Daily lessons through the art of Muay Thai

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Winterizing your Workout II: Lateral Epicondylitis

After the overwhelming response to my little spiel on the Achilles, I have decided to move on to another troublesome area of the body for us muay Thai aficionados: the elbows. You can get tendinitis of the elbows any time of year, but I like my catchy title so I'm sticking to it. This article is also very good for anyone who constantly abuses this area of the body: yogis, racket sports, carpenters, and those who just like to throw down.

This is an awesome sketch of what is probably going on in your aching elbows. Notice the tears. Those tears are small, but they cause a lot of pain

WHY US???!!!!

· Fighters are especially prone to hyper extending the elbows during a punch. This can happen when you misjudge your distance to your target, your target moves and you punch the air, or if the person holding a focus mitt for you doesn't give sufficient resistance upon the impact of your punch. Clear?

· Holding focus mitts and pads for people causes tears in the tendons. This happens when the person you are training punches too high or too low and whips your forearm backwards. The angle of the elbow closes too quickly and this causes the passive kinds of tears many pad holders experience. Constant pounding on the forearms by very strong kicks and knees is also a recipe for disaster. If you get through your fighting career with decent elbows, your training career will take care of them once and for all.

The symptoms of Tendinitis include:

· Pain at the site of the tendon and surrounding area. Pain may be a gradual buildup or sudden and severe, especially if calcium deposits are present. In layman's terms, every time you hyper extend on a punch, you will want to cry.

· Loss of range of motion. Pretty soon even straightening your arm will seem like an impossible challenge.

· The good news is that usually tendinitis of the elbow will heal on its own. You just need to give your elbow a break and do what you can to speed the healing. Since I know you won't want to take a break from punching, you can start by not holding pads.

· Icing the elbow to reduce pain and swelling. Experts recommend doing it every 20-30 minutes every three–four hours. For us this means every time you workout, you need to repeat this process. It is tiresome to remember to do it, but it is the easiest thing to help with the swelling.

· Using an elbow brace to protect the injured tendon from further strain and to keep it warm. With a high impact sport like ours, any extra support can help speed healing and reduce recurring bouts of tendinitis

· Performing range of motion exercises to reduce stiffness and increase flexibility. Stretch the surrounding muscles gently before and after each workout. If the muscle gets stiffer and less flexible you are looking at more tears later on.

·Getting physical therapy to strengthen the joint. Bicep curls and bicep exercises are especially good for helping a fighter decelerate their punches. Being able to stop a punch before you hyper extend will lead to less tendinitis in the future.

· Having injections of steroids or painkillers to temporarily ease some of the swelling and pain around the joint. Studies suggest that steroid injections don't help in the long-term. You will probably get a total of no more than three steroid injections.

· Acupuncture- Every yogi I have ever spoken too has sworn by acupuncture for treating this type of injury. So many people have recommended it, that I would be irresponsible to not include it in this blog.

· Taking non steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs), such as Advil, Aleve, or Motrin, to help with pain and swelling. However, these drugs can cause side effects, such as bleeding and ulcers. You should only use them occasionally, unless your doctor says otherwise. The real deal, these don't help very much at all. Stay away from them unless you are that rare person that finds relief from an Advil. LUCKY YOU!

In the gym, you need to help your teammates out by holding pads correctly and hitting pads correctly. If you are paired up with someone who is still flailing about, DON"T HIT FULL FORCE. After only a few sessions of hitting pads incorrectly from the giving end or receiving end, you will experience elbow pain. Take care of your tendons. Getting new ones is an option, but an expensive and painful one.


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