Rebuild, Remodel, and Restore to Get Rid of Elbow Pain

Guest post from Vive Recovery Studio.

Elbow tendons are common sites of overuse injury in many athletes and active individuals. Tendonitis of the medial and lateral tendons often goes by names like Tennis Elbow, Golfers Elbow, Little League elbow, and Swimmers elbow.

If you’re struggling with elbow pain, understanding the causes and effective strategies for recovery can make a world of difference.

The Injury

Elbow tendonitis, or more accurately tendonosis in some cases, occurs when the tendons that connect the forearm muscles to the elbow joint become inflamed or damaged due to repetitive stress.

This condition can be excruciating and debilitating, affecting not only athletes but anyone who engages in repetitive arm motions.

Golfers elbow and tennis elbow are common injuries affecting different elbow tendons.
Golfers elbow and tennis elbow are common injuries affecting different elbow tendons.

Medial Elbow Tendonitis (Golfer’s Elbow)

Medial elbow tendonitis, is commonly known as Golfer’s Elbow. It is a condition that primarily affects the tendons on the inner side of the elbow. Individuals engaging in activities requiring repetitive gripping, lifting, or swinging motions often experience this.

Golfers, as the name suggests, are particularly prone to this condition. That’s due to the repetitive stress of swinging a golf club. However, it can also affect people involved in weightlifting, construction work, or even those who spend long hours typing on a keyboard.

Golfer’s Elbow is characterized by pain and tenderness on the inner side of the elbow. Sometimes that pain radiates down the forearm. Gripping objects, and simple tasks like shaking hands or turning a doorknob can be painful.

Lateral Elbow Tendonitis (Tennis Elbow)

"Tennis" elbow is a common tendon injury in racket sports like tennis and pickleball
“Tennis” elbow is a common tendon injury in racket sports like tennis and pickleball, but it can also occur from other repetitive forearm and wrist motions.

Lateral elbow tendonitis, or Tennis Elbow, is a condition that affects the tendons on the outer side of the elbow. This type of injury is frequently associated with activities that involve repetitive gripping and wrist extension. Think of the racquet motion while playing tennis or pickleball.

However, it can also occur in people using hand tools, or even working on a computer for extended periods.

The pain is often exacerbated during activities that involve gripping or lifting, like swinging a tennis racket or carrying heavy objects.

Inner elbow pain is also called Pitcher’s elbow. While it primarily affects baseball pitchers, it can also affect other athletes who engage in overhead throwing motions, such as softball players and javelin throwers.

1. REBUILD Tendon and Kinetic Chain Strength

To alleviate elbow pain and prevent further injury, you must focus on rebuilding strength. Strength in the tendon and in the entire upper kinetic chain.

Strengthen It

Strengthening the tendon involves a three-phase approach:

  1. Isometric: This phase focuses on reducing pain and initiating the strengthening process. Isometric exercises involve static contractions that don’t cause the tendon to lengthen or shorten.
  2. Eccentric Strengthening: This step is crucial for improving tendon function and reducing pain. Eccentric exercises require the muscle to lengthen under load, helping to build tendon resilience.
  3. Rapidly: Incorporating quick reactive loads into your training regimen helps the tendon prepare for sports movements and enhances its elasticity.

Strengthen the Entire Upper Kinetic Chain to Get Rid of Elbow Pain

Remember that excessive stress on the elbow tendon can result from weaknesses or limitations in other parts of the upper body, such as the shoulder, neck, and scapular-thoracic joint. A holistic approach to getting rid of your elbow pain is strength training to distribute the load more evenly and reduce the strain on your elbow.

2. REMODEL the Tendon and Collagen Fibers

collagen and fibrosis
You can use these remodeling tactics help align and change composition of collagen fibers

Remodeling the damaged tendon and realigning collagen fibers are vital for long-term recovery. Here are some techniques to consider:

  • Eccentric Strengthening: As mentioned earlier, eccentric exercises are not only beneficial for strength but also serve as a stimulus for remodeling damaged tendon tissue.
  • Manual Therapy: Techniques like myofascial release, myofascial decompression cupping, and cross-friction massage can stimulate collagen fiber realignment and promote healing.
  • Nutrition: Incorporating collagen peptides and vitamin C into your diet can support the remodeling process by providing essential building blocks for connective tissue repair.
  • Red Light Therapy: This non-invasive treatment has shown effectiveness in reducing pain and improving function in superficial tendons like those in the elbow. Learn more about Red Light therapy.
  • Blood Flow Restriction: An emerging technology, blood flow restriction, can help stimulate cellular healing and trigger the release of growth hormone, aiding in tissue repair.

Restore Pliability of Tendon and Upper Kinetic Chain

Restoring tissue pliability is a critical aspect of recovery when dealing with elbow pain, especially for athletes and active individuals. It involves addressing the flexibility and adaptability of the muscles, tendons, and fascia in the upper kinetic chain, from the shoulder down to the hand. This process not only reduces excessive stress on the elbow but also enhances overall performance and reduces the risk of future injuries.

tissue work to restore pliability and remove limitations in the fascial slings
Manual tissue work can help restore pliability to tissue throughout the kinetic chain and reduce stress on the elbow tendons.

Here are some effective methods to restore tissue pliability and get rid of elbow pain:

  • Tissue Work: Manual therapy techniques like massage, myofascial release, and myofascial decompression cupping can target specific areas of tension, breaking up adhesions, and improving tissue elasticity.
  • Assisted Stretching: Working with a qualified sports or physical therapist can help you perform assisted stretching exercises that target the muscles and fascia of the upper kinetic chain. This can help improve flexibility and range of motion.
  • Self Myofascial Release: Use Self-myofascial release techniques such as foam rollers, lacrosse balls, or specialized massage at home. This targets trigger points and tight areas in the muscles and fascia. This can be particularly beneficial for maintaining tissue pliability between therapy sessions.

By incorporating these methods into your recovery routine, you can enhance the pliability of your upper kinetic chain, reduce excessive stress on the elbow, and enjoy improved performance and comfort in your sports and activities.

TL:DR to Get Rid of Elbow Pain

These proven strategies help improve tendon health and alleviate the pain associated with conditions like Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow.

The key is to take action early, before the tendon degenerates into a chronic problem.

By rebuilding tendon and kinetic chain strength, remodeling collagen fibers, and restoring the pliability of the upper kinetic chain, you can return to enjoying your sports and activities without the burden of persistent pain.

Don’t let elbow pain hold you back; take these steps to reclaim your active lifestyle.