Jack squat. End of post. Ha!
What I do know, however, is way more than I would like about this nagging little thing called Tennis Elbow, or lateral epicondylitis for you smart types. Back in January, I started on a new fitness plan. I was tired from all the #13in2013 running and life. I needed to change things up and wanted to get back to more lifting to give my body a break from all the running
and actually have breakfast with my family on Saturday mornings. About a month into my plan, I woke up and my arm was in a lot of pain. I just figured I slept on it funny and hoped it would work itself out. Then I couldn’t even lift my coffee cup and I knew we were in trouble.
Yeah, this was going to be problematic. Like any smart person would do, I immediately turned to
my doctor Google for a diagnosis. Everything I searched pointed to tennis elbow.
You know that little bone that sticks out just a tad on the outside of your elbow when your arm is bent? Yeah, that. Lots of pain, right there. The muscles in your forearm attach to the bone via tendons at the outside of the elbow. Excessive use of your elbow can result in tiny tears in these tendons (may be one tendon, or more than one tendon affected) and these tiny tears lead to inflammation and irritation and then you’ve got a lovely case of tennis elbow. Yeah, I’m pretty good at those darn overuse injuries. I thought I could slap a brace on and keep moving forward, but not so much. I took some time off, I iced it, I went to see my doc because he’s great at inflicting pain but making things better, and over the next several weeks, I tried every treatment I could find.
Pictured above: taping (fail), acupuncture (interesting, but meh on the helpful scale), “regular” doc prescribed brace (worthless), and more ice
cream (comfort food really doesn’t help much of anything past the two minutes it takes to inhale it all). Everything I’d read said it could take six months to a year to heal. A few more weeks passed with little improvement. At least I could run. Oh wait, scratch that. I was stretching like a good athlete and my back made a funny popping noise, but it wasn’t so funny. At all. Let’s trade that lower limb mobility in for an old lady shuffle. Make that old lady who can’t even pick up a cup of coffee shuffle. What. The. Heck.
It’s been four months into this elbow mess, a good month of which I was down with my back. I’ll leave it to you to figure out how much fun I’ve been. Immobility, however, makes you a genius when it comes to varying methods of treatment:
M.E.A.T. Not R.I.C.E
And I’m not talking about my diet. Unlike typical overuse injuries that call for old school R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation) don’t apply with these types of injuries. Ice brings down swelling by decreasing blood flow and circulation, but when you decrease blood flow to a ligament that is normally gets very little blood, it can actually hinder the healing process. M.E.A.T. on the other hand, stands for movement, exercise, analgesics, and treatment. Movement & exercise gets the blood flowing, blood flow helps your body heal. Analgesics help with the pain, but are not anti-inflammatory; inflammation means blood flow, and that’s a good thing. Treatment means just that. It doesn’t mean walking around with your arm in a sling until it doesn’t hurt. Getting some professional myofascial release/sports specific massage is a great way to go, but if it’s going to break the bank, here are a couple of options I’ve been using.
TENS is short for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, where electrodes are (strategically) placed around the injury and an electric current stimulates the nerves in order to help the healing process. I picked up this one and felt pretty comfortable with following the directions for placement of the electrodes.
No, not trying to get my flex on…yet! I came across an article that had a surprisingly easy course of treatment.
Turns out Theraband makes the FlexBar and there are a few options that correspond to varying levels of resistance needed to twist the bar.
I started with the red because surely I could expend 10lbs of resistance to twist a rubber bar, right? I quickly realized 10lbs of resistance was going to aggravate, not assist, with healing. Humbled, I dialed it down a notch to the yellow (6lbs). It’s work. I’m sore. But it’s progress.
Once my back was feeling somewhat stable enough, I made a few trips to the gym. Mostly for short runs, to work on my core (which felt completely, pathetically weak), and test the waters with any weight bearing exercises. It has been a slow go, to say the least. Still not recovered, but if you follow me on Instagram you can track my progress and celebrate the little victories with me. Dumbbell rows, anyone?
Have you ever had a prolonged injury? Are you a good patient or a self-medicating patient? What else can kick tennis elbow?