Mouse arm is a collective name for various problems that you can get from your hand and arm if you often use a computer mouse.
The problems can manifest in different ways, partly depending on which part of the arm or hand you are in pain, and whether it is muscles, ligaments, tendons or nerves that hurt.
The trouble may be for more than half a year, but you will usually be fine again. It is unusual for mouse arms to cause you to change work.
Mouse arms are becoming more and more common as more people use computers in their working lives.
Read more about pain and pain in the neck and shoulders.
What is it?
Mouse arm is caused by many repeated small movements with the mouse. The pain is because muscles, ligaments, tendons or nerves become overloaded.
When working with the mouse, hold your hand in an unnatural position. The wrist is bent back and the fingers are tense, partly to be able to hold the mouse and partly to be able to click on it. In addition, the hand is usually folded slightly, with a twist to the little finger. As a result, there is greater pressure on some nerves while you work in an unnatural way with the forearm muscles. The biggest burden is not when you click or move the mouse, but when you hold your hand ready to click.
The risk of getting a mouse arm increases if you, for example, often drag and drop images with the mouse, as it requires less and more sensitive movements. This, in turn, causes tension in the muscles to increase. Stress can also increase the risk because you often tense your muscles when you are stressed.
Read more about relaxation for the neck, relaxation for the shoulders and ergonomics.
Symptoms of mouse arm
The symptoms of a mouse arm may differ depending on which part of the arm and hand is overloaded. The trouble can come when using the mouse and afterward. Sometimes the trouble can last for 24 hours.
Signs of mouse arm can be a problem in the shoulder, arm, elbow, forearm, wrist or hand. The following symptoms of mouse arm are common if you have a mouse arm:
- tenderness, pain or stiffness
- pain that pains or pulsates
- the feeling of discomfort in the arm
- the feeling of weakness in all or part of the arm
- numbness and impaired feeling
- tingling, and feeling of cold or heat.
The trouble can be similar to the symptoms you get from carpal tunnel syndrome or tennis elbow.
How can I prevent mouse arm?
If you do nothing about your problems and continue to work in the same way, the pain can get worse and your workability will decrease. The harder the trouble is, the longer it will take to be good, even if you completely refrain from working at the computer.
By following a few simple tips you can both prevent mouse arm and reduce the trouble if you already have mouse arm:
- Use keyboard shortcuts.
- Move the mouse to the other side of the keyboard and use the other hand to the mouse. It is usually difficult at first but you get used to it after a while.
- Make sure the mouse, keyboard, and screen are at a reasonable distance from the body and that the chair and desk are at a reasonable height. You can try it out. The keyboard support legs, which are located at the back of the keyboard’s underside, should be recessed.
- Keep the wrist straight, not twisted to the little finger, when using the mouse.
- Let your hand rest on your desk instead of your mouse when you don’t need to use it.
- Work with arms and hands close to the body.
- Some may be helped by having armrests on the chair. If you use armrests, they should be available for both arms. The forearm should be able to rest against the work table if you do not use armrests.
It is also good to take regular, short breaks at work and vary the tasks. Try to alternate between standing and sitting. It is important to move from time to time and try to reduce stress at work.
When should I seek care?
You can contact a physiotherapist or health care center if the symptoms of a mouse arm do not go away or get better within a few weeks. You can also go to a naprapat or a chiropractor.
Treatment of mouse arm
For example, if you have a mouse arm, you may need to review your work environment or go to physical therapy for some time. There are different types of tools that can help.
There are many tools that can reduce the risk of mouse arm, and new ones are being developed. Although you can use different tools, it is still important that you vary your position and how you use your arm while you work at the computer.
Examples of aids may be:
- Support for the forearm or wrist that can sit loose or be part of the mouse pad.
- Computer mice were available in various shapes and sizes. For example, there are computer mice that are angled, those that have the ball on the top instead of the underside and those that are designed like a pen in a pen rack.
- A trackball or trackpad, which is loose or sits with the keyboard. You can use these tools instead of the mouse.
- A smaller keyboard that allows you to have the mouse closer reduces the load. There are small keyboards without numbers. The numbers can instead be on a loose so-called numeric keyboard.
- So-called voice-controlled computer programs that allow you to use your voice to replace some keystrokes and mouse movements.
- Computer software makes it easy to use the keyboard instead of the mouse. Many people work with computer programs that are designed for a particular job. The design of computer programs can sometimes influence and sometimes the choice of computer programs.
- A fast computer. If your computer or program is slowing down and you have to wait for the mouse to click, the muscles will be stretched longer.
- You can use a touch screen computer. For example, it may be good to switch between using a mouse, trackball, trackpad and touch screen.
It may be helpful to get help from a physical therapist or ergonomist when choosing aids. Still, it can be difficult to determine which tools are best, as there are not so many studies comparing different tools. You often have to try your hand until you find the tools that are best for you.
Good to improve the working environment
If you do not manage to deal with the problems yourself, you can discuss it with your manager to find a solution. For example, you may need to review how you work and how much you have to do.
It can also be good to have an ergonomist go through how your workplace is designed. An ergonomist can ensure that you sit comfortably and that the workbench, mouse, keyboard, and screen are at a reasonable distance from the body and at a reasonable height. You may be able to get help from an ergonomist through occupational health care at your workplace, but there are also ergonomists who work independently from occupational health care.
It is also important that you have good light where you sit and work, and that you wear glasses if you need them. Your posture can be affected so you get more excited if you don’t see clearly.
Physical therapy can help
If you still have mouse arm problems after the workplace is improved or you have severe problems, you can contact a physiotherapist or a doctor at the health center. Sometimes you get a referral to an occupational therapist who can also help with the treatment.
Above all, the physiotherapist, occupational therapist or physician asks when and where it hurts, checks how much you can move your arm and shoulder and feels in the places where you are in pain.
Physical therapy often includes exercises where you train the strength of the muscles that hurt and exercises where you stretch them. Stretching causes your muscles to relax, but you can also do other types of relaxation exercises.
Medicines may be needed
The drugs used primarily are non-prescription painkillers containing paracetamol, such as Alvedon or Panodil. If they do not help, you can try another group of drugs, called cox inhibitors or NSAIDs. The drug group includes various active substances, such as ibuprofen and naproxen. Examples of medicines that can be purchased without a prescription are Ipren and Pronaxen.
If you are over 75, have any cardiovascular disease or have previously had a stomach ulcer, you should use acetaminophen instead of NSAIDs.
If you have shoulder pain, and physiotherapy has not helped, you may sometimes need a syringe of cortisone where you are in pain. You will receive treatment with a cortisone syringe from a doctor at a health care center. Getting a cortisone syringe in the shoulder usually doesn’t hurt.
You usually get better in the long run
If you do nothing about the reason you have a mouse arm, it is common for the trouble to come back. Therefore, it is important to find out why you received a mouse arm so that you can try to prevent new problems.
You usually get better in the longer term, but sometimes you can have long-term problems that last for more than six months. It is uncommon for mouse arms to have to change work. If you cannot get new tasks during the healing period, you can sometimes get sick leave.