Recovering from Chronic Tennis Elbow

I know this post won’t be for everyone, but for anyone else out there who’s dealt with chronic tennis elbow and had a hard time finding a way to fix it, this is for you. This is the type of post I wish was out there when I was going through my never-ending search for a way to fix my elbow. It can be a frustrating injury to say the least, and even downright scary at time if it’s your dominant side. Everyday tasks you take for granted, such as driving, writing, holding a mug, or opening a door, are suddenly a challenge.  No matter how long it takes you (it took me over 1.5 years!), you can get better!

Last year will forever be the year of injuries. I ended up going to physical therapy for a total of three different problems. In case you forgot or you’re new to the blog, I’ll give you a visual.

Injury collage

The latest stint at physical therapy was for my seemingly never-ending tennis elbow saga. I was actually discharged back in early September of this year, but have been wary of proclaiming myself officially discharged since it’s been such a relentless injury that didn’t respond to anything. A quick timeline:

  • April 2013: Injured; PCP thinks my blown-up elbow is from an infection since it came out of nowhere so I get 10 days of antibiotics.
  • May 2013: Elbow still bothering me and chiropractor mentions that the inflammation could have been from tennis elbow. Schedule appointment with orthopedist who confirms I have lateral epicondylitis with calcific tendonitis (tennis elbow with a calcium deposit). Receive cortisone injection.

Calcific tendonitis elbow x-ray

  • June 2013: Cortisone didn’t help, but decide to forego all treatment suggestions at the time as dealing with my glute injury
  • September 2013: Seems to be feeling better after resting it through the summer, so I start trying to use it again
  • December 2013: Injury is back with a vengeance
  • January 2014-June 2014: Try multiple modalities (see list below) while on and off resting right arm
  • February 2014: Get MRI, doesn’t show anything new
  • July 2014: Elbow gets even worse, have a freak-out session because I’m hardly able to use my dominant hand and wonder what the future holds after trying so much and it still isn’t better
  • Mid-July 2014-early September 2014: Amazing physical therapists try all kinds of techniques to fix me and it seems to work! I start slowly working out my arm again…

Tennis elbow fixed

All of the modalities I tried in chronological order:

Corner desk set-up

Things I looked into or was suggested to try but didn’t:

  • Second cortisone injection (I was very opposed to this)
  • A second round of occupational therapy
  • Prolotherapy (6 month waitlist to see the doctor PLUS not covered by insurance)
  • Dry needling (not legal in Massachusetts?)
  • Trigger Point Therapy
  • Somatics
  • Feldenkrais Method
  • Platelet rich plasma (also not covered by insurance)
  • Surgery (last resort)

I had a two-week check-in with PT after being discharged and I was really glad because my elbow was starting to bother me again after two weeks. I thought, “Oh, no, here we go again…” But a quick consult and taping and I’ve been pretty good ever since (knock on wood). It hasn’t been a linear improvement, more of an inclined squiggly line, but at least I’m going in the right direction. It may not feel perfect every day, but I try not to panic when it’s feeling less than fansastic and ease off exercise. I was injured for 1.5 years, so I don’t expect it to be as good as new overnight.

So why did physical therapy help when all else failed? I think a big part has to do with my specific therapists. They understood what I was going through in a way that only someone with tennis elbow would know. How is that possible?! They treated both my body and my mind and I think I really needed both to be able to move toward recovery. All of the doubts, the fears, the past failures were haunting me, but they found a way for me to believe in the treatment.

Also, they focused on my entire body, not just my elbow. Turns out that my wonky shoulder had a lot to do with it. I’ve had an issue with my right shoulder (same side as my elbow) ever since I injured it playing a Wii game over five years ago. Yup, you read that correctly. I hurt myself playing a video game. I was acting like a goof wielding a light saber in some Star Wars game. There just so happens to be photographic evidence of that fateful night:

Wii shoulder injury

When I woke up the next morning my shoulder was killing me and I had limited mobility.  It got better over a few days but I continued to have issues with it over the years. I would baby it so that (unbeknownst to me) it progressively became weaker. I would unknowingly use my forearm muscles instead of my shoulder muscles, so that I overloaded my forearm and eventually something had to give. I’m sure doing tons of plank variations also didn’t help.

