If you’re anything like me, you over snowmobile and you get strained elbows and arm pain. If I am not careful, tendon strain will set in around February and can be there for the rest of the season. Thankfully, with coaching from a sports Orthopedic surgeon, I have found some ways to mange it.
Technically it’s called lateral epicondylitis – or plain old Tennis Elbow. What it is, is an inflammation of the tendons that join the forearm muscles on the outside of the elbow. The forearm muscles and tendons become damaged from overuse — repeating the same motions again and again. This leads to pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow. Not surprisingly, sledding can cause this condition (especially if you have to consistently dig out your buddies) . The onset of pain is gradual, and as it worsens the person is unable to perform his/her activity at the highest level.
- Strengthen the forearm by doing gripping exercises, such as scrunching up a towel, squeezing putty, or performing flexion and extension exercises using a dumbbell. I like using this Grip Strengthener.
- Use an Elbow Support Strap! These are tendon pad cushions which place gentle, targeted pressure on elbow tendons and muscles to help provide firm, stabilizing protection, compression and pain relief. Effectively what it does is move the pressure on your tendon from right at the elbow joint, more forward on your forearm. This transfer of pressure prevents further inflammation at the elbow. Using these straps was recommended to me by an Orthopedic surgeon and have salvaged my riding seasons in years past.
This strap here, for less than $8 on Amazon is the one I use. I make sure to have a few around so I don’t forget one on ride day: a couple in my gear bag, one in the truck, one in my pack.
Once you start to show signs of tendon strain, start to treat immediately. The further you allow it to develop, the longer it will take to heal.
- Always begin with RICE (described below)
- Move to range of motion exercises, regaining flexion and extension as needed.
- Incorporate exercises that will help build strength and stability to the joint.
- Use an Elbow Support Strap.
Rest: Rest is vital to protect the injured muscle, tendon, ligament or other tissue from further injury. If injured, stop playing and protect the injured part from further damage. Avoid putting weight on the injured part, get help moving to a safe area off the field. Resting the injured part is important to promote effective healing.
Ice: When icing an injury, choose a cold pack, crushed ice or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a thin towel to provide cold to the injured area. An ice massage is another extremely effective way to direct cold to the injured tissue. Cold provides short-term pain relief and also limits swelling by reducing blood flow to the injured area. When icing injuries, never apply ice directly to the skin (unless it is moving as in ice massage) and never leave ice on an injury for more than 20 minutes at a time. Longer exposure can damage your skin and even result in frostbite. A good rule is to apply cold compresses for 15 minutes and then leave them off long enough for the skin to re-warm.
Compression: Compression helps limit and reduce swelling, which may delay healing. Some people also experience pain relief from compression. An easy way to compress the area of the injury is to wrap an ACE bandage around the swollen part. If you feel throbbing, or if the wrap just feels too tight, remove the bandage and re-wrap the area so the bandage is a little looser.
Elevation: Elevating an injury help control swelling. It’s most effective when the injured area is raised above the level of the heart. For example, if you injure an ankle, try lying on your bed with your foot propped on one or two pillows.
Sources: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/, http://breakingmuscle.com/ http://sportsmedicine.about.com/cs/rehab/a/rice.htm