Updated: Jan 24
WANTED - The Notorious Three - Golfer's Elbow, Tennis Elbow & Carpal Tunnel Syndrome!
When I moved to Canada, I was shocked by the average career lifespan of a massage therapist - 7-years! I've been doing this for almost 18-years and thankfully through my own sound advice that I share with you each week, I've been able to keep these three notorious injuries under control.
These notorious three are not just a massage therapist's career-limiting injury. Today's article is dedicated to those desk warriors, manual therapists and anyone else who extensively performs manual labor which is demanding on the hands and arms.
My first question to you is - how do you divide the 168 hours of each week between work, family and personal time?
For me as therapist I work upwards of 25-hours per week, approximately 5-hours of therapy per day. I've found over time, this is my magic number to stick with to ensure I can provide an exceptional massage for those patients at the beginning of my week, as I do for those at the end of my week. I will then add in the computer/phone work at approximately 2-hours per day, 7-days per week. The total now runs closer to 40-hours per week using my forearms/wrists extensively. If I don't take the time to pay off this postural debt, eventually I'll start to experience the liabilities of this work volume on my body.
If you are working in excess of a 30-hour work week, plus driving commute and personal time on computer/devices, you can imagine how much postural debt you must be accumulating each day also.
My goal today is to start to teach you HOW to pay off this debt and ensure your body is an asset to you (and not a liability!).
If you are currently symptomatic and experiencing one or all of the notorious three, it's time to start healing. Otherwise there is a high probability, due to your pain level, that you'll do whatever you are told by your Doctor which includes pain medications and surgery. I've treated many patient's who've had the surgery and taken the medications - neither of which solved the real problem.
Anatomy of the Wrist & Forearm
Keeping it very simple, the wrist and forearm are comprised of:
- the Extensors that generally merge together into a single tendon called the common extensor tendon on the outside of your elbow (attaching to the lateral epicondyle). When this flares up with pain it is known as Tennis Elbow.
- the Flexors that generally merge together into a single tendon called the common flexor tendon on the inside of your elbow (attaching to the medial epicondyle). When this flares up with pain it is known as Golfer's Elbow.
- the carpal tunnel of the wrist is an osteofibrous canal, the boundaries of which include the carpal bones and the flexor retinaculum. In addition to the medial nerve, the carpal tunnel contains nine tendons of the wrist flexors. When this flares up with pain it is known as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
With the frequency and intense use of these three regions, here's an analogy I use to explain to my patient's. It's similar to heavy traffic leaving from downtown at the same time whilst all trying to merge onto the busiest highways to get home to the same town. This is what your extensors, flexors and carpal tunnels have to deal with each day that you are investing hours in using these muscles with repetitive stress. Traditionally, this used to be limited to just your workplace. However, now with technology the majority of the population has their workplace in their palm in the form of a smartphone and can be on this any time and any place.
Eventually, unless you receive regular deep tissue massage, perform self-massage, and stretch and perform corrective exercises, your body may reach a tipping point and produce symptoms. This can arise as mystery pain where you question why it has suddenly began hurting. Typically this condition has been brewing for weeks, months or even years and when the tipping point has been reached, your body tells you all about it.
Remember that symptoms are the body's way of communicating to you of an imbalance. If you learn to listen to early and acute signs and symptoms, you can very often prevent yourself from chronic pain, time off work and the need for surgical intervention.
The Dose Makes The Poison
Anything that we do or consume has the potential to be hazardous to our health. That's right - even chocolate and wine! One of my Golden Rules is that it's the dose that make the poison. If you are in good health and have some chocolate and some wine, you'll be just fine. However, if you are a diabetic and overweight, the question beckons - are these the right food sources for you at this time?
Remember, if you do as you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten. Listen to your body. It's biologically evolved over millions of years and although we are experiencing this body in our present lifetime, our generations of ancestors have passed down what we need for survival through our genetics.
One key system is our pain regulation system.
Anytime you experience mental or physical pain, your body is telling you something.
The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your questions. When your body is producing a sign or symptom of true pain, it is vital to listen to it immediately and make an adjustment. Ask yourself - what is this teaching me? How can I help and heal myself right now?
The key word here is true pain.
I like to distinguish true pain from significant discomfort - which is a necessary ingredient for relieving stress, tension and pain.
Patient's come to me because I get results. I work very deep in the tissues to induce a transformation, through the process of micro-tearing. It's very comparable to intense physical training that creates D.O.M.S. (Delay Onset Muscle Soreness) which can last 2-3 days after training.
This is how I define significant discomfort, or the border of pleasure-pain.
It's uncomfortable whilst enduring it but the results speaks for themselves afterward. True pain on the other hand, is far more magnified and you immediately reach the threshold whereby your body and mind say 'STOP NOW!'
When you are performing any exercise or stretching, or receiving massage, you require both INTENSITY and FREQUENCY. Without these you are just having a spa day. Nothing wrong with that if that's your end goal. If you have pain, or wish to prevent pain though, these two components are critical.
Follow my instructional video below to discover my recommended stretches for your wrist extensors and flexors. Here is my prescription: Frequency - 3 x each day Intensity - Moderate-to-intense discomfort
Duration - 30-60 seconds each stretch.
Any questions, you can reach me at my clinic by phone: 403 589 4645 or email: email@example.com
Please help me on my mission to relieve stress, tension and pain. Share this anyone you know that would benefit from this blog article :)
Yours In Muscle Health,
Jason Barlow, RMT
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