The taping techniques my physical therapists really helped. The first technique they tried is the one you saw in this post. This one didn’t do as much as we hoped, but I wanted to show you anyway. I found a picture (below) that shows a better angle.

Tennis elbow KT tape

The taping method that worked like a charm is the one shown below. It’s a bit of an odd method and uses regular old athletic tape because you actually don’t want the stretch; you need the support of the stronger tape.

Tennis elbow rigid tape

And here’s another angle to show where the tape starts and ends on the arm (had to zoom in on an otherwise very pretty picture from our trip to Colorado this summer):

Taping for tennis elbow

What I continue to do now that I’m done with physical therapy:

Below is a picture of the strengthening regimen that I was prescribed in addition to a few other moves for my forearms and shoulders. I do this routine 1-2 times a week.

Physical therapy for tennis elbow

I also do stretches for my forearms, shoulders, chest, and neck, such as:

Forearm stretch for tennis elbow

 From one of my favorite PT resources, PhysioAdvisor.au

I always do the stretches 1-2 times each and hold them for 20 seconds each time. Another great resource for tennis elbow stretches and strengthening is this one and closely mimics what I do.

I’m also sure to keep up with ice massage. I use the same technique as I showed you in this post about icing for plantar fasciitis, but use it along my forearm muscle and up into the elbow joint a little bit. It’s important not to push it in too hard because you could actually end up irritating the tissue as I did early on. I try to do it after any exercising that uses my arms, and though this has been tough to want to do since the weather has gotten colder, I know as long as I keep at it, I will continue to not only feel good, but keep getting better.

Ice massage cup

Finally, I’m sure to take it slow and easy as I build my strength back up. I may not do every single down dog in yoga or every push-up that Jillian wants me to. I’m careful not to workout my arm two days in a row for now (for example, no upper body exercising the day after yoga). I’ve tried to restrict my evening and weekend computer use as this tightens up my neck, shoulders, and forearms, and I believe definitely contributed to my tennis elbow pain lingering. After dealing with this for so long, I’m happy to just not be in any more constant pain, so I’m just fine with taking it slow.

I hope this helped anyone looking for answers. Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself! This is your body, after all, and you know it better than anyone else. I finally asked my orthopedist if he could just send me to physical therapy even though he never mentioned it as an option in the year I had been seeing him.

Questions: Have you ever had tennis elbow or another injury? Have you had a chronic injury? How did you deal with it? Have you ever had to really speak up for yourself with a doctor?

Send Me Gluten Free Box Review + Giveaway!

Hi there! It’s been way too long! What have I been up to? Besides work, school, working out, and eating healthy, I’ve been sampling all of the delicious offerings in the Send Me Gluten Free box. I stumbled upon this little treat while on FindMeGlutenFree.com recently, which is a great resource (along with their app!) for finding places to eat that have gluten-free offerings.

Send Me Gluten Free box logo

So what does a Send Me Gluten Free box look like? I couldn’t wait to find out!

Send Me Gluten Free November box

You’ve got to love the presentation. They had me right away with the fun complementary colors–there was definitely a lot of thought put into the presentation, so I had high hopes about the contents.

Here are the goodies that were waiting for me underneath:

Send Me Gluten Free November box opening

I spied that full-size chocolate bar and was immediately excited. I started pulling things out like a kid at Christmas. You can tell how excited I was by the terrible picture I took–I was too eager at the time to eat the cookie. Some of the first foods I pulled out were Boulder Canyon chips (did they know I was just in Boulder, Colorado?!), a Nuun electrolyte tablet, WOW chocolate chip cookie, and a packet of Nature’s Path Sunrise Crunchy Vanilla cereal.

