Wednesday, February 11, 2009

And I don’t even play tennis

A couple months ago (after, it must be confessed, several weeks of hard-core harp-practicing, knitting and child-wrangling, working through the pain because “I had to”…stay with me, it becomes important later…), I woke up one morning aware that my right elbow was throbbing. Much like waking up with a headache or toothache, it was a tremendous surprise to me. What (I wondered quietly to myself) could I have done in my sleep that gave me a throbbing elbow?

The pain was impressive, and got worse with things like knitting, or playing the harp, or picking things up (even just a coffee cup, which really got my attention in a hurry), or even using a mouse.

“A-ha!” I said to myself. “Obviously, I have pulled a muscle in or around my elbow, or perhaps I smacked into something I don’t remember smacking into!” (You laugh, but at the same time…I don’t organize my life with lists and calendars and assorted electronic things that beep, chime or administer a slight electric shock to keep me on track down to the quarter-hour mark because I’m organized but rather because my brain is so full of holes it wouldn’t even make a decent sieve, which by design does hold at least something, while my brain can’t be relied upon to hold onto a boulder-sized piece of information for two seconds, let alone all the little bits of trivia I demand of it in the average day.) (Longest. Run-on. Sentence. EVER.) (But I digress.)

Eventually (pronounced, ‘over a month later’) it dawned on me that perhaps this wasn’t going to just, you know, get better. And that perhaps I should look into it.

Look into it being a term which should here be pronounced, ‘look to the Internet for a diagnosis because goodness knows I wouldn’t want to bother an actual doctor with these things.’

I had a sinking feeling I knew full well what was going on here. Lo these many moons ago, my harp teacher had launched forth into a lengthy diatribe about the evils of tennis elbow, a condition which she had contracted from, you guessed it, playing (and moving, and lifting, and toting, and otherwise futzing about with) the harp.

She had described the way it felt in gruesome detail, and guess what? My elbow now felt exactly the same way. Even picking up a coffee cup hurts a little; picking up bigger things hurts a lot.

And the repetitive movements that likely brought it on? Hurt like gee-whiz-gosh-darn-it-billy-OH. (Which should be pronounced…never mind, I wouldn’t want to lose my ‘G’ rating around here…)

From the article linked above: Most of the time tennis elbow is caused by overuse. You probably got it from doing activities where you twist your arm over and over. This can stress the tendon, causing tiny tears that in time lead to pain.

Ahem. Activities where I twist my arm over and over again. Let’s see. Knitting, using the keyboard/mouse, picking up children, doing laundry, playing the harp…hey! That’s pretty much every minute of every day of my life, thank you very much…

So I ignored it until I couldn’t ignore it anymore immediately began home treatment, which in my case means…rest.


Because I’m already weeks past the first few days, making the ice applications kind of pointless; and besides, I take a prescription anti-inflammatory for my back/hip issues. Since I can’t do the anti-inflammatory part any more than I’m already doing, what’s left, then, would be…rest.

That’s it. That’s the Miracle Cure. Just…rest the elbow. Don’t do things that hurt. If it hurts, stop. Give it a break. Take a load off it. Just let it hang out, without demanding much of it.

Rest. The. Elbow.

Which is hell on earth and I hates it I HATES IT about as simple a course of treatment as one can ask for, right?

Of course right! I should be grateful that it is so simple!

So I set down my knitting (wah) and ignored my harp (WAH!) (I was just starting to get good proficient acceptable not offensive again!) and Took Measures to keep myself from picking up the small horses people around here, and otherwise tried to minimize activities that caused, you know, pain.

I have been “resting” the elbow for almost a month, and I have thoroughly lost my mind and am about to go utterly stark raving mad and also if I don’t figure out a way to rest my elbow while knitting I may just start chewing on the carpets around here, seriously! it really isn’t much better.

