Medial Epicondylitis (elbow pain)

SpacemanspiffSpacemanspiff Dallas, TexasSenior Member
edited September 2015 in General Discussion

I've been suffering with rather severe elbow pain (both elbows) for three straight months. While the initial cause was not swimming, swimming has clearly exacerbated the situation. As is my unfortunate habit, I tried to suck it up for a month before realizing I needed medical attention. Eventually the pain became so severe I couldn't open doors. Turns out I have medial epicondylitis (a/k/a "golfer's elbow"). In consultation with my ortho, my masters coaches, and Google, I attempted the following remedies for the past 60 days:

What did NOT work: (In fairness, all of these seemed to help some and may have ultimately been successful if I was more patient or if I attempted them sooner)

(1) stretching (2) icing (3) PT (4) cortisone (this worked for a week before the pain came back) (5) ibuprofen (6) open finger catch/pull (7) focusing on straight-arm catch/pull (i.e., no break at the wrist) and no s-curving (8) time off/rest (3 consecutive weeks)

What did work: (At least "is" working and has been for a week)

(1) eliminate breast/back strokes (both of these apparently require more wrist flexion) (2) when using paddles, apply paddle pressure from pinky instead of palm or thumb (tip from masters coach)

When I eliminated stroke work, pain subsided within 48-hours and has not returned. I've been pain free for a week.

I've been needing to do some distance work to get ready for Swim the Suck, but I haven't been able to go more than 2-3K without pain since June. So last Saturday (6 days after eliminating stroke work), I decided I'd attempt a 10K. I figured if I couldn't do it (pain or fitness-wise), I'd have to pull out of Swim the Suck. Happy to report: Pulled off 10K and felt good enough to continue, but didn't want to push my good fortune. Managed a surprisingly decent pace and no pain of any significance (I may have had some pain, but it was too slight to conclusively distinguish from hypochondria).

Bummer to have to quit stroke work, as I enjoy an IM every once in a while and mixing up strokes seems to keep shoulder pain at bay. Perhaps I'll try to ease back into it next season. But there is no doubt in my mind that eliminating breast/back made the difference for me.

JSwim

"Lights go out and I can't be saved Tides that I tried to swim against Have brought be down upon my knees Oh I beg, I beg and plead..."

Comments

  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoCharter Member

    It's long been my contention that backstroke is only useful for swimming for very brief distances and then only if you are immediately passing under a bridge.

    malinakaChrisgreene

    http://notdrowningswimming.com - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer

  • JenAJenA Charter Member
    edited September 2015

    @dc_in_sf said: It's long been my contention that backstroke is only useful for swimming for very brief distances and then only if you are immediately passing under a bridge.

    Or you've smeared your goggles with grease, and need to sight off the George Washington Bridge... ;-)

  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member

    @Spacemanspiff, I have arthritis in my right elbow, and I've tried various things like you to relieve the pain. Believe it or not, the only thing that has worked so far is a low carb diet. Elbow pain GONE!

    So as to avoid charges of proselytizing or recruiting for a diet-cult, I'll end this now.

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • SpacemanspiffSpacemanspiff Dallas, TexasSenior Member

    IronMike said: the only thing that has worked so far is a low carb diet. Elbow pain GONE!

    Alas, a bargain I shall never make. I swim for beer. And pizza.

    dc_in_sfTMcQueenloneswimmerChrisgreene

    "Lights go out and I can't be saved Tides that I tried to swim against Have brought be down upon my knees Oh I beg, I beg and plead..."

  • Accupuncture worked for me. I was pretty sceptical beforehand, but felt an improvement after the 1st session. I think 4 visits in total. I thought it was butterfly under bridges?

  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member

    Spacemanspiff said:

    IronMike said: the only thing that has worked so far is a low carb diet. Elbow pain GONE!

    Alas, a bargain I shall never make. I swim for beer. And pizza.

    Some days, my only carbs are beer. Nothing like bacon for all 3 meals.

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoCharter Member
    edited September 2015

    ColmBreathnach said: I thought it was butterfly under bridges?

    Butterfly is the stroke of the devil >:)

    http://notdrowningswimming.com - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer

  • ColmBreathnachColmBreathnach Charter Member

    here's a link i found, for those who like toys.....

  • andissandiss Senior Member

    Im just bumping this one as seem to have Golfers elbow... haven't swum for 3 days now and stretching the arm and using deep heat and diclofenac cream.

    Any other tips? Dryneedling (Acupuncture?)

  • SoloSolo B.C. CanadaMember

    I had a case of “tennis elbow” for a year. Developed it training for a long ride, but swimming really exacerbated it. I am an AOS swimmer. Turns out my hand entry was not perfectly flat, and the tiny bit of arm rotation every stroke was causing the problem. A few weeks of mindful swimming and the pain went away.

  • EODEOD Member

    I dealt with M.E. a bit around 3 years and ago and still appears from time to time but not near as much lately. I would say it is 95% gone.. At the time I was swimming with a straight arm pull and a straight arm recovery. I am a self taught swimmer who should have gotten good instruction before starting to up the yardage. I had the good fortune to be swimming one day next to an instructor who noticed my bad technique and she asked to show me some pointers. the 10 minute tutorial converted me to high elbows- for pull phase and recovery. but she also noticed ( as she swam next to me with a snorkel and fins, so she could watch me swim underwater) that I was flexing my wrist during my pull. I didn't realize I was doing that, she instructed me to consider the hand & forearm kind of like an oar, with the hand being a paddle. keep the hand/ forearm as one fixed unit, not to flex the wrist during the pull. I have to say since that day it has been so much better. So based on my experience I would suggest look at wrist flexion, and see if you are doing it. Good Luck!

    andiss
  • andissandiss Senior Member

    Thanks for the feedback, i notice that it subsides when i dont swim or surf.

    Id say i will have to check physio and swim form, beacuse if I rotate my hand inwards when arm is straight i get a pain in my elbow.

  • andissandiss Senior Member

    I have been messing a bit with Butterfly also so will stop that and see if that helps.

  • andissandiss Senior Member

    Update:

    Stopped with Butterfly, Backstroke and Breaststroke (wasn't doing much anyway)

    Been using a tense machine over the area

    Started in the Gym doing weights

    And the pain has almost gone away completely - significant difference.

    Solo
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