Send Me Gluten Free November box items

It had been a looong day (11 hours at work!), so I gobbled down that WOW cookie, which was so nice and soft. I will admit I was a little shocked to see it had 120 calories (it was a bit smaller than the full-size cookie they sell online). Though I had the “room” for it in my calories that day, it’s still a lot for one little cookie. It was worth it on that day.

Because I’m more of a tortilla chip person than a potato chip one, I asked WHH to help me assess the Boulder Canyon chips. We both agree they were quite tasty. Not too peppery, and almost a bit too salty. It’s a quality chip and if you’re into potato chips, it’s definitely worth checking out.

I haven’t tried the Nuun tablet yet (it came to work with me for days I run during lunch), but I am quite familiar with the Nature’s Path granola as we’ll occasionally get a huge box of it when we’re at BJ’s. I love mixing it into some yogurt for a sweet treat after dinner or adding it to my breakfast “cookie dough” cereal.

The next products I pulled out were two full-size items: Bell Plantation’s PB Thins and Pascha Organic Dark Chocolate.

Send Me Gluten Free November box items

I have to admit that I didn’t know what to think about the PB Thins at first. Would they be sugary sweet, like Teddy Grahams? Junky? Gross? Nope! They taste like a spoonful of Teddie Peanut Butter! I knew what these would be perfect for right away (aside from eating them by the handful):

PB thins chocolate yogurt

You know it! Topping some plain full-fat organic yogurt with the PB Thins and the Pascha chocolate was a perfect little after-dinner dessert. The PB thins would also be good in a mug with milk as for a post-workout cereal. But seriously–these things are good. My favorite thing in the box by far.

In terms of the chocolate bar…I’m just kind of “meh” about it. Chocolate is usually gluten-free, so being able to get some isn’t a problem. If it had been something along the lines of a gluten-free version of a Kit Kat, something I definitely miss, I would have been pretty excited. And since I don’t have any other food allergies or intolerances, I don’t fully appreciate the allergen-free aspect of this chocolate bar. While I love that it’s organic and non-GMO, if I’m having dark chocolate, I like it 70%+. But that’s just me. Overall it’s a fine chocolate bar.

But wait, there’s more! Next out of the box were Breeze Bars, Halo Sea Salt Seaweed Chips, Amazing Foods for Life Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (vegan), and Snack Out Loud’s Crunchy Bean Snack in Ranch.

Send Me Gluten Free November box items

I haven’t had the Breeze Bars yet because I stashed them in my car. I love having a healthy snack or meal in the car for when I’m in a pinch. The Halo Seaweed Chips are okay. I’m not a big fan of things masquerading as something else (says the girl who loved the PB Thins). No, but seriously, I’d rather have a few sheets of roasted seaweed from Trader Joe’s than a chip that is seaweed flavored, you know? It messes with my mind and my taste buds!

Speaking of taste buds…I wasn’t loving the crunchy bean snack. The ranch flavor is intense–it definitely has more of a kick to it than you would think–and it didn’t feel like 7g worth of protein satiety-wise. Perhaps because of the flavor explosion going on in my mouth?

I did, however, have a fondness for the banana chocolate chip muffins! I loved the small size of the package. When I make baked goods, I don’t like having a ton of leftovers because guess where they end up?

I also loved that the only two ingredients you add are banana and coconut oil!

Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin ingredients

Though the coconut oil ended up being a bit problematic in making this recipe. See, now that it’s November in Massachusetts, it’s a bit cold in my house and especially in my cabinets. This means that the coconut oil is solid at room temperature. Though I microwaved the oil to mix it, the oil quickly went back to a more solid form while I was mixing it so that the batter was quite thick.

Vegan banana chocolate chip muffin mix

No worries. I figured they’d still come out delicious anyway. I spooned them into the muffin tray and hoped for the best.

