Medial Epicondylitis (elbow pain)
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.
"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..."