Many of my clients come to see me with elbow tendonitis, or golfer’s elbow, or tennis elbow. They are all the same. The clients will usually be wearing some sort of an elbow band or brace thinking it will help their elbow. Some clients have even had injections to relieve the pain. It is very painful as I have had it myself. The problem with this thinking is, we are looking at the wrong place. This is symptom-based mentality when you think the spot of pain is the cause of pain. Unless it is a broken bone or a torn ligament or tendon, it is rarely at the spot of pain. It is best to remember that ligaments attach the bones together and tendons attach muscles to the skin of the bones. Also, tendons are like rubber bands, they can stretch out and go back to their original length. Ligaments are more like taffy, they can stretch out but will not go back to their original length.
There are 24 muscles in your forearm running from your elbow to your fingertips and there are 2 bones in the forearm. The forearm allows you to rotate, grip things, and wave with your hand. If you feel on the outside of your elbow, you will feel a bony knot which is on the end of the bone in your upper arm. Feel underneath, and you will feel another bony knot also on the end of the upper arm bone. These are important because this is where 5 muscles attach on each side that allows you to open and close your hand. It is the opening and closing of your hands that causes the elbow area to hurt. For instance, a golf swing requires you to grip your clubhead. This can cause the inside of the elbow to hurt. A backhand in tennis will cause the outside area of the elbow to hurt. There are many other things that can do the same thing. Something as simple as gripping your steering wheel, opening doors, painting, exercise, and stress if you hold stress in your hands. These muscles will get hard and pally pressure to the outside or inside of the joint. There are muscles in-between the forearm bones that, when hard, can reduce the rotating ability of the hand causing tenderness on the elbow as well.
The question is, how can you get rid of it? It is pretty simple when you think about. Every day I massage my forearms on my way home from the office because I use my hands all day. Now I am not talking about a little rub like you feel in a typical massage therapy session nor am I talking about digging down to the bone as in a deep tissue session. Use the pads of your thumbs and press in different spots on your forearm looking for sore spots, some people call them Trigger points, the bottom line is they are sore spots. Press down just enough for your brain to feel it, then breathe out allowing your brain to relax the muscle. Once it is relaxed, the pain will stop. Then move to another area and continue until the forearm is softer. Now, stand next to a table, place the palm of your hand flat on the table, and make sure the fingers are pointing behind you. Lean back gently while feeling a little pull up the forearm. More is not better so be gentle and breathe to release the muscles. Hold for 2 breaths and release. Holding for long periods of time will make it worse, not better. Next, bend the elbow and make a light fist. use the opposite hand and gently press down your hand feeling the stretch up the forearm and through the wrist. Remember to be gentle and not force the movement. Too much pressure on either stretch and the brain will fight with you and you will be strength training, not stretching. For the average person, doing these 2-3 times per week should be enough. If you use your hands a lot during your week, then I would suggest doing every day and maybe twice a day. This has kept my hands and arms from hurting in my practice.
To see videos of these and other stretches, go to my YouTube channel, The Muscle Repair Shop. You can leave comments there and on my Facebook and LinkedIn sites as well. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will reply within 24 hours.
Stretching is so misunderstood. If I were King, I would change the word to releasing. Stretching is about letting go of the tension in your muscles. This tension can come from thoughts throughout your day or physical activity. A Neurosurgeon once said to me, ” Ever seen a stressed guy look relaxed?” He’s correct when we are stressed we tighten every muscle in our body. When having a bad day you may hold more tension in your shoulders, hips, hands, or feet, but it is also throughout your body. This tension will cause compression on your bones, nerves, and blood vessels. The compression on your spine can lead to bulging discs, herniated discs, tingling down an extremity. An example would be bike riding. As a biker is hunched over the handlebar, the compression on his/her spine is increased as they are holding up their head. The muscles of the chest begin to contract as they steering their bike, again increasing compression. As the compression increases in the cervical spine (neck), it pinches the nerves going down to the hands causing tingling and numbness. By releasing the chest muscles and the muscles on the front of the neck, the pressure on the neck will release. Increasing the strength of your back muscles will only make it worse.
