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Old April 7th, 2004, 07:37 PM   #1
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Public service announcement: watch out for bursitis!

Most heavy computer users are familiar with the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome or similar repetitive strain injuries from hours of continuous keyboard use, and the preventative measures and exercises that can be taken to minimize such injury. But did you know you can develop a painful condition just by leaning on your elbow for a few hours? (It happened to me this past weekend and it wasn't pretty!)

It's called olecranon bursitis, and it can be caused by impact injury to the elbow as well as just leaning on the elbow. It results in an inflammation of the olecranon bursa, the slippery sac that lubricates elbow flexion. Symptoms consist of pain, extreme swelling of the elbow, and redness of the skin around the elbow.

On Saturday my left elbow started to hurt and I couldn't figure out why because I knew I hadn't bumped it, though I remembered I had been leaning on it while working at my computer desk. It became painful to the point of delirium until I took an ibuprofin. The following day the swelling had become so bad that I couldn't bend it, and I felt an all-around achiness in my shoulders and back, headache, and nausea, all the signs of a bad cold except for the respiratory symptoms. My elbow was huge and red. It made it quite difficult to work.

By Tuesday my left arm was mostly back in commission and I was able to grasp objects. Today there's still a bit of pain, but I think I'll recover without further complication, although, I've learned (see above link) that recurrent cases call for surgical removal of the bursa.

Hope nobody else ever has to experience this, so I say: when leaning over your monitor proudly inspecting the fruits of your latest editing marathon, respect your bursa! Don't lean on a hard surface on the point of your elbow!
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Old April 7th, 2004, 09:10 PM   #2
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I feel your pain...or at least 30 years ago I did.

This is (was) also a common problem when I was in architectural school. In those days students would spend much of their waking lives on their elbows over drawing boards. Baggy, slightly fluid filled elbows were normal. Sometimes they became inflamed as your did.
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Old April 8th, 2004, 05:13 AM   #3
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Isn't carpel tunnel syndrome most common from mouse use
instead of keyboard use? I know you can get it basically from any
repetitive action, but I thought mouse use was the #1 on the list.

Sounds like a lot of pain Robert! Glad to hear it is residing.
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Old April 8th, 2004, 11:02 PM   #4
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Robert thanks for this important heads up on something that most of us probably do and not even think that it is bad for us.

Ken, I noticed a while back those same baggy fluidy sac right at my elbows, they never hurt but I was wondering why they were there. Now I'll try not to lean on my elbow, but while I was reading over this post, I again went to lean on my left elbow, it's gonna take a while to break this bad habit.
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Old April 8th, 2004, 11:17 PM   #5
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Rik,
It will be impossible to avoid leaning on your elbows! The general treatment when I was in school was to visit the university's clinic to have the affected elbows drained of fluid with a syringe (yuck). (They actually used to call it "draftsmans' elbow".) Their recommendation was to try to place pads on your drawing board to better distribute your weight when leaning on the board. They also said that wearing a long-sleeve shirt tended to avoid the problem.
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