I thought that this was something that happens to people who don’t lift anything heavy, similar to ‘T-rex arm’ – man was I wrong.
Mouse arm describes pain in the arm or wrist that is caused by clicking the mouse all day. Even though you may feel pain or numbness in your shoulder, elbow or hand and wrist, most often the problem stems from the neck. Many different variations of the same thing happen here – nerve impingement from neck, head and shoulder dysfunction. Highly repetitive movements in poor posture, like clicking on a mouse every day for 30 years, cause injuries. Add in some whiplash history to the mix and you get a wicked case of mouse arm.
Once you get to the point where your hands go numb, you’re in quite a pickle. You have to keep working but somehow let the chronic injury heal. This is tricky. Here are some tips:
1. Fix the Posture – Pull your head, shoulders and arms down and back. The more that you stretch forward, gazing into the screen, the more you are training muscles to pinch off blood and nerve supply to structures further downstream like your hands.
More posture tips:
• Get an ergonomic keyboard
• Try a vertical mouse
• Get a standing desk
• Get your monitor at the right height
2. Strengthen – Muscles like pecs, biceps, front of neck muscles and grip muscles tighten all day to hold the ‘tech-neck’ position while muscles of the back and neck gradually weaken and submit to the tight muscles. Muscles between the shoulder blades and along the back of your neck get pulled on all day until they give up. Muscles pull bones out of place until you can’t feel your hands. You must strengthen good posture muscles enough to get through a week of sitting and gazing.
• Avoid push exercises like push-ups and bicep curls
• Pinch shoulders together on pull exercises like rows and pulldowns
• Pull your head back on pull exercises – never put your chin in your chest
• Improve your breathing technique
3. Stretch and Shut Off – You must stretch and learn to “shut off” the muscles that you are allowing to pull you into bad posture. We are taught how to turn muscles on but not how to shut them off. People often lose the ability to relax a muscle and they develop chronic trigger points. Typically we need to stretch pecs, biceps, lats and front of neck muscles (scalenes and SCM). Sometimes stretching is not enough to shut them off and you need some manual therapies like trigger point therapy, massage or learn some self-myofascial release.
4. Have Patients – It will take much less time to fix the problem than it took to make the problem. However, you still may be tempted to seek and instant fix. Injuries like mouse arm MAKE you take care of yourself due to the pain and inability to work. Masking pain with drugs and surgery in lieu of dealing with the cause of the problem usually doesn’t work, but many people try it anyway.