Vegan banana chocolate chip muffins

And since no raw eggs were involved, I may have left myself a little batter to sample.

Almost empty batter bowl

The muffins came out looking quite similarly shaped to how they went in, owing to the coconut oil issues.

Baked vegan banana chocolate chip muffins

Hmm…what goes well with chocolate and bananas? You guessed it!

Banana chocolate chip muffins with peanut butter

A big ol’ glob of peanut butter! The banana chocolate chip muffins were dense and flavorful. They would be a great pre-workout snack (minus the peanut butter) thanks to some good sources of easily digestible carbs from the flours, sugar, and banana. They would also be great post-workout with the addition of peanut butter. Or you could just have it at a random time of day like I did. :-)

As for the rest of the box contents, there are a few items left, including Swerve sweetener and Hodgson Mill Flax Chia blend.

Send Me Gluten Free November box items

The Swerve sweetener is the only other item I haven’t tried yet. I’m not really sure what I’d use it for as I don’t sweeten my coffee and prefer maple syrup, honey, or bee pollen/royal jelly for sweeteners in my food and baked goods (more on the bee pollen/royal jelly in another post). I could try adding a little to my yogurt I suppose?

Something I did add to my yogurt was the chia flax blend. It appeared and tasted mostly like flax; I couldn’t discern the chia in there.

Chia flax blend on yogurt

Still, a solid-tasting flax mix and it’s nice to have both items in there instead of getting out the bag of flax and the bag of chia seeds.

To finish it all off, Send Me Gluten Free included coupons for some of the products that were in the box, which this frugal dork really appreciates.

Send Me Gluten Free November coupons

All in all I really enjoyed this box. Compared to other boxes I’ve tried (such as Greatist’s Parcel Box and the Gluten-Free Conscious Box), it has more full-sized items. Granted, it also costs more so it should have a higher value inside. To get the most value you’d probably want to do the year-long subscription, which cuts the cost of the box down to $20/month. I also liked that it contained only food products, most (all?) of the items were non-GMO and organic, and weren’t full of junky ingredients as many gluten-free items are.  This would make a fabulous gift for the gluten-free dork in your life, whether for the upcoming holidays or a birthday.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s your chance to try it for yourself! Simply leave a comment telling us if you’ve tried a subscription box before (Which one? Did you like it?) and you’ll be entered to win one box for yourself to try! A US-based winner will be randomly chosen next Wednesday, November 19. Even if you don’t win the giveaway, you still win because you can try any subscription length for 20% off with code BLOG20. How awesome is that?!

Update 11/19/14: Giveaway now closed (discount code still valid).

Send Me Gluten Free Giveaway

 Above image for example purposes only. Box contents differ by month.

Please note: Although I received this box free of charge, all honest opinions are my own. This post also contains an affiliate link.

Quick and Healthy “Apple Crisp”

Well hello there! I’ve missed you all! Things have been quite busy with class and life in general, but I’m trying to make a conscious effort every day to be in the moment. I often do this while on my quick lunch-time walks. How pretty are the variety of colors, even with the overcast sky?

Autumn trees Massachusetts

Given it’s a busy time of year for many of us, I wanted to share a quick, healthy, and quite seasonal snack that is great pre-workout, post-workout, dessert, or just because. I’m torn whether to call it “apple crisp” (with quotes) or deconstructed apple crisp, because that makes it seem kind of cool and hipster and who doesn’t want to be cool?

Deconstructed apple crisp or “apple crisp” or apple, oats, and PB (whichever you prefer)

  • 1 apple, sliced (preferably a local Macintosh because they’re oh so good!)
  • ~1 tsp brown sugar or sweetener of choice
  • 1 heaping tbs of peanut butter or nut butter of choice
  • ~1/4 c old-fashioned oats
  • Dash of cinnamon

Combine the sweetener, nut butter, oats, and cinnamon and either blend in Magic Bullet-type blender or mix by hand. Put the cut-up apple slices in the microwave for about 45 seconds. Then, top with the oat crumble mixture and enjoy!

