In the last four weeks I was beginning to notice an interesting group of symptoms in my right shoulder and elbow. Ranging from soreness to a very obvious pain in the outside of my arm down the side of the little finger. Pretty tight behind the shoulder as well under the back of my armpit. Time to investigate this quirky presentation.
I am certainly not a professional tennis player or over-doing kettle bells. However... I am over-doing the technology and specifically my lovely, adored iPhone 10 with it's "whoop whoop" camera and potentially my passion for the playstation. Yes...I know I'm 50 but this is hardwired from aged nine. I can see you laughing.
So what is happening. When I naturally reach to hold my phone in my right hand being a trendy and incredibly special left-hander, an insanely creative and intelligent group of people - ( I raised an eyebrow to myself as I said that ), I noticed a number of repetitive actions.
My little finger and fourth finger are curled under and inwards - as I type this on the computer, it is doing it now - involuntarily. My elbow is flexed at 70 degrees. and my right shoulder rolled forwards - and it is stuck there. Have a little check of your own hand, elbow and shoulder, left and right. What do you notice ? Hopefully nothing. If you notice something, you may not have symptoms but with the erosion of time and repetition during these high tech times -you will. I promise you , it is deeply uncomfortable and preventable.
Numbness in the little finger and "clawing"
Tingling down the outside of the lower arm.
Tightness and pain in the outside of the elbow.
Tightness and restriction of the shoulder and shoulder blade.
The anatomy can be broadly described as "ulnar nerve compression" where the normal gliding of the nerve through the cubital fossa (or space) becomes snagged loses it's flow leading to inflammation and swelling which although a normal response to help healing, can increase the problem.
The whole movement mechanism involves the glide of the shoulder blade as well which needs to be able to move in all directions of the compass.
Importantly if you have had any neck injury or accident it is crucial that compression at source in the neck is ruled out medically. Especially if your symptoms emerge in the neck and track all the way to the little finger. If you are really unlucky it can even track a fascial line all the way to the little toe! Strange but true. Often a little toe position can mirror the little finger. Have a look... is you small toe rolled outwards and not quite in line with the rest?
What can I do to help myself?
Have a glance at this wonderfully simple and effective video by Doctor Jo. Here she beautifully puts together easy exercises to help de-compress and ease symptoms.
What can I do to prevent the problem in the future?
Leave the phone on a surface near you and either use speaker options, Siri or headphones.
Consciously notice that you are holding your elbow in flexion whilst sitting passively and actively extend it and work with one of the exercises. We literally need to re-train ourselves out of the action.
Use technology a little less during this Zoom intense COVID19 time.
Take warm baths and believe it or not, Apple Cider Vinegar wrapped around the elbow on kitchen towel then enclosed with cling film - although absolutely stinks, works really well at reducing local inflammation. Only leave it on for 2 hours at a time and dilute it 5:1 if there are any skin reactions. A great old wives tale that has lasted the test of time. We are even in the process of creating a topical cream that creates the same response without all the fiddle and mess. It worked in the Jack and Jill nursery rhyme - although it still didn't end so well for Jack.
Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown And Jill came tumbling after.
Jack got up, and home did trot as fast as he could caper
To old Dame Dob, who patched his nob With vinegar and brown paper.
John Newbery's. Mother Goose Collection.