I am way behind on my knitting (which I say as though I have a quota or something, which I don’t). I am getting a bit on the snarly side these days, because come on! Seems like just about everything I need-need to do (like earning money, which I do using a computer or [according to theory, although I am currently thanking $DEITY that I have no actual engagements right now] the harp) or need-want to do (like knitting) is on the no-no list.

My ratio of fun:not-fun is getting seriously whacked around here.

So tomorrow, I’ll pick up one of those counter-brace thingees, because I read on the Internet that “You don't need a health professional's advice before trying a counterforce brace.”

That should be pronounced, “You don’t have to spend $365 to have your doctor tell you to try a counterforce brace, you can just try it on your own.”

Of course, the same article also says this: “Most cases of tennis elbow respond to rest, ice, rehabilitation exercises, pain medicine and splints. This injury does take from 6 months to 12 months to heal. Patience helps.”


Seriously, did it really say that? Six to twelve MONTHS? “Patience helps”?!



I am not particularly well-known for my patience, yo.

Not that the elbow particularly cares whether I’m patient or not. Which is rather infuriating of it, but then what do you expect from a traitor?


Anonymous said...

Hi - faithful reader here, who's finally emerging from my own "tennis" (Hah!) elbow incident. Mine was apparently caused by sifting compost through a screened box last... JULY! It took months for me to mention the nagging pain to a doctor type, who recommended that I get myself to Target for an elbow brace.

Which has helped. And yes, I just continued to knit, as that wasn't painful ;-) But definitely get one of the braces, wear it a lot and learn to do more things with your other arm. I suspect that I'm older than you, so my recovery may be taking longer!

Good luck. It's tedious in the extreme!

-Joyce in WI

RM Kahn said...

Me too.. tennis elbow from lifting a WAY too heavy flower pot into the thingy with wheels so I don't have to lift it anymore. After ice, some rest (I too, am not good with that R word) and the band/brace around my forearm... it is now better... I just won't say how long that took. I don't want to frighten you.

Anonymous said...

Please, please, please get yourself a wrist brace, and sleep with it (keeps the wrist in neutral position). Many of us exacerbate our wrist/elbow irritation tendencies by sleeping with our wrists bent -- and this can lead to tennis elbow (a/k/a lateral epicondylitis) as well. You may actually find ice helpful, especially ice massage (freeze water in a paper cup and peel the edge down to expose just the ice surface, rub gently over the sore tendon several times per day). Ask me how I know.... But I'm a medical practitioner as well; we see this all the time. Good luck!

Science PhD Mom said...

A brace will be your best friend for the next six months. And check your posture for harp can exaggerate wrist and elbow injuries if you don't hold your arms straight out, or pluck properly (as I'm sure you know I'm just sayin' just in case and all that). Good luck!

Louiz said...

I have a bad leg (trochanteric bursitis) from lumping daughter around and dragging heavy stuff about. Ouch, and my sympathies to you:(

Anonymous said...

Well! That makes me thankful I broke a bone! They only take 6-8 WEEKS to heal. You have my deepest sympathies. I was going nuts after a month.

Anonymous said...

Oh OUCH. That stinks. Use the brace and don't be afraid of some ice, either. And take the time!! You'll only regret it if you don't!

Anonymous said...

I second (third? fourth?) the suggestions for ice. Even long after the initial injury, ice treatment (10 minutes) a couple of times a day can really help.

Best of luck...

Anonymous said...

Get the elbow brace. It definitely helps. And now I'm thinking about getting mine out and wearing it, 'cause I'm feeling a little carpal tunnel-y these days. Sigh. How do you stop knitting? I don' WANna...wah. I feel your pain. Good luck and patience.

Judy said...

Ouch!! Rest is so boring, but try to be a good little patient so you will be all better soon. :)
Do get the brace and use it.

Rena said...

Ah bollocks! I'm so sorry, darlin. It is so frustrating when your body rebels against your life.

I wish I could find a sprint for my rib cage. No luck. I was feeling better, then I got stubborn and spent an entire day pushing the wheel chair around Healdsburg. I woke up this morning actually surprised I was hurting so badly.

Humans are silly.