Elbow Pain From Typing Treatments & Causes
Many people are surprised when they feel a pain start in their elbow and move down their forearm when all they've been doing is sitting at a computer typing. Sitting at a computer and typing isn't that hard and doesn't require a lot of exertion on your part, so how did this severe pain come to be?
Most people are familiar with the term "Tennis Elbow" because tennis was the first sport to put a spotlight on this type of pain and injury to the elbow. Tennis players repeatedly whacked tennis balls, causing strain to the muscles and tendons surrounding the elbow. Today, however, people more often or not feel this same type of pain from sitting in front of a computer and typing away all day long. This pain is known as a condition called lateral epicondylitis, but is commonly known as "shooter's elbow." Lateral epicondylitis can develop signs in three ways:
The cause of pain is not from typing a single word; it is caused from the sheer volume of typing and your posture when 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 and then they add in the variables. Variables can include the amount of time, posture, intensity of force, vibration, and typical rest intervals.
Typing at a computer for 6 hours with great form places some stress on the forearm muscles. If frequent breaks are taken, most people will not develop elbow pain. However, sometimes we begin working 8-10 hours at a computer for several days in a row, rarely taking the time for a break. Sometimes, if the project is important enough, we might begin working nights and weekends, in addition to our normal 8 hour workday, which increases the total amount of time working at the computer. At home, people may work on laptops, couches, or poor ergonomic desk setups. These home setups create a less ideal posture 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 that the equation is setup with all the variables, 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 leads 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.
Before contacting your doctor, there are at home treatments you can try to decrease your pain. The first step is always PRICE: protect, rest, ice, compress, and elevate. Reduce the stress and strain to the wrist. Ice helps block the wrist pain and reduce inflammation. Over the counter nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as recommended by your doctor can help reduce pain and inflammation. If your pain still persists after trying home treatments, contact your Phoenix, Scottsdale, or Mesa chiropractor for in-office treatments.
Acupuncture is thought to release neurochemicals to stimulate the nervous system. The resulting changes influence homeostasis, which is our body's ability to stabilize itself. Stimulation of acupuncture points has been shown to decrease pain sensitivity and increase relaxation. Acupuncture can relieve tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, carpal tunnel, and cubital tunnel symptoms by stimulating the release of endorphins and serotonin which changes the processing of pain in the brain. It improves muscle stiffness and joint mobility by improving circulation.
There are many benefits for using cold laser therapy to treat elbow pain caused by typing:
Photons of light from lasers penetrate into tissue and accelerate cellular growth and reproduction.
Laser light increases collagen production by stimulating fibroblasts. Collagen is the building block of tissue repair and healing. Laser therapy increases fibroblast activity and therefore collagen production to speed healing.
Low-level laser therapy decreases scar tissue formation. Scar tissue can be a source of chronic pain and poor healing. By eliminating excessive scar tissue and encouraging proper collagen production, painful scars and chronic pain is reduced.
Laser therapy causes vasodilatation which increases blood flow. The treatments also increases lymphatic drainage to decrease swelling or edema. Therefore, laser therapy reduces swelling caused by bruising or inflammation while speeding the recovery process.
Cold laser therapy decreases pain by blocking pain signals to the brain. Some nerve cells sense pain and send signals to the brain. Chronic pain can be caused by overly active pain nerves. Specific wavelengths help "shut off" the pain signals, thereby eliminating your pain.
Blood carries nutrients and building blocks to the tissue, and carries waste products away. Increased blood flow to tissues increases and enhances cellular healing. Cold laser therapy increases the formation of capillaries in damaged tissue. Specific laser frequency also increases blood flow to the area treated to enhance injury repair.
Low-level lasers increases enzyme activity to improve metabolic activity that affects cell repair and regeneration. The enzymes are turned on "high" to speed the healing.
Nerves heal very slowly. Lasers speed up this process. Damage to nerves causes numbness, pain, muscle weakness, and altered sensations. Laser therapy treatments enhance nerve function, healing, and reduce pain.
Injured cells often have low levels of ATP, which decreases their ability to heal and repair. By increasing ATP, cells can heal and repair.
Low level laser therapy decreases trigger points and stimulates acupuncture points to decrease muscle and joint pain. More on Cold Laser for tennis elbow pain.
Graston Technique is utilized in many professional, Olympic, and collegiate sports therapy programs. Specifically-designed stainless steel instruments have rounded, concave and convex edges. The edges are not sharp. Graston tools are classified under Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) and are used to detect and effectively treat soft tissue fibrosis or chronic inflammation. With these instruments the practitioner can scan over and detect areas of fibrotic tissue.
There are six different Graston tools to help break up fascial restrictions or scar tissue that develops after trauma to muscles, ligaments, tendons, or fascia, which is commonly referred to as soft tissue. Scar tissue forms when tissue does not heal correctly, or is under chronic, repetitive stress. Scar tissue is weaker than normal muscle and connective tissue, which is why it becomes chronically sore with activity.
Physical therapy and stretches can also help eliminate elbow pain caused by typing. Stopping every now and then to do stretches in the middle of working can reduce the chances of pain becoming a problem. 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.
Our Chandler Chiropractic & Physical Therapy clinic treats patients with a variety of muscle, tendon, joint, and ligament injuries. The clinic provides treatment for runners, tri-athletes, and weekend warriors in addition to common headache, neck, and back patients traditionally seen in Chiropractic, Physical Therapy, Massage Therapy clinics. We work with all ages and abilities of the residents in Phoenix, Tempe, Gilbert, Mesa, and Chandler, AZ.