Recently, I tore a tendon in my left elbow. I can’t specify the date, because I’m not really sure when it happened. It was a gradual process where my elbow continued to get worse and worse until I had to stop as many activities as possible that utilized my left arm (not easy when you’re a chiropractor). There was no “event” that occurred where I knew I had a problem, it was just a build up of things that caused it (just like most of our patients).
I followed the traditional patient model (even though I know better). It started with “Hmm, my elbow is a bit sore. That doesn’t seem right. Maybe it will go away.”
When it didn’t go away, I started doing some internet research, asking questions to anyone that may have also had an elbow problem, and tried some of the therapies we’ve got in the office.
When that didn’t cause anything to change, I started looking to more aggressive treatments that dealt with soft-tissue injuries and began modifying all possibly aggravating activities. Still no change. It seemed hard to believe, but nothing was making a difference.
Finally, I decided I was going to have to get extreme. I discontinued my beloved Crossfit, modified how I was adjusting people (to reduce strain on my elbow), got an MRI and scheduled an orthopedic consult. Walking into his office, knowing I had tried all that I could conservatively, I had only two concerns:
Would he be able to help me?
How much would it cost?
I imagine that’s what all new patients feel when they walk into our office. It’s been a long time since I’ve had any real injury, so I think it was a good “refresher” for not just realizing the stress that new patients feel when they walk into the office, but really owning that feeling. I always care about helping new patients, but I do feel a stronger sense of where they are coming from.
Here’s a few things I learned going through this process.
Don’t Set A Deadline
Saying “I’ll be back by January 1st” or any date was miserable. While it would initially give me some hope that things would get better, having that date approach and knowing that I wasn’t going to be ready was pretty depressing.
Telling myself, “I will get back, it’s just a matter of when” was much more empowering (when I finally started looking at it that way). Some of the initial false starts back and my own expectations of how long it was going to take were just getting in the way at first.
That’s when I learned…
Look For Ways To Get Back, Not Ways To Quit
I always looked for a way to return to Crossfit workouts. I’ve tried the other stuff, and just wasn’t ready to trade it all in for a recumbent bike (no offense intended for recumbent bike lovers out there). I know I had the best workouts of my life there and that there was just no substitute.
However, I did have those thoughts of “what if I just can’t return?” Can I find something else to stay active? What would that be? My job requires that I have full use of both arms, I couldn’t sacrifice or risk that just to keep working out. I knew that if push came to shove, I was going to have to choose my patients and Chiropractic.
Still, I held in my head that I would eventually get back and tried to stay focused on that when seeking out answers. If you love your exercise group or sport, don’t immediately assume it’s all over once you get hurt. I’ve had patients that had stopped running for years because of back pain. Once they started getting adjusted, they were able to get back. They had adapted their life to not running, even though they loved it.
That’s why I never stopped looking for answers and determined that I needed to…
Keep Seeking Information & Guidance
Anyone I thought might have an answer about my elbow, I asked. I do have access to a lot of different healthcare providers, and I was amazed at the variety of answers. Many provided similar responses, so I felt comfortable I was on the right track. When the results didn’t happen, I kept digging.
Sometimes, someone will have just a slightly different view of things that will give you a new perspective. After trying many conservative routes to heal my elbow tear, I realized that it wasn’t going to get better on its own and that I would need a more invasive treatment.
I finally settled on a Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injection with Dr. Weglein (he’s great, by the way, highly recommended). He doesn’t do surgery, so he’s not thinking surgery first (my kind of thinking). The injection helped to heal up my tear. I actually ended up needing two of them about one month apart. The process was slower than I or he expected, but it did work.
Considering that I wasn’t that far from surgery and how long my elbow had been a problem, I know that I shouldn’t complain at all about waiting a couple of months to be tear-free. I was however, a very impatient patient, ready to get back and wanting my arm to just heal already!
Don’t Give Up!
In all, this has been about five or six months of a real elbow problem. It’s the longest I’ve dealt with a problem, but I know it’s nothing compared to what many people go through. I sincerely believe there is an answer to every problem, and I know that being actively involved in my own health is key.
Today, I was able to return to Crossfit. It was worth all of the work and effort. Don’t give up!