Tennis elbow, without the tennis

Last month I had upped the load I was using in weight training. I was on a second set of chest curls when I felt the twinge. My left elbow has since been achey since, but no more than anything else. I didn’t have any serious problems until I rode the 7 Hills of Kirkland. The next morning, my arm hurt a lot, but that gradually subsided as the week went on.

This morning, I did a quick 18-mile loop up Tiger Mountain Road, to test my new tires before Saturday’s Tour de Blast. Everything felt great, except the elbow was hurting at the end of the ride.

It’s officially Lateral Epicondylitis, also known as Tennis Elbow. The doctor recommended an arm band, and said I could get a cortisone shot if it gets worse.

This sucks. I’ve got Blast on Saturday, Flying Wheels next week, STP in July, and RSVP in August. I would prefer to ride this time of year. It seems wimpy to stop because my arm hurts. I’ll know more this weekend.

I’ll try fiddling with the seat angle again to shift some weight off my hands. Claire Peterksy also suggested stomach crunches, padded gloves, or a brace like an Aircast tennis elbow brace.

20 thoughts on “Tennis elbow, without the tennis”

  1. Have you looked at the front/back positioning of your seat? That, more than angle, influences how much weight your hands are supporting.

    The rule of thumb I’ve heard is that you should be able to take your hands off your handlebars and not feel (too much) like you’re going to fall forward.

  2. > looked at the front/back positioning of
    > your seat?

    I’ll fiddle with that some. The angular bar makes things a little interesting, but I’m pretty sure I can just slide the seat forward or aft easily. It seems I’d want to move it forward?

  3. Actually, I’ve always heard angle matters more than front/back, though both probably play a role. I’d be careful with front/back positioning so that you don’t mess up your knees by changing the angle to the pedals.

    I’ll be doing the Blast (and STP [#191]) as well . It’s around 90 today here in (the other) Vancouver expected to cool off to the low 80’s by Saturday. So hopefully no repeats of last year.

    Are you riding the Air Friday or the Trek, Jim? Say hi if you see 6’3″ guy riding a oversized Charcoal Gray vintage (’77) Trek (no decals) with green rear panniers.

  4. No, to reduce the amount of weight supported by your arms you want to move the seat -back-. Here is a quote from a good bike fit article that sums it up:

    “Stand up straight in front of a mirror and turn to the side. Look at yourself in the mirror. When standing straight your head, hands, seat and feet are all fairly close to being in line with each other. Now bend over at the waist. Notice that not only has your head moved to a position ahead of your feet, but your rear end has moved behind your feet. If this were not the case, you would fall forward. Your seat moves back when you bend at the waist to keep you in balance.”

    Trust me, when I set up my bike for time trial I move my seat as far forward as it can go so I am in a good position to use aerobars. If I sit up with the seat that far forward my arms do a lot of work.

  5. DougW,

    Ok. Thanks for the link. It’ll be useful for setting up my new bike if the shop can ever find a triple Ultegra derailler to put on it.

  6. Hi Tim, I’m taking the Bike Friday — look for the slow guy on the red Air Glide. 😉

    I’m using Ultegra components on mine, with an XTR (the mountain biking equivalent of Dura Ace) for the rear derailleur.

    The front derailleur (Ultegra) is finicky because of the huge differential in chainrings (39 – 62), but shifting is great with the rear.

  7. I wanted to post some other advice I received in case someone else gets “tennis elbow” (Thanks, Ross):

    I had TERRIBLE tennis elbow (aka lateral epicondylitis) a few years back from powerwashing vinyl siding. Some tips:

    Massage the sore spot with the other hand often, as often as you can remember, for 2-3 minutes. In between, wear the strap. I think the “Air Cast” brand strap is best, but they are hard to find. A patient told me he got one at a medical supply place near Northgate.

    Get a racquetball, tennis ball or squooshy “stressbuster” ball (they sell them at Bartell’s) and squeeze it periodically for 2-3 minutes. Get a big rubber band, like they put around broccoli in the supermarket. Put it over your fingers and spread your fingers to stretch the band, stretching periodically for 2-3 minutes several times a day. Ice the sore spot a couple of times a day for 20 minutes. Use water ice in a ziplock bag, or if you must use a gel ice pack, put a towel between the ice pack and the skin. You can give yourself frostbite with a gel ice pack, especially where the skin is thin over a bone, as in this case.

    Whatever you do DO NOT TWEAK your elbow. The easiest way is to be gripping something wide and heavy, and then try to twist it (such as putting a 12-pack of beer in the fridge). If you have to grip something, point your index finger. This will change your grip and take the stress off the tendons that attach to the lateral epicondyle (the sore bump on your elbow).

    When riding, change your grip often. Consider switching from drop bars to mountain bike bars if you have to.

    Consider asking your doc for a referral to Physical Therapy. If he or she didn’t prescribe anti-inflammatory medication, ask for that also.
    […]

  8. Hey Jim,

    Sadly I don’t have any cool bike fitment wisdom to contribute but I sure hope your elbow gets better. Your warning to me about injuries at my age is well headed. I’m the veteran of 3 orthopedic/reconstructive surgeries ( the dangers of dating an athletic women 6 years younger than me ). I can’t afford to break anything else.

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