Tuesday morning, I was hard at work on revising Copycat Dreams and noticed my forearm hurt. Now, I’m used to having pain in my right arm, but this was my left. I went to the “not doctors, but might have an idea people”; my mom and my best friend. No other symptoms, just an ache in my forearm closer to my elbow than my wrist and typing is making it worse… and now that I think about it, the inside edge of the back of my elbow is a bit achy too. This is not the kind of pain I’m used to. My right arm is sharper, but constant. This is achy and weird. It’s too high for carpal tunnel and probably not close enough to my elbow to be bursitis. So what the f**k is it?
Okay, time to do the unthinkable and open up WebMD’s symptom checker. As I do this my best friend texts me back “sounds like tennis elbow”. Uh okay, it’s been years since I played tennis and typing is more of an issue than moving my elbow. She responds “remember last year I wore that elbow brace for like 6 months. I was experiencing what you are experiencing and it was tennis elbow. It’s not like I play tennis either.”
WebMD returns results of symptom checker. Only one listed Tennis Elbow. Well okay then. I search treatments for tennis elbow when typing makes the pain worse and get a webpage for Mayo Clinic called Computer Elbow. I click it because it’s the Mayo Clinic and they know everything. On this page I learn about tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, and something called Computer Elbow, which is tennis elbow triggered by working on a computer. Huh. I didn’t know that was a thing. How do I fix it because I have work to do and it requires a significant amount of typing?
The number one fix: rest. Well, that’s not exactly an option, I type for a living. Got anything else? Another search found me on a page about healthy physical writing habits and suggestions for “texters thumb”, “computer elbow”, and carpal tunnel. Several people said that after their forearm began hurting they rolled up a towel and used it to rest their forearms on while typing. Several even said the rolled up hand towel was more helpful than the expensive wrist rests they bought.
Now, I’m typing with a rolled up towel under my forearms and ordering an elbow brace. The towel is providing some relief, which surprises me. There’s also several stretching exercises listed as helpful. The Mayo Clinic recommends stretching the arms, shoulders, and wrists for at least 15 minutes before sitting down to type and taking “stretch breaks” every hour. 30 years ago, I used to think “I should limber up and stretch out good before cheerleading practice” but I did not have that same thought before typing class every day. Another suggestion was wearing a corset. At first this may seem like a weird suggestion, but in my twenties I understood the value of a good corset. Not to cinch in the waist or anything stupid like that, but for posture and support. I had far fewer back problems when I wore corsets more often and since computer elbow can be made worse by bad posture, well… Maybe I need to invest in some good supportive corsets again because losing the ability to type due to pain isn’t an option. The problem with a corset is that they look stupid under T-shirts, maybe someone should design a posture improving corset specifically for every day wear that looks okay under a T-shirt. Personally, I need one that reduces the weight and pull on my shoulders, straightens my spine, and allows me to breathe while not preventing my t-shirt from moving when I move.