices as the �hand shake� position with the forearm neutral rather than palm down can relieve stress on the tissues .

Office & Travel Tips
  • Avoid repetitive and strong gripping, especially with the elbow straight. (for example, move the heavy manuals and binders down off the high shelves of the computer desk).
  • Place frequently used objects within easy reach (between eye and hip level and within an easy arm�s reach to prevent excessive stretch).
  • Use a wheeled suitcase, laptop or backpack.
  • When using a backpack, place both arms through the straps to distribute the weight evenly across the back. This takes the stress off the arm.
  • Pack lightly. Take only the needed laptop accessories to lighten the load.

General Tips
  • Use both hands when lifting to share the load between the arms.
  • Keep objects in close to the body.
  • Use the strong leg muscles to help with the lift, not the back.
  • Try to lift heavier objects with the palms up (as if you are scooping up the object).
  • Take micro-breaks and rest the arms during repetitive or stressful activity.
  • Stretch often.
  • Use heat for comfort, to improve flexibility and to increase blood flow.
  • Use cold for inflammation or acute injury.

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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