A Story About Tennis Elbow

I am going to talk about tennis elbow and tell you a story about a six-month journey that I have had with tennis elbow on my left arm. 

In general, I am too loose. That’s my issue and my problem in life. I’m hypermobile, too loose for my own good. For example, I have crazy hyperextended knees.

I hurt my knees in yoga and ended up having three knee surgeries which is what led me to the work I do now. And, being hypermobile, I tend towards injury.

In general I work out pretty hard and I’m in decent shape at 57 years old but I get injured all the time and that’s just a part of being hypermobile. It’s not hard to get injured.

So this tennis elbow injury started maybe eight months ago.

It starts with running. I love running, but I always get injured doing it,

So I started running last spring and developed shin pain pretty quickly as I always do. And then a little bit of plantar fasciitis. I was done. I was not even going to try to work through my running stuff. So I broke out my bike for the first time in a long time.

I used to live in New York and in New York and I would bike everywhere. Mostly for function; to go to work, back and forth, in and out of the city.

So last spring I broke out my bike and for the first time in forever, and I was riding for leisure and pleasure.

I was doing an hour-long ride and like many bikes mine has a flat handlebar. A flat bike bar makes your elbows go wide and that’s a very standard thing.

There are a number of different type of handlebars. 10 speeds have what they call a drop bar that curls under, and racing bikes have room to lay your forearms down, but the flat bar is a pretty standard bike handlebar.

And it took about six weeks before I realized my elbow was hurting but it took another four weeks, at least, before I connected it to my bike. 

And by the time I made that connection I was in a lot of pain, It got to the point where my muscles were simply fatiguing. I cook a lot and I keep my oils up on a shelf. And the idea of reaching for something on that shelf was not fun. It hurt to pick it up. It hurt to put it back. I was in a lot of pain and it was shocking.

I set out to figure out what to do about this.

I happen to have another bike that was made by a bike craftsman in Brooklyn by the name of Peter Reich. It’s a folding bike called the SwiftFolder.

When I got it I wanted a different handlebar. I totally forgot about this 10 years later, but I didn’t like the straight bar.

If you’re biking on a flat bar, your wrist is cocked the entire time, and the elbows are wide. The new bar I got has a totally different angle and right away I knew it was better.  I felt it the first ride because 15 minutes in and my elbow wasn’t fatigued.

Before this, I’d be shaking my arm out because it would get so tired and fatigued. So when I got the new bike handlebars it was great because I knew immediately that that was my problem. I knew because within that first 20 minutes, I hadn’t shaken out my elbows.

I was thinking, “this is great”… but the tennis elbow did not go away.

But the issue that had created was now dealt with.

I called a physical therapist and went to a one here in Cleveland and had a great experience. She basically told me that my arm would not extend anymore. It got “beaten up” in this bent position.

So I had to work to extend it. That was my first move into healing.

I only had a couple of sessions with her but I went online and I found some great exercises that I show you in the video above.

The best one that I found was a supination exercise. I work with a five-pound weight, you can start with a two-pound weight, holding the weight up and turning the palm upside down and right side up.

This really got that muscle back into the game so that was a good one.

Then, I own these little contraptions, basically just rubber bands wrapped around your fingers (you can just use a series of rubber bands but I like buying toys).

These things come with three different resistances. Level one doesn’t really work for me but you spread your fingers open and bring them back in.

These were super helpful. I healed, and in general, I heal pretty well, so I’d say I was 95% done.

It’d been two months of 95% done and then the real problem was sleeping even though I felt I was pretty much healed. If you sleep in a certain way, I’d wake up and be tense. 

So this story ends with my new toy. It is a percussion massager. And I’m waking up every morning and I’m just getting into that little tennis elbow tendon.

 I do it at the first level for a bit, then I move it up to level 2. It is great because now I am about 99% healed. 

The first day, it was like my eyes were rolling into my head, my kids were laughing at me, but now it feels good and I can work out any tension I have immediately.

 So that’s a little story about my tennis elbow.

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