Healthy apple crisp

And if you want a much quicker snack, you can cut up the apple, top with some cinnamon, put it in the microwave for 45-60 seconds, and then dip the slices right in the PB jar.

cinnamon apples

Happy snacking!

Questions: Do you gobble up apples like no one’s business in the fall? What are some of your favorite ways to incorporate apples into meals and/or snacks? Are you enjoying the beautiful sights of autumn where you are?

 

 

Friday Favorite Links

Hi all! Instead of doing a Friday Favorite dedicated to a specific product, I thought I’d mix it up by sharing some great items I’ve come across lately. I love when other bloggers share their favorite random items, whether it be a thought-provoking blog post, a yummy new recipe they came across, or just a funny cartoon. Here’s to Friday!

1. This upcoming Monday is National Coffee Day! I think I’ll celebrate by having a coffee. Oh, wait, I already do that everyday regardless…Have you seen my new favorite way to have coffee on the weekend? Bulletproof coffee!

Bulletproof coffee in blender

See how frothy?!

2. Anne’s great blog post on intuitive eating, which I could definitely use a lot of improvement with.

3.  Since Tuesday was officially the start of autumn, I’ve got pumpkin on the brain. I’ve been adding pumpkin to my breakfasts in the form of yogurt parfaits, pancakes, and overnight oats (it might look like baby food, but it is oh-so-good!).

I want to incorporate pumpkin in more than just breakfast, so I have my eye on trying this pumpkin ricotta gnocchi (substituting GF flour) by Simply Recipes.

Pumpkin ricotta gnocchi

4. This list of 25 gorgeous fall hikes. There’s one near me (Mt. Osceola in NH). Is there one near you?

5. I’m adding this (everyone woman’s dream!) to my Christmas wish list: dress yoga pants! They come in bootcut, straight, and legging. And don’t worry, men. You can get in on this comfy dress clothes trend, too with these dress pant sweatpants.

Betabrand yoga dress pants

I’ll leave you with that thought of comfy clothes, because that’s what the weekend is all about.

Questions: Do you eat mindfully or are you usually doing something while you’re eating? Are you obsessing about pumpkin everything right now? Would you wear dress pant sweatpants? What are you loving lately?

Quick Tip: Take Off Your Shoes

Hi all! I know it’s been a while, but I am still here and still dedicated to this blog. I’m just trying to figure out a schedule that will work around my life. I’m back in class (microbiology) and fall is a busy time of year, but I do miss interacting with all of you and sharing ideas on how to live a healthy life.

That being said, today’s tip is something I’ve adopted over the past few months. I told you how much I enjoyed the Not Just Paleo podcast with Dr. Ray McClanahan and how it really got me thinking about foot health and shoes. It influenced me to adopt more of a shoe-free lifestyle (when appropriate). We’ve always had a no shoe policy in our house to keep down on tracking in dirt, allergens, and any nasty chemicals. Our shoe collection by the door can attest to that:

Shoe tray

In the warmer months, we just take our shoes off and walk around the house barefoot. Yes, this flies in the face of advice I was given and have given for anyone with plantar fasciitis. In fact, I’m kind of convinced that my podiatrist’s advice to wear shoes in the house may have made it worse/prolonged it because I found that my ankle mobility decreased. Since kicking the shoes off and keeping up with my exercises, my ankle mobility has increased.

Bare feet on wood floor

Bare is best!

In the cooler months, we have our slippers waiting for us by the door. Our slippers are fit loosely, have minimal support, and wide toe boxes. We’ll be breaking those out soon given the recent decrease in temperatures we’ve had here in Massachusetts!

