Tendonitis is an overuse injury that affects the tendons. Elbow tendonitis in particular is quite common among natural bodybuilders. Naive trainees follow the routines of guys like Greg Plitt & Simeon Panda, and completely overestimate their actual work capacity. Most lifters tend to overwork their upper bodies and as a result injuries develop over time.
Since the tendons around the elbow joint participate in every gripping motion, they are easy to overtrain. Every exercise, even squats, requires a strong grip. Elbow tendonitis progresses relatively slowly. The symptoms increase with time and at one point opening a can of tuna to get your protein needs becomes painful.
So, how do you fix that?
The conventional wisdom says to visit your doctor. In most cases the doctor prescribes anti-inflammatory drugs, icing and rest. It’s done to reduce inflammation and give the body time to heal. While some relief is achieved as soon as the person goes back to the aggravating activity the injury flares up. Before you know it you develop chronic elbow tendonitis. You start taking pain killers and anti-inflammatory pills like candies but the pain continues.
If you have developed chronic elbow tendonitis, we strongly advise you to check the work of Dr. Sarno. He is associated with chronic back pain but the principles he presents are relevant even for elbow overuse injuries. In a nutshell, his idea is that often chronic pain is caused by emotional problems rather than physical anomalies. According to him the body uses physical pain to distract the brain from the emotional burden it has to face. Chronic pain is meant to act as distraction from the actual problem. For example, if you are sad because of having a dead end job where you are exploited, the brain may generate pain to distract you from those thoughts. Dr.Sarno claims that many of his patients reported tremendous improvements by just accepting that there is nothing wrong with them and working through the pain. This may sound crazy but it works. There are a lot of real testimonials and videos which show the success stories.
This phenomenon is described as Tension myositis syndrome (TMS). There are many tests on the Internet which you can take in order to self-diagnose yourself and see if you really have it. Of course, the best thing would be to visit a physician who is familiar with the issue but it’s really hard to find one. Most refuse to believe it or have never heard of it. The TMS problem has been described in greater details here.
If you are a bodybuilder recently diagnosed with elbow tendonitis, you should follow the conventional treatments for a few weeks. The most important part is to rest.
That’s what truly makes the injury heal. While you are resting you can still train other body parts. The fact that you have elbow tendonitis does not mean that you need bed rest. It’s just your elbow, silly! You can still work your legs, abs, neck…etc. During that period of time you also have to re-evaluate your program.
Tendonitis can be caused by continuously placing the joint in a compromised position during certain exercises. You may have to change your technique or avoid an exercise altogether.
Another valuable step would be to re-evaluate your workload. Is the training volume too high? Those steps alone may be able to fix your elbow tendonitis. However, as already said, many report chronic issues. This is when Dr. Sarno’s method should be applied. Many patients have been liberated from chronic pain thanks to it.
Note: There are many “instant” elbow tendonitis cures on the market, usually in the form of gels. While some of them provide some relief, the effect does not last long. They are treating the symptoms and not the cause. Also a large majority of the cures are actually fake and bogus powders that do nothing.
To summarize: If your body had enough time to rest and you still experience chronic pain due to elbow tendonitis, you most likely have TMS and the route of the cause is emotional.