The prevalence of injuries in eSports has become a significant drawback for the sport. More and more video gamers are experiencing the effects of a static posture and long hours full of intense fights. Although not as much as the injuries to the wrist and the hands, injuries to the elbow should still be something to worry about since the shoulders, elbows, and hands work as a unit, providing the range for arm movements and a stable base for the forearm, hand and wrist motions. Lateral epicondylosis is one of those elbow conditions frequently encountered by gamers and often a cause of withdrawal from a game.
Your elbow comprises three bones: an upper arm bone or the humerus, and two forearm bones, the radius and the ulna. Your humerus ends at your elbow with two bony bumps on both sides, the medial epicondyle on the inside and the lateral epicondyle on the outside.
The lateral epicondyle is the bony prominence on the outer side of your elbow where several muscle tendons of the forearm are attached, collectively termed the common extensor tendon, which serves to extend the wrists and the fingers. The following are the muscles that extend your wrist with their other functions:
The Extensor Carpi Radialis Longus attaches slightly higher to this area, specifically at the lateral supracondylar ridge, and shares the same function as the ECRB, wrist extension and radial deviation. Another muscle associated with this bony projection is the anconeus, which has the same attachment site as the ECRB but functions as an elbow extensor with your triceps. The anconeus also functions as an elbow stabilizer during forearm pronation movement (inward forearm rotation), in which your forearm rotates towards your body so that your thumb points directly to you.
In lateral epicondylosis, the area where maximal tenderness is usually felt is a spot lower than the common attachment of the extensor muscles of the forearm. The most commonly involved tendon is the ECRB, but other tendons may be affected because of the proximity.
To racket players, lateral epicondylosis is known as the tennis elbow and is a condition associated with repetitive stress to the common extensor tendon from the powerful backhand stroke. To video gamers, this is known as the mouse elbow, referring to the overuse of a computer mouse, particularly in PC gamers. Repetitive finger motion, frequent wrist extension, or when the wrist is extended when using the mouse for long periods can strain the forearm muscles and develop pain in the lateral epicondyle area. Studies show that mouse elbow is often due to damage to ECRB. This muscle stabilizes the wrist when the elbow is straight, particularly in cases where the muscle is activated as it elongates (eccentric contraction). The ECRB is weakened from overuse and irritation, and microscopic tears form in the tendon, leading to elbow pain. Although lateral epicondylosis has been identified as an inflammatory condition, inflammation is only present in the early stages of the disease, and painful symptoms are usually felt when the condition has already progressed to a degenerative state due to "wear and tear," causing the affected tissues to undergo a reduction in blood flow and scar tissue formation, a process known as angiofibroblastic tendinosis.
The ECRB is also prone to be affected because of its position. The ECRB rubs against the bony spot as the elbow bends and straightens.
The most common complaint by gamers with lateral epicondylosis is a gradual onset of pain and tenderness over the lateral epicondyle, which can radiate up along the upper arm and down into your forearm and wrist. In addition, decreased flexibility and strength of the wrist and hand muscles are also often seen.
Common signs and symptoms of a gamer's elbow:
The following provocative manoeuvres reproduce pain at the lateral epicondyle:
Among the most critical early management of lateral epicondylosis is withdrawal or avoidance of the activities that cause the symptoms. This ensures that the condition is not aggravated and appropriate treatment can be given safely and effectively.
ACUTE (IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE INJURY): Management is geared toward relieving the elbow pain. The RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) protocol can help relieve pain initially.
REHABILITATION AND PREVENTION: Rehab goals include maintaining or improving the flexibility and strength of the wrist and finger extensors, as well as the related muscles, and preventing the recurrence or onset of the condition. Frequent stretching and a high‑repetition, low-resistance exercise program, can help deal with elbow pain from lateral epicondylosis.
Friction Massage – Friction massage aids recovery by activating the body's tissue repair mechanisms. It promotes increased blood flow and soft tissue extensibility. With your thumb, gently apply a back-and-forth stroking over the tendon at the point of most significant tenderness, perpendicular to the tendon fibres (cross-fibre), for 1 to 2 minutes.
Stretching Exercise – All patients are instructed to stretch the wrist extensors even with no flexibility deficits. Stretching can relieve pain by releasing tension on the wrist extensor muscles and improving blood flow.
Strengthening Exercise – Attention is given to the eccentric strengthening of the wrist extensors.
Preventive Measures for Mouse Elbow
PC gamers' mouse and keyboard trays usually cause mouse elbow because they put their arms in almost static, tensed postures for long periods, straining the tendons at the outer elbow. Apart from performing the simple exercises mentioned, the following ergonomic adjustments can also be made to address this issue and reduces the risks of acquiring a mouse elbow:
Avoid lateral epicondylosis with Recovapro. Various soft tissue mobilization techniques can be applied using Percussive Vibration Therapy by Recovapro. Goals include reducing lateral elbow pain and promoting faster tissue healing by increasing blood flow and soft tissue extensibility.
Note: Terms used to describe the techniques are just for reference and comparison to actual manual therapy. The procedures are presented as if a manual massage is applied using the Recovapro massage gun.
PRECAUTION: avoid the bony prominence while using the massage gun. This may cause discomfort and may aggravate the condition.