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What is an Elbow Rest?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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An elbow rest is an arm pad made to attach under a desk top. It takes the strain off of the elbow to help prevent injury. Elbow rests are sold in many computer and office supply stores in the workplace ergonomics accessories section. They are considered as keyboard accessories as well and many support the wrist as well as the elbow.

Some types of elbow rests consist of an open frame structure to hold in the arm. These support stand types of rests have a cupped area for the elbow. Other styles consist of a padded cradle type of piece to hold up the arm and elbow. The wrist rests on the edge of the desk so the fingers are free to access a computer keyboard or mouse.

An elbow rest may be filled with a gel material to offer firm, yet supple support. Some of these gel rests are square in shape, while others are rectangular to fit both the elbow and wrist. Many gel elbow rests feature a rubber backing and a padded, washable cover.

Computer access elbow rests are usually interchangeable for the right or left arm. Typically, elbow strain develops only in one arm at a time. Repeated movements that strain joints are the most common causes of elbow problems. Tennis elbow is a common condition that is not only caused by sports, but by repetitive movement such as raising a telephone up to the ear many times during the day.

Elbow rests are thought to help workers who stand as well as sit. An elbow rest can relieve shoulder and spinal pressure by distributing some of the body’s weight on the arms. Padded arm pieces that fit onto the ends of desk chair arms are a type of elbow rest sold in pairs. They are often black in color and slightly indented to cushion the elbows and arms.

Some types of elbow rests are built into work chairs. For example, the saddle style of rolling chair has a seat divided in the center with each side shaped and sloped like half of a horse saddle. The base is usually made of metal spokes with five wheels. One metal spoke extends up from the seat and has a curved, padded bar attached to it. This curved bar is designed for laboratory workers, dental assistants, craftspeople and others to rest their elbows on while working.

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Discussion Comments

By SarahSon — On Jun 03, 2012

If I have a choice of sitting in a chair that has any kind of arm and elbow support over one that doesn't, I will choose the chair with arms every time.

I find it very uncomfortable to spend any length of time in a chair where I cannot support my arms. I have seen some cheap office chairs without any arms, and using something like this all day long would drive me crazy.

It is nice to have a place to rest your arms and elbows when you are not using them.

By sunshined — On Jun 02, 2012

I think some people wait until they have pain or problems before they begin using something like an elbow rest.

My thinking is that a lot of this can be avoided or prevented if you begin using one before you have problems.

Most people will have some kind of problems after years of the same movements in their fingers, hands, wrists and elbows when working at the computer.

I love my elbow rest because it is very comfortable and I feel like I am reducing the chance of having pain in the future. I started using this a few years ago, and since then have not had any of the tingling or pains that I had before.

By John57 — On Jun 01, 2012

I have seen elbow rests in the store but I have never bought one. For me they look like they can be too restrictive.

Even though I don't move my elbows around much when typing, it seems like I would want more freedom with my arm movements than an elbow rest would allow.

I have never had any problems with my elbows and I am at my computer for many hours a day. If I were to start having sore elbows I can see where something like this might be worth a try.

Until then, I will probably just go without one, and not mess with something else that takes up space in my work area.

By myharley — On May 31, 2012

I have never used an elbow rest at my desk when working on the computer, but this sounds like a good idea.

There are many times when my arms and elbows get sore or numb after spending many hours a day typing on the computer and using the mouse.

I know that continued repetitive movement like this can lead to strain and arthritis in my elbow.

One thing I do use is a mouse pad that has wrist support built in. This is made of gel and allows me to rest my wrist on the pad whenever I am using my mouse.

This makes a big difference for me, and is much better than using just a flat mouse pad.

By discographer — On May 31, 2012

@ysmina, @turquoise-- I have arthritis in my elbows so I always attach an arm and elbow rest to the arms of the chair I'm sitting in. I chose this model so that I can carry it with me and use it both at the office as well as at home.

I also have a pair that I put in the car. I'm in traffic for an hour and a half every single day. My car doesn't have built in arm rests on the door panels. My elbows hurt while waiting in traffic as they do when I work on the computer without an elbow rest. So I got a pair especially for the car.

The one disappointment I have with elbow rests is that they seem to be overpriced considering the type and amount of material that is used to make them. I don't know why they can't manufacture this stuff cheaper. I think everyone needs to use it while on the computer. It's not an accessory any more, it's a need.

By turquoise — On May 30, 2012

@ysmina-- I haven't seen elbow rests that attach to the desk but it sounds cool. Is the cushion soft?

That's what I care the most about when it comes to elbow rests. The ones I've been using for the past couple of years are made of gel, so they're extremely soft. When I put my elbow or wrist on it, it takes the shape of it.

They do have to be placed on top of the desk, so it does take up some space. But I don't mind, my wrist and elbow have to be on the desk anyway, I might as well have some comfort while working.

By ysmina — On May 30, 2012

I started using an elbow rest recently while on the computer and I love it!

I have an online business and I'm always on the computer. The major downside is that it's really hard on my back, my hands and my arms. I now have carpel tunnel syndrome in my right hand and a constantly sore elbow. I know that using a mouse for too many hours is the major culprit.

I have no idea why it took me so long to get an elbow rest. It's absolutely wonderful! The type I bought is an oval plastic piece with soft cushioning that is attached to the edge of the desk. So while I hold the mouse, my elbow is not straining to hold itself up. The constant pain in my right hand and elbow is almost completely gone.

I also love that this elbow rest is not on top of my desk. I have too much stuff on my desk anyway, I don't really have room for anything else.

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