Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's My Arm, I'll Do What I Want With It

Way back in November, 2009, my husband and I started packing up our 4 bedroom house with a full basement to move to a one bedroom apartment,  no basement.   This required alot of sorting of belongings and moving of boxes, especially since we are a family of readers, and we love books.  That was when my lateral epicondylitis, AKA tennis elbow, started in my right arm, (my dominant arm, of course).  Over the months, I have tried to be careful how I use my arm, but there was alot to do, and I inevitably did too much.

I am an occupational therapist (OT), people get sent to OT's  to help them with tennis elbow.  However, I have been working in psychiatry so long, I don't remember much of the stuff I learned about physical disabilities.  So, like many people these days, I search the internet for information on how to treat my elbow and get rid of this problem.

Site after site told me to rest my arm during the acute phase, and avoid any actions that cause pain. Okay, so I am supposed to avoid turning doorknobs, picking up anything heavier than a paper clip,writing, etc.  That makes it tough to live my life when even basic things like bringing a spoon to my mouth and pulling up my pants cause pain.  The sites then go on to say to start to stretch and strengthen my arm when the pain goes down.  When will that be, I wonder?  Even when I do my best to minimize the use of that arm,  put ice on my arm, rest it, do the stretches my massage therapist showed me, the pain has not gone down.

I got a steroid injection in my elbow about 4 months ago.  The pain went away for almost 2 months, but then came back.  My doctor said I could have another injection, but there are dangers in this.  If you get these injections too often, it can weaken the tendon, or, if the injection is not done properly, the tendon can rupture.    I have tried oral steroids, in the form of a Medrol Dosepak, and a variety of NSAIDs with no improvement.  I have tried creams, pain meds, including some opioids, and even pain patches (very difficult to get them to stick on near an elbow).  I have gotten slight improvement of the pain, but these don't help the tendinitis itself.

This week, I got fed up, and decided to work on some carving I have been putting off until the pain calmed down.  We have a 200 year old oak mantle, and there are some parts missing that I am trying to replicate.  Carving oak takes strength, so I am only doing a little at a time.  Even so, my elbow is not happy with me. It is now resting, with an icepack for company.  I won't have time to work on it again until next week, meanwhile, I will see if the pain increases.  Even if it does, I am glad I did some carving.  It has been a long time.  Every once in a while, I think it feels good to do what you want, the consequences be damned.    

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