Throughout the past three years, I have battled tendonitis in my elbows. It originally began from climbing but paddling causes it to flare up. I have tried numerous different treatments in order to eliminate the pain.
I am currently icing after most paddle sessions and sometimes before bed. I have found that it helps, but icing alone will not cure tendonitis. When the pain gets especially bad, I alternate hot and cold. Using both sides of the sink, 4 minutes in hot water, then 1 minute in cold water repeated 3 times works the best. End with 5 minutes in cold water though. Hot moves nutrients into the area and cold pushes out swelling.
Warming up before paddling seems extremely important. I do arm circles, all types of paddle strokes, and then a few short stretches. I also take it easy during my first few rides while playboating in order to continue warming up. Stretching after paddling and before bed seem to help a little, but not as much as I would think.
Everyone tells me that rest is essential to cure tendonitis, but I don’t know if I agree. When my tendonitis has gotten bad, I have taken 2 weeks off of climbing and paddling. In this time, it doesn’t seem to improve. Maybe 2 weeks isn’t long enough, but I get too anxious and return to these activities. When I come back I take it easy and am careful to do the other treatments I talk about in this article. Then my elbows start to heal a lot faster. My conclusion is that total rest allows the area to seize up and become stiff whereas light use keeps the area loose, increases blood flow, and promotes healing. I’m curious if anyone else has the same feelings.
A massage therapist and chiropractor have done a great job on my elbow. They both provide immediate relief that lasts from 1 week to 2 months depending on how hard I am playing. The only issue with this is that it gets expensive.
At times I have exercised with a Dyna-Flex ball followed by ice every night before bed. I think it works well, but haven’t used it consistently enough to know if it really works. I haven’t tried reverse wrist curls with dumbbells or pronations with a sledge hammer. Those exercises are supposed to help strengthen the muscles as well.
Last year, a friend told me about a magnetic copper bracelet that was apparently supposed to help with tendonitis. She swore by it, but I wore it religiously for months and it didn’t seem to help. It only made my girlfriend make fun of me.
This summer I think I have made a breakthrough. I switched from a fifteen degree offset paddle with a stiff shaft to an AT2 Flexi with no offset. The zero degree offset eliminates the wrist flexion and extension in the control hand (right) that happens with every stroke. The flexible shaft also seems to eliminate a lot of stress on my joints. I am very pleased with my new paddle and my elbows have been thanking me for it.
If you are experiencing tendonitis or any other type of pain, don’t give up searching for options. It has taken me 3 years, but I think I am finally making progress. Be sure to let me know what works or doesn’t work for you. I am always looking for more ways to stay injury free.