I even make a point to walk around our yard barefoot and do some sprints, or “strides” as runners call them, across the grass. I walk across dirt, stones, you name it. It’s healthy for our feet to have a variety of surfaces so we can develop muscles that have been weakened through our shoe choices and the fact that we do need to wear shoes in our modern day.

Running barefoot on grass

Source

Next, I’m going to experiment with more minimal/barefoot shoes. That will be a post all on its own once I have enough data for you. :-) Have a great weekend!

Questions: Do you make a point to go barefoot? Do you have a no shoe policy in your house? Do you run around outside without shoes? Is foot health important to you?

A Welcome Break

Hi everyone! I know it’s been a couple of weeks since my last post, but that’s because I was in Colorado for half of that time!

IMAGE_3495

Rocky Mountain National Park

WHH and I took a much-needed vacation to visit my brother and his lady friend in the beautiful Boulder area. It was one of the lazier, less planned vacations we’ve ever taken and in some ways that made it even more enjoyable. With my crazy schedule over the summer and WHH gearing up for his new position, we’ve been working ourselves too much. This vacation was a great time to recharge.

10632674_10152420649753370_3613489278705688566_n

I took a lot of inspiration from an article that my mom sent me earlier in the summer titled, “In Praise of Purposeful Loafing.” It’s a great, quick read on the merits of chilling the heck out. So as the summer unofficially comes to a close this weekend, I urge you to take time to unwind before the busyness of the fall is upon us. You know, sit by a beautiful river with some coffee, a good book, and a handsome man.

Books and coffee outside in Colorado

I hope you all have a great holiday weekend and I’ll see you in September!

Quick Tip: Get Outside!

Hi all! So happy to be back here again!

I wanted to let you in on a new healthy habit of mine: getting outside. More specifically, I’ve been spending my weekday lunch time outside. Not a revolutionary idea in the least, but it’s been a big change for me as I would usually spend that time writing blog posts, reading other blogs, and catching up on personal things that needed to be done.

Corner desk

Type, type, typing away…

It started when I was still in class this summer. I felt like I was missing out on some beautiful summer days, spending all of my time at work or inside doing lab experiments. I decided that instead of sitting inside, why not go outside? It was also nice to warm up from the chilly indoor air conditioning (yes, that blanket that I’m using in the picture above for padding is also used to keep me warm!).

While reading, I would make a point to be in the sun for 10-15 minutes to get some vitamin D. I’m glad I did this because I recently learned that even after over a month of doing this and also taking 2,000 IU of vitamin D a day, my levels dipped back down! Do you remember when I was able to get it up to 61 ng/ml? Now look at it! Back down to 38!

Vitamin D July 2014

I obviously have some vitamin D issues. Despite taking a multivitamin, an additional vitamin D supplement, getting sun, and having a healthy diet, it keeps trending down! My PCP told me to increased my dose to 5,000 IU/day, so I’m hoping that, combined with continued outdoor sun exposure, will keep it higher.

When class ended, I decided I would still go outside, and this time go for a walk. I love my BalanceBall chair, but sitting all day isn’t so healthy (and I do transition to a modified standing desk for a few hours most days). So walking seemed like a natural way to stretch out those hip flexors and get the benefits of some low intensity exercise.

Summer stroll scene

Scene from a weekday stroll

Though the amount of time I’m able to be outside for a walk varies, I am able to get out most days. A couple of weeks ago I got out every single day!

Daily walking habit

While going for one of our nightly walks a few weeks ago, I proclaimed to WHH that I intend to keep this habit throughout the year, safety permitting. Granted, I may balk at the idea when it looks like this outside:

Massachusetts polar vortex 2014

But I will try my darndest and push myself to do it. The fresh air, the sunlight, seeing nature (even if it’s just trees on a busy city sidewalk) are refreshing. We’re meant to be outside! We are not meant to be holed up in front of electronics all day.

Massachusetts walking path

Lucky to have this near my work

Questions: Do you try to get outside during your lunch breaks at work? Have you started a new habit lately?