The compression on your joints will cause your joints to wear out leading to joint replacement and surgeries to treat the pain. Every joint have muscles crossing over them. As the muscles harden from working out, it reduces the spacing in the joints which will squeeze out the synovial fluid, a lubricant the body naturally puts in your joint. Left untreated, this compression can cause bursitis, which is telling you your joint is too close together, and later damage to the cartilage. By learning to stretch properly, you can relieve the pressure on your joints as well as the nerves and blood vessels. You don’t need to know the names of all your muscles, but understand how you work mechanically will reduce your risk of injury.
The biggest issue that people have when stretching is understanding how much of stretching is more mental than physical. If you pull your muscles too hard, massage too hard, or try to force the muscle to release, your brain will fight back in fear of you hurting yourself. Your brain will not let you hurt yourself unless you force it, which is crazy! Listen to your body and when you stretch, feel the stretch from start to finish. If you are tight, only hold the stretch for 3-5 seconds and repeat 8-10 times. Holding a stretch for a long period of time is fone if you are flexible, but if you are not, then stretching is about re-training your brain to believe you can actually do the stretch. Be safe and free your body!
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Nearly 10 million people per year suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome(CTS) each year in America. We are clear on the symptoms and what is exactly causing the pain at the moment of pain. However, we are not so clear on things we do to cause that pain to occur. Every health care practitioner can explain that the pain comes from the 4 tendons running through the carpal tunnel on the bottom side of your wrist are inflamed and presses against the median nerve in the carpal tunnel. The question is, what causes the tendons to inflame?
The inflammation is not the same inflammation you get when a part of your body swells or edema. That can be stopped by using ice. The type of inflammation is caused by the repetitive use of the forearm muscles in the bottom side of your arm. The term repetitive use does not mean doing the same thing over and over, but the continual use of these muscles. The 4 muscles on the bottom side of your forearm, the flexor muscles, allow you to grip anything you want to pick up, move, or hold. Driving your car and holding too tight on the steering wheel. Playing a sport that requires you hold a racket, bat, or club in order to play. Holding a cup of coffee, typing, or writing can cause this inflammation. There is no way to stop the inflammation from happening because we all do these things daily and are not going to stop.
There are several treatment plans available that most people have tried with limited success. Strength exercises may help in the short term but will cause the pain to get worse over time because you are shortening the muscles. Braces are very popular and do help in relieving some pain, but without changing what you are doing daily, it is just going to get worse. Plus over time the brace will stop working as well too. Injections can help as a short-term relief, but again, it will come back. Finally, surgery is a treatment many doctors use and it is only a short-term fix for your pain. I know it can be frustrating, but the problem is, we are not looking at the cause!
Any time you use your hands and fingers you are creating inflammation in the flexor muscles( bottom side) of your forearm. As the muscles contract to move your fingers and hands, they are burning the fuel ATP which leaves a waste product in the muscle fiber called lactic acid. You cannot drink enough water to wash it out. there are no pills to make it go away. The only way to get rid of it is to massage it out and then do a couple of simple stretches for your wrist and forearm. When you are massaging your forearm, don’t just rub, but use your thumb to press in various spots on your forearm looking for sore spots. When you find one, maintain the pressure, and breathe allowing your brain to release those muscles. Your forearms should be as soft as cotton candy regardless of how strong you are. Work up and down your arm.
The first stretch is to stand next to a table that you can place your hand flat on the table.Make sure your fingers are pointing behind you and lean into the stretch. Not too hard as your brain will fight with you, but just enough that you can begin to feel the stretch. Breathe and let your brain release the muscles in your forearm. The second stretch, make a light fist with the affected hand and bend the elbow. Place the opposite hand on top of your fist and gently pull down. This will stretch the fingers that are tight from gripping too hard. Finally, place both hands together, like you are praying, keep both against your stomach and press one hand down to stretch the bottom wrist. Be sure to always do both sides in each of these exercises. You can see videos on my website.