Carson Robertson
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Why does Typing Cause Elbow Pain?

Many people are surprised when they find out they developed tendinosis from computer work. They are amazed that typing can produce such severe elbow, forearm, and muscle pain. After all, typing is not that difficult.

The cause of the pain is not any single keystroke; it is a problem with the volume and posture of typing. Muscle and tendon injuries follow a basic formula. First they develop the structural support to handle the level of stress placed upon them during a day.

Variables include the amount of time, posture, intensity of force, vibration, and typical rest intervals. We can think about this equation for any single day, but we also need to think about it was a typical week too.

Typing at a computer for 6 hours with great form places some stress on the forearm muscles. If you take frequent breaks most people will not have a problem. However, sometimes we begin working 8-10 hours at a computer for several days in a row. If the project is important enough we might begin working nights and weekends. The total amount of time working for the week increased.

At home people may work on laptops, couches, or poor ergonomic desk setups. This posture is less ideal and places more stress on the forearm muscles every hour worked compared to the work setup. Add a little extra stress to the equation, and we really change our postures. We might change our elbow and wrist alignment. Maybe your hand is less relaxed than usual.

Now looking at the equation you can see an increase in the weekly time worked, made the posture worse, increased the intensity, and decreased the rest amount. The forearm muscles are working much harder than in previous weeks, which lead to pain and injury.

A muscles and tendon undergoes a process of inflammation, repair, and healing. Usually a muscle will heal and you won’t even realize it was injured. However, if the stress continues to overwhelm the muscles then larger injuries develop. A mild strain becomes a moderate or severe sprain. Muscles begin to spasms to protect the injured area. You might feel increased tension and tightness in the forearm.

Treatment involves decreases the total weekly stress and strain on the muscle. This can be done with icing, over the counter medications, topical treatments, stretching, braces, massage therapy, physical therapy, or Graston Technique.

For mild pain, we recommend two weeks of home treatments. If the pain does not disappear after two weeks more advanced treatment might be needed. Arm pain that lasts longer than a month is always a problem and is becoming chronic. Chronic injuries are much harder to resolve, so do not let it get to that stage.

Specific treatments, exercises, and stretches can be found on the following pages:
Massage therapy for arm pain, Elbow Pain Treatments and Graston Technique.