Elbow Tendinitis (medial epicondylitis) & Guitar Playing

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by DonaldDemon, Jan 14, 2013.

  1. DonaldDemon

    DonaldDemon Member

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    Any others suffer from this? I have had chronic tendinitis problems in both elbows from surfing for years now but an injury shoveling snow 2 years ago has made playing guitar extremely uncomfortable and painful. It’s actually my strumming arm (righty) that hurts the worst.

    I’ve been through cortisone injections, physical therapy, chiropractor, even tried PRP (plasma) injections and have had no luck. As much as I hate to take the time off playing (play in two bands) I really need to address this as it hurts 24/7 for 2 years straight.

    Any luck with other methods? Is surgery my last option?
     
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  2. gls500

    gls500 Supporting Member

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    I have it in both elbows from weightlifting, but it doesn't bother me when playing guitar (yet). I'm going on about a year with it. The only thing that's given me some relief is doing SMR of the tricep, bicep, and forearm with a lacrosse ball and The Stick: https://www.thestick.com/

    Good luck
     
  3. DonaldDemon

    DonaldDemon Member

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    My strong advice is to get to a doctor before it gets too late! I think between surfing, weightlifting and guitar I did some notable damage prior to the main injury snow shoveling. Maybe if I had taken it more seriously and not just waited until the pain went away I wouldn't be dealing with as much pain. Just my word of warning.

    What is SMR?
     
  4. ChampReverb

    ChampReverb Silver Supporting Member

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    I've got ulnar nerve problems and a stick too.

    My problems seem to be caused by muscle entrapment of the ulnar nerve about 2" below the elbow on my picking hand. So, I massage that out and I also use a Futuro elbow strap below my bad elbow and that has helped tremendously.

    Your problem may be different,

    -bEn r.
     
  5. gls500

    gls500 Supporting Member

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    I've been to the orthpedic and had a round of cortisone, and that helped for about three weeks :).

    I've been taking it easy, and if I'm not doing a lot better by next month, I'll be going to a PT.

    SMR is Self-Mayofascial Release: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myofascial_Release
    Basically self-massage to loosen up tight spots.
     
  6. gtrman2620

    gtrman2620 Member

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    I've had recurring bouts of tendinitis in my left elbow (I play right handed). Had cortisone shorts, therapy, etc, but no surgery. The things that helped most were massaging the tendon (a lot of pressure on the forearm right below where it hurt) and rest / ice.
     
  7. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

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    Yes. Have elbow problems in both. Arthritis in my right. It's my argument against guys who say to wear the strap real high. Sure it can help save the wrist, but it's hell on the elbow, tissue and nerves... for both of 'em.

    I've avoided cortisone because docs keep telling me it's temporary and it ends up being worse in the long run. I think it breaks tissue down or something. I can't remember exactly. But I try to not do that. Just ice, massage. stretching. ART really helps.
     
  8. heady dude

    heady dude Member

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    I train Braz. Jujitsu and Muay Thai like 5 times a week and lift weights. I have tendinitis in both arms that comes and goes, but a couple weeks ago I really strained a tendon in my fretting arm/wrist, and it hurts to play. I am worried that this could be a chronic injury that will end my playing career, but Im hoping not.
    But to look on the bright side it has forced me to really work on my slide playing. :JAM
     
  9. DonaldDemon

    DonaldDemon Member

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    I pretty much live with those armbands on. Between work, surfing, guitar etc, they really do help you not overstrain the tendon.

    I do have a slight nerve pinch and bone spur according to CT scans but they say that is not the main problem?
     
  10. DonaldDemon

    DonaldDemon Member

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    Yep, do all that but it's only a very slight & temporary relief.

    Yes, cortisone will deteriorate the tissue and can do more harm than good after a while. I did 3 session of shots and won't do anymore.

    I agree that wearing the strap high causes the elbow to be under too much pressure. I had to change several things about how I play and one is to wear the strap low and I already wore mine down by the belt area. I’ve also had to move to lighter picks so there isn’t as much resistance. I don’t like the tone or feel as much but I have no choice. I went from using 1.5 mm to 1 mm
     
  11. Indy Mark

    Indy Mark Member

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    I feel your pain! I had/ have it in my right elbow as well. My doctor had me wear one of the armbands for almost a year and I'm about 90% now and thankfully it doesn't impede my playing. Ibuprofen and rest will help but that's what worked for me, I would do whatever you could get it fixed.
     
  12. levous

    levous Member

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    Ditto! I have, for the most part, healed my "golfer's elbow". I've never golfed.

    Ice > grip exercises > arm brace > deep massage > rest

    Rest and ice are key as is finding the cause of the stress. The tendons in your arm run through a sheath (I'll save the technical jargon for the medical professionals) and pressure on that sheath, while using your fingers, causes unnatural stress on the insertion point of the connective tissue. Mine was caused by computer keyboarding with my arms resting on top of the desk. Imagine dragging a rope across the sharp corner of a desk while bouncing it up and down. Not so smooth, eh? In addition to obsessively preventing my forearms from touching anything while typing, frequent ice and wearing an elbow brace for nearly two years was necessary. Get the simple strap that wraps around your forearm from any drug store. It relieves some of the pressure exerted on the insertion point by squeezing mid arm evenly.

