tennis elbow
fitness,  health,  midlife,  Running,  Sport

Annoying midlife injuries and alternative tennis elbow treatments

Despite the fact that I only ever dust off my tennis racket for about two weeks either side of Wimbledon, I have managed to develop tennis elbow.

It is the latest annoyingly painful, and annoyingly named, injury on a growing list of bodily woes that have befallen me in my forties. It is also, like several of its counterparts, an injury with no discernible cause.

Back in the day, an injury was an injury. Falling off a bike, skiing into a tree, being hit in the face with a cricket ball, all of these were proper injuries, with a concrete root cause. However, today I seem to pick up injuries in my sleep, waking to find a new ache or issue that has no known cause, but just as much discomfort.

What am I doing in my sleep? How can lying horizontal for eight hours result in knee pain or tennis elbow. Am I re-enacting Borg v McEnroe or Kipchoge’s marathon record while unconscious? Am I sleep walking/sporting? How else can one’s body pick up injuries while essentially in the most comfortable place it can be?

The result is that every morning, my wife and I now start the day by moaning about whatever affliction has beset us during the night.

“Morning, sleep well?”

“No, not really, back’s aching and elbow’s giving me grief now? You?

“Terrible. Think I’m coming down with something. Hip’s clicking again. Breakfast?”

We never used to do this. I used to be able to get out of bed without feeling like an arthritic 90-year-old and could confidently navigate the morning routine without the need for painkillers. Now though, I have to contend with the likes of tennis elbow.

Lateral epicondylitis and friends

It’s full name, apparently, is lateral epicondylitis but, to make it easy for us everyday idiots, someone decided to name it after an activity that could result in overuse of one’s elbow. But why tennis? Why not badminton elbow, bar tender’s elbow or wanker’s elbow? At least the latter is something that at least 50% of the population does on a regular basis.

And there are countless other afflictions that are named after activities that could, but probably didn’t, contribute to the resulting issue for sufferers:

  • Golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis)
  • Runner’s knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome)
  • Swimmer’s shoulder (shoulder impingement syndrome)
  • Skier’s thumb (ulnar collateral ligament injury)
  • Jumper’s knee (patellar tendonitis)
  • Pitcher’s elbow (ulnar collateral ligament injury)
  • Text neck (cervical spine strain)
  • Trigger finger (stenosing tenosynovitis)
  • Housemaid’s knee (prepatellar bursitis)
  • Bowler’s thumb (thumb UCL injury)
  • Writer’s cramp (focal hand dystonia)
  • Cyclist’s palsy (ulnar neuropathy)
  • Hiker’s knee (iliotibial band syndrome)
  • Musician’s cramp (focal hand dystonia)
  • Computer vision syndrome (eyestrain)
  • Skier’s nose (nasal fracture)
  • Gamer’s thumb (De Quervain’s tenosynovitis)
  • Backpacker’s rash (contact dermatitis)
  • Yoga toe (toe sprain)
  • Rock climber’s finger (flexor tendon pulley injury)

I can only imagine the hilarity in doctors’ surgeries across the planet when yoga instructors are ironically diagnosed with text neck, or skiers with runner’s knee. And you’ve got to feel for the swimmers struck down by backpacker’s rash. Depending on what you’ve got, the medical profession’s dumbing down agenda could either bless you with a cool sounding affliction, or an odd one.

I’m just hoping there’s no such thing as Lazy man’s arse or Dad’s diarrhea as I have a feeling I’d be a dead cert for both at some stage. For now though, I just want this elbow to sort itself out.

Alternative remedies

However, the issue with trying to rest your right elbow is that you use it for absolutely everything. The result is that it apparently takes an age for tennis elbow to clear up, with the only real treatments being pain killers and steroid injections. The alternative is to go for a natural remedy for tennis elbow and Google has plenty of age old suggestions on that front, including:

  1. Rubbing a mixture of vinegar and honey on to the affected area.
  2. Wearing a copper bracelet on the dodgy arm.
  3. Applying a delightful paste of boiled cabbage leaves to the elbow.
  4. Slapping on a slice of raw potato for several hours.
  5. Rubbing a mixture of camphor, mustard oil, and turmeric on the affected area.
  6. Drinking a mixture of apple cider vinegar and honey.
  7. Soaking your elbow in hot water and Epsom salt.
  8. Applying a mixture of garlic and olive oil.
  9. Wearing a wristband made of goat hair.

Unfortunately the majority of these suggestions mean that you will be shunned by anyone you come close to during your recovery, due to the fact that you’ll absolutely stink.

I suspect that the originators of these old wives tails were themselves olden day pranksters, randomly picking the smelliest and most foul ingredients possible and talking unsuspecting patients into trying them out. Why is it always things like garlic and vinegar and never rose petals or coffee granules? The results would surely be the same either way as I cannot see how there can possibly be a link between sporting a goat hair wristband and the easing of joint-related pain. It’s like suggesting a horse hair sock for a broken hip, or a pair of sheepskin pants for piles.

As I’m reluctant to coat any part of my body in cabbage, I therefore think I am left with no choice other than to grin and bear it. Liberal applications of Voltarol and an elbow support aside, I’m just going to have to hope that it gets better in its own time. My wife and children, meanwhile, will have to put up with my moaning and complaining, whenever I have to pick up anything heavier than a sheet of A4.

Bend and stretch

However, I cannot go through the rest of my days contemplating what the next strange, uncomfortable and oddly named injury to befall me in my sleep will be? So, I am determined to do what I can to strengthen those areas that are most commonly prone to injury in middle-age, namely my back, shoulders, knees and core. And that means…Pilates!

The only issue with Pilates is that I am about as flexible as dry spaghetti. Every time I have attempted Pilates, yoga or anything involving sitting on a mat and bending, I have given up after it became crystal clear that I cannot do the simplest of movements. I look like the Tin Man in shorts and move like a Lego figure, breaking into a sweat whenever instructed to hold a stretch or attempt an odd sounding pose.

But I know I need to do it. I’m a regular runner, clocking up around 30-40KM a week, but that’s all I do. I essentially move my body in the same forward running motion repeatedly, only ever exercising those muscles that are used to run. Ask my body to do any other kind of movement and it flatly refuses, mostly because it has pumped all its efforts into propelling me forward on a run and none into stretching, bending or perfecting the child’s pose.

So, I’m going to give it a real go in the hope that forcing myself to endure some insufferably flexible instructor contorting themselves into impossible positions, will eventually result in some kind of physical improvement and injury protection. Rest assured, dear blog, I will report back as to how I get on.

Wish me luck and, if you fancy sending me a goat hair wristband in the meantime, I’ll give that a go too.

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