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Larry Kress
September 5th, 2002, 01:47 PM
Has anyone ever had an elbow injury/strain that exhibits significant pain with breaststroke (sculling in) and during the pull out on the turns? The pain is on the inside of my elbow very close to where the 'funny bone' is. I don't think I injured it during swimming but it has gotten progressively worse over the past 5-6 years due to a lifting incident. It doesn't bother me swimming freestyle but i can feel it. Maybe one of those arm bands might help??

I'm getting ready to visit an orthopedic in Louisville, KY. Anyone have a recommendation on who to see?

matysekj
September 5th, 2002, 03:20 PM
Larry,

From what you describe, it sounds like a case of medial epicondylitis, or "golfer's elbow". Unfortunately I'm all too familiar with this, having surgical repairs on both elbows last year. You should definitely see an orthopedist or a hand surgeon about it to get a medical diagnosis and treatment. If you are a golfer, I'd stop that immediately. Also, avoid the breaststroke because this does seem to put the most stress on it.

Here's what I went through (your mileage may vary):

About 3 weeks before the 2000 LC nationals, I noticed my right elbow hurting. It started after a few hours wandering around a corn maze, carrying a PVC flag with the right arm and screwing around waving the flag with the right arm. It hurt the next morning in practice. With nationals so close, I didn't think I could take time off from swimming to let it heal. I swam through nationals, icing it after every swim and loading up on Aleve, and then took 2 weeks off out of the water to rest it. The next time I got in, I couldn't swim a single length of ANY stroke - it was just too painful. Apparently, competing with a sore elbow was not a good idea.

Through the fall of 2000, I kicked only in practice, and occasionally could swim backstroke, as this put the least stress on it. I saw the hand surgeon in the late fall and started therapy for it then. I also started wearing an arm strap to support it, although the doctor said this doesn't help with golfer's elbow as much as it does with tennis elbow (the other side of the elbow). I can confirm this - it didn't seem to help me at all. When it didn't get any better with therapy, I had a cortisone shot in early 2001. The doctor said that cortisone is only sometimes effective for this injury and can actually weaken things if it doesn't work. The shot was a miracle cure after 24 hours - no pain at all in that arm for 3-4 weeks and I resumed swimming. Unfortunately, immediately upon resuming swimming, the LEFT elbow started to bother me. In an attempt at stopping this one before it got bad, I had a cortisone shot in the left arm 4 weeks later. Again, it worked great, but then the right arm started to hurt again. About 3-4 weeks after the shot, the left arm started hurting again also. I guess the moral is that cortisone simply masks the pain in the area and may be helpful if you lay off the activity during that time and let it heal. I swam once it stopped hurting and just did more damage to it.

After having therapy and cortisone not work in the fall and winter, I decided to have the surgery on the right arm and had it done at the end of August 2001. The surgery went well, but the doctor said the damage was extensive, with the tendon just barely attached to the bone in two places rather than the normal attachment all along the curve of the bone. The recovery for this arm was longer than expected, and I had a very severe "tearing" pain on the other side of the elbow when moving my arm in certain ways for about 5 weeks, which gradually tapered off over a span of 3-4 months. The doctor said they probably nicked the nerve while repairing things, which would have caused this.

I had the left arm done in early December of last year, and the recovery for this one was MUCH better. No mysterious "tearing" pain, and I was able to start kicking in the water after about 4-5 weeks. The damage to this arm wasn't as extensive as the other, but I didn't want to wait another year until it got that bad. I could swim using the arms well within the 3 month period that I expected for the recovery, but still couldn't do really long workouts all year. This time I want to be extra careful not to have things return and get out of hand again. My left arm still gets a little sore after workouts, but the right arm is fine - only gets tight in really cold water. I probably still swam a little too much too early for the left arm, and still need to be careful. I swam SC nationals in May, the Chesapeake Bay in June, and LC nationals in August this year, and did fine for the amount of swimming I've done over the past 2 years. More importantly, neither of the meets nor the open water swim made either arm worse.

Do talk to your doctor about this and explore all opportunities to let it heal without invasive procedures. I found that exercises to strengthen the forearm help out - grips, wrist curls, wrist rotation against resistance. I'm working on these now to help out at the beginning of the new season.

msgrupp
September 6th, 2002, 02:20 PM
I think a Dr. David Caborn practices down at University of Louisville at Jewish Hospital. I ran into him while he was doing a fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh under Dr. Freddie Fu. He was one of the surgeons on one of my shoulder surgeries.
Dr. Fu specializes in sports orthopedics and takes just a few people on fellowship each year.

Rob Copeland
September 6th, 2002, 03:00 PM
Jim,
Was this wandering around in the corn maze, waving a red flag one of those bizarre webmaster cult rituals that we read about in the National Enquirer?
:confused:

matysekj
September 6th, 2002, 03:21 PM
Originally posted by Rob Copeland
Jim,
Was this wandering around in the corn maze, waving a red flag one of those bizarre webmaster cult rituals that we read about in the National Enquirer?

No, but everything else in the Enquirer is true!

If you haven't heard of the Amazing Maize Maze, you should try one near you - there are hundreds of them across the country. They cut a huge maze out of a multi-acre cornfield and put in a dozen or so points in the maze where you pick up pieces of the overall maze map. It takes on average 1.5 - 2.5 hours to navigate the maze and pick up all the map pieces. Hey, everybody's got to get their kicks somehow. I still can't believe that carrying that stupid 8 foot piece of PVC pipe you use as an identifying flag started the whole elbow thing!

NASTISWMR
September 6th, 2002, 05:21 PM
Larry:

I know several swimmers who also have had this pain. I have been experiencing it off and on for about a year. I find that if I avoid breastroke that the pain is manageable.

I visited my doctor at the onset of the pain last September. After a diagnosis of golfer's elbow he gave me an anti-inflammatory prescription that did help while I was taking it. The pain returned however when the "drugs" ran out. I have tried the forearm strap and it does help a little but it definitely did not cure me.

My advice is avoid swimmng breastroke as much as possible and hope the pain is goes away. Also try to avoid any activity that will aggravate the injury. Things like using a screwdriver, lifting heavy objects, etc.

Good Luck!

pbsaurus
September 6th, 2002, 09:03 PM
Originally posted by matysekj


No, but everything else in the Enquirer is true!

If you haven't heard of the Amazing Maize Maze, you should try one near you - there are hundreds of them across the country. They cut a huge maze out of a multi-acre cornfield and put in a dozen or so points in the maze where you pick up pieces of the overall maze map. It takes on average 1.5 - 2.5 hours to navigate the maze and pick up all the map pieces. Hey, everybody's got to get their kicks somehow. I still can't believe that carrying that stupid 8 foot piece of PVC pipe you use as an identifying flag started the whole elbow thing!

Sounds like an interesting activity. I do have a question however,
what about the people who have trouble reading maps? Are they still stuck in there somewhere? Are they getting sick of eating raw corn? Well, I guess that was three questions not one:D