    I tried many different strengthening exercises while also taking it easy on heavy weights in the gym. Ultimately, classic grip springs were a huge help for me. The little handles attached to a v shaped spring where you simply squeeze each hand against the resistance are all it took to ultimately provide the conditioning my arms needed to heal.

    Deep massage is also massively helpful. The insertion point of a tendon does not get much blood flow. To heal, you need to that. The tissue is rather dense and to move the blood, you need a LOT of pressure. i literally press as hard as I can with my thumb and carefully move in a circle around the area where the pain is most acute. Basically, that's right where the tendon meets the elbow. It will be pleasantly uncomfortable as you massage the injury and then it'll feel better for a while. It's a good idea to ice it shortly afterwards.
    Right thar!
    [​IMG]

    I wish you the best of luck on beating it. Its one of the most aggravating issues to deal with, as a guitarist. It got so bad for me, I couldn't lift my arm to open the refrigerator. This is for a 30 year old who stays healthy and in shape. While it bothered me for at least 2 years, I truly believe it healed quickly, once I discovered the massage and spring grips. It has returned very briefly as I've allowed myself to get lazy on the typing pressure but my response to that is aggressive now. I had a job last year where the cubicle I sat in had a sharp edge on the top side of the desk and my elbow pain returned. I immediately moved out of the cubicle and into a common area, much to the annoyance of my boss.

    Did I mention ice? Get the gel-based velco ice packs and keep at least 3 at home and at work or in your studio or wherever you spend your time. Wear an ice pack while you play guitar. If the injury gets inflamed, the fluids can't move through and heal. So be diligent. Make sure your arm is never resting on the arm of a chair as well. Wear an ice pack to bed. Finally, drink lots of water and take ibuprofen to reduce inflammation.
     
  13. DonaldDemon

    DonaldDemon Member

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    levous, thanks for the detailed response!

    I too starting feeling a lot more pain when I started my career out of college which put me behind a desk for most of the time. It took me a year or so to figure out that the pain was coming from my elbows resting on the desk and it got better until my shoveling incident.

    Maybe my problem is not being diligent enough about the icing and not doing enough strengthening exercises. I also don't do much massaging because it hurts so bad but I need to make it through that because it seems like it would really help.

    I just ordered The Stick someone mentioned previously and will start doing those exercises. I want to try one last time to heal this before going with surgery. Many doctors say it will only heal if I stop doing the activities (guitar being one) for at least 12 weeks. I stopped playing for about 8 weeks and it helped but being in two bands makes that a difficult decision right now.

    It still gets bad where it hurts to open doors or even brush my teeth and I am only 34, have always been in decent shape etc. I tried doing some simple lightweight shoulder exercises at the gym last night for the first time in a year and now the elbow is inflamed and worse. :(
     
  14. DonaldDemon

    DonaldDemon Member

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    The elbow band does help a good deal, but not enough in my case. Ibuprofen helps as well but I have ulcer/stomach issues so I try not to take them too often.
     
  15. Alex1979

    Alex1979 Member

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    Hi Donald!
    How was your elbow? Did you fix it? I've got the same problem right now and it's very painful and impede my playing. I've had for three months..:(
     
  16. DonaldDemon

    DonaldDemon Member

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    Sad to report that I had the surgery two years ago and it didn't work so after all that money and time spent doing therapy I got nowhere. :( I just live with the pain.
     
  17. 71strat

    71strat Member

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    Mine have been bothering me since 1990. Had to quit a $25 uprigging job doing concerts.

    Had rounds of cortisone, and it did help. The big thing is to not return to activities to soon, and reinjure it.

    Mine is Bi Lateral Epicondylitis vs Medial. Sometimes the Medial does hurt though.

    I'm waiting to get an Orthopedic appoint right now.
     
  18. don carney

    don carney Silver Supporting Member

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    Several writers have mentioned massages as a remedy. I agree and suggest that you search in your area for a specialist in trigger point massage therapy. There is a person here in the Detroit area who is qualified in this form of massage. He has worked on my arm and the arms and other body parts of some of the professional athletes here in the area. Also I have a relative who is a doctor who has been treated with trigger point massage with success.
     
  19. Yer Blues

    Yer Blues Member

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    I realize this is an old thread, but this is good info. I started with a tennis ball and now use a lacrosse ball. I use it for the entire arm though (forearm/wrist, elbow, triceps, biceps) as well as the back and shoulder. It really seems to be helping and you can definitely feel when you hit a trigger point or sore spot.
     
  20. john beddoe

    john beddoe Member

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    I just got over a period of tennis elbow. Although, the standard is ice and bracing, many websites are now suggesting that these 2 things are only useful at the very early stage of it. Personally, I made progress when I stopped those 2 things.
    The other thing I did is do the " Tyler twist" exercise using a flex bar. That really turned things around... As well as lots of daily self massage and a few targeted stretches
     
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