Acupuncturist & Chiropractor, Dr. Allison Heffron, explains the causes of elbow pain and the benefits of using acupuncture to relieve pain during physical rehab treatment.
You play golf and your elbow acts up. You play tennis and your elbow acts up. You may even be doing push-ups and, oddly, your elbow acts up. Why? You may think to yourself, “What am I doing with my elbow? I don’t remember ever hurting it before.”
You’re probably right. You may not have ever hurt it directly, so why is it such an issue?
Most of us are aware of what “Middle Child Syndrome” is and how it causes that child to act out. The middle child is often blamed for everything, but rarely ever at fault. It is usually the older and or younger sibling that causes debauchery and shenanigans, but the poor middle child gets in trouble anyway. In this context, your elbow is the middle child and the wrist and shoulder are the younger and older siblings.
The majority of the muscles that attach at the wrist also attach at the elbow. You can test this for yourself. With your left hand grab your right elbow and then move your wrist up and down. You will feel a whole lot of muscles moving around at the elbow as you do this motion.
The relationship between the elbow and shoulder is a little different. There are no shoulder muscles that attach to the elbow. Instead, the movements from the shoulder joint can affect the elbow joint. If you swing your golf club or tennis racket and your shoulders are not in the proper position or do not follow through with the swing, then the elbow will take the brunt of the contact as an over-compensatory reaction.
You can also look at it from the wrists’ perspective. Ideally, when we do anything requiring a muscle contraction, we want to keep relaxed prior to performing the action so that way we can fire our muscles much quicker than if we were already tense.
If you have a death grip on your club, racket, etc., then the muscles of your wrist to your elbow will be overactive and lag in their response time. You can test this too. Clench your entire arm and try to punch the air. Now relax your entire arm and punch the air. Which one was faster?
This tension, in these particular movements (golf, tennis, etc.), will have a consequence and often times it’s the elbow that acts out.
Using Acupuncture for Elbow Pain
Acupuncture is a very useful therapy for helping to break up the “knots” in the muscle. Acupuncture is also effective for drawing blood cells into the area to promote healing/relaxation of the muscle to make it more supple and in turn decrease pain.
Because there is often a much more dynamic problem rooted in the symptoms, acupuncture is not enough to fix the issue.
Injuries involving the elbow require much more dynamic therapies after the pain has subsided and the muscles are more supple. This allows the muscle to adapt to better movement patterns. Chiropractic and Physical Therapy are good therapies during the second phase of healing. The first phase is focused on getting rid of pain. These therapies offer active rehabilitation (dynamic) that requires you to learn how to move in a much more functional way. When you can move more functionally you can avoid injury and avoid pain while maintaining longevity in your favorite activities.