MRI Update

>> Monday, December 07, 2015

So my MRI results came back. It showed some marrow edema (fluid in my bone) which isn't all that weird, apparently, and it also showed what has been expected: medial epicondylitis.

AKA: (the really wussy title of) "golfers elbow."

To recap my experiences so far:

Slight elbow pain showing up in late May. The doc thought it was probably brought on by being a summer-time stay-at-home dad and CONSTANTLY lifting up a 1-year-old. (I first gave a lot of details about this in this post from Aug 1st.)

Stopped lifting weights (with upper body) in early June.

Started some forearm exercises and stretches pretty regularly in July.

Started seeing an acupuncturist and chiro (to get Graston Technique) in July. Also had A.R.T.

Tried an ibuprofen regimen for a few months, but all that gave me was an upset stomach. I tried an elbow brace too.

Pain still getting worse, so stopped swimming after my last tri in mid-August.

Daily pain (still) when doing ANYTHING: washing dishes, brushing teeth, carrying my children, opening mail, shifting my car from park to drive, holding/carrying ANYTHING, cutting soft food with a fork, etc. I do stretches, some self-A.R.T., and some self-Graston with the back of a butter knife.

When I posted about this in August, I noted that I might have to take a break from the pool. I said "Of course I'm bummed because I've been making so much progress in the pool, but I've come to terms with a 1 or 2 month break - I'm pretty sure I can get back to the level I'm at now quicker the second time. Right? RIGHT?!?" Well, that "1 or 2 month break" is already at 4 months and counting...

My doc was in contact with me via email, and said I should try to heat pre-exercise, and use an ice pack after. He said I could have a cortisone shot for pain, but it wouldn't do anything to speed up healing (so I declined). I should continue with stretching and doing isometric exercises (I did a lot in church yesterday morning). He also said "swimming would be fine as long as there is no increase in pain."

So I actually tried swimming on Friday, and again today. Friday, I did 300 of freestyle, 400 of different kick drills, and then another 200 of freestyle at the end. My forearm/elbow felt just like it did when I stopped swimming 4 months ago: it hurt for the first 100 yards, and then disappeared over the next 100 yards. The rest of the swim (both Friday and today), my arm felt about 95-99% normal. Today, I did 3x500 to "test" my arm. I'm not planning on starting to swim again, but I wanted to see how bad it would feel during and after swimming, and I was kinda wanting to see how much swim fitness I lost. I did 4x500 about 2 weeks before stopping swimming, and my average was 7:33. Today's shortened 3x500 (with longer rest) averaged over 8:10. To be expected. I'm OK with that. That's actually right where I figured I'd be. Around 1200 yards, my forearm gave a twinge which was no good, so I only did 300 of my last 500. (Oh, and being I haven't been lifting or swimming, my triceps got sore after 300 yards - THAT was a new feeling!) I'd like to email my doc later today and see what his thoughts are on these 2 swims.

In doing my own research in recent weeks, I made 2 discoveries:

First, this issue can also be called "swimmer's elbow." How did I not know this? It's usually NOT brought on by a freestyle stroke (which is all I do), but improper technique of certain strokes can be to blame. In a "swimmer's elbow" forum, I found this potentially helpful quote: "In dealing with a mild shoulder strain I focused on not rotating my hand "internally" (that is, leading more with the little finger side and keeping my palm parallel to the soles of my feet). This also seems to take the strain off of my elbow as well." I tried that in the pool today, and I realized that's how I normally swim anyway. And being I just swam for the first time in 4 months and the pain had not been getting better, we can't attribute it 100% to swimming. Swimming was maybe PART of it, but if it was the culprit, it should have gotten a LOT better over these last 4 months!

Secondly, I just found a website also noting that it can be brought on by "computer work." I've been suspecting this was an issue for a month or 2 now, and I confirmed it last week at work where I spent about 3 straight hours working on my school computer - it was extra achy the rest of the night. MANY months ago, I thought it could be "track pad" related from working on my laptop, so I've been trying to do the majority of my mouse work with my left hand. (It's not hard to do when ACTIVELY thinking about it, but it's easy to slip into using my right hand when not thinking about it.) But even when "being good" about using my track pad with my left hand, my right elbow would still get extra sore. So I've come to believe that general computer work and typing causes pain and issues with my medial epicondylitis.

Finally, as I was part way through writing up this depressing "it still hurts" post, I got a REALLY well-timed Facebook message from a "race buddy" this morning:

That's really sweet. I think she's referring to last night's post:

Caption: "Educational iPad games by the fireplace. ‪#‎christmas‬ ‪#‎christmastree‬ ‪#‎tistheseason‬"

Or maybe she's referring to last week's post rant:

Caption: "Shout out to Rosedale Chev who remodeled their bathrooms 2 years ago and
took out the baby changing table in the men's room. The new bathroom is modern
and looks quite nice. I mean what guy REALLY takes his kids to the dealership.
And if some doof would do that, it's much easier, safer, and more hygienic to
change a diaper on some salesman's desk, right? Totally. ‪#‎SARCASM‬"

Or maybe she's referring to this post from about 2 weeks ago:

Caption: "First time cutting our own tree."

Or maybe she's referring to Charlie's first sled ride (that I showed in this post):

So really, life IN GENERAL is good.

But my sore arm can go. Suck. My. Balls.

p.s. Most of those photos were from my Instagram. Follow me here as "stevestenzel."
p.p.s. Here's some related injury posts: getting an MRI last month, acupuncture photos from late August, and my first mention of my stay-at-home-dadding injury from early August.


drdave 4:20 PM, December 07, 2015  

Check the wrist?!
I never overlook the wrist when working with elbows. Even in the absence of symptoms. Seems to work for my patients. Makes even more sense with the puter work giving you trouble.

Anonymous,  4:03 PM, December 09, 2015  

Many years ago I was suffering from elbow pain so bad that I couldn't reach up from my desk to get something off of a shelf. After a few months I decided to see my doctor about the elbow pain. She referred to the pain as "tennis elbow" and recommended wearing a simple wrap around my wrist. I bought a cheap, little velcro wrist wrap and within a week or two of wearing it, my elbow pain was gone.

CountryCityCindy 7:26 PM, December 09, 2015  

I had tennis elbow from pulling invasive garlic mustard. Took 2 days to get it, took 4 months to get rid of it. Good luck to you!

CountryCityCindy 7:27 PM, December 09, 2015  

I had tennis elbow from pulling invasive garlic mustard. Took 2 days to get it, took 4 months to get rid of it. Good luck to you!

Brett Engle 9:47 AM, December 11, 2015  

I love your posts, too. Steve. Hope you heal fully and quick! Daily pain is no fun. Keep up the great stuff bud. Hugs!

millerb 3:07 PM, December 11, 2015  

So I've always been against cortisone shots, too, for various strains and disc herniations, etc. However, I had rotator cuff repair surgery over the summer and was extraordinarily stiff and in tremendous pain for the first 12 weeks afterward and made very little progress even with twice-weekly physical therapy. My surgeon said I was close to frozen shoulder, so he wanted to give me a cortisone shot to relieve the inflammation so that I could start making some progress, otherwise, he'd have to go back in. For the first time, I relented on the cortisone. And you know what? Two days later I started feeling better. Over the next six weeks, I finally caught up to where I should have been and was able to start swimming much earlier than I thought I would. So keep the shot as a possibility or a last-ditch effort. In the meantime, hang in there!

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