Easing Elbow Pain through Holism
If you’re experiencing elbow pain and are looking for alternatives to medications, this article is for you.
One morning, I took my bike out for a quick ride. Or, so I thought! BAM!! I went flying over my handlebars, suffering a major injury.
Think I had elbow pain? You bet I did!
Right there, as I laid pinned under my bike, I could tell something was very wrong. The elbow pain was excruciating. I did everything I could to lift my bike off of me and walk home, cradling my arm.
Pills for Elbow Pain
I immediately went to an urgent care center, wondering what was wrong. “Did I break something? How bad is my elbow? What kinds of treatments will I need?”
It was awful. My mind raced, as my elbow pain worsened. I just kept moving my wrist, hand, and fingers… hoping that would improve my chances of recovery.
“Well, it’s definitely fractured,” the nurse practitioner told me. “You need surgery.”
“Surgery! Oh no!!” I sobbed, uncontrollably.
“Can we give you something for that elbow pain?”
“No, no. I don’t typically take pills. Right now, I can handle it. I’m OK.”
Surgery, Prescription Medications, and More
The surgery was done. My arm was casted. I was given prescription medications for elbow pain.
And, yes. I took the pills. I had to. My arm would throb; my tears would flow. I experienced a great deal of discomfort.
After the cast was removed, I was carted along to occupational therapy (OT). “We gotta get your arm moving as fast as possible,” the surgeon told me. “Don’t want your elbow to get stuck.”
I was required to attend OT three times a week. It was dreadful. My arm wasn’t moving and my elbow pain was getting worse. I found myself begging for more pills, needing medicine to move.
This wasn’t going to work for me. I had to figure out a way to cope with my elbow pain long term.
Since my elbow pain wasn’t getting any better and my arm remained stuck, I was sent to an interventional pain specialist and diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). I knew I couldn’t live an active and fulfilling life, dependent on pain pills.
So, I turned to my roots. To holistic nursing. To holistic modalities. Practices of self-love and self-care. This was going to reduce my elbow pain.
And, you know what? It did!
Sure, I needed conventional medicine for the trauma, emergency care, and early-on repairs. Then, after the initial shock wore off and I came to terms with this life-changing event, I returned home.
Practicing holistic modalities greatly reduced my elbow pain.
So, what holistic practices can help you?
Here are Three Holistic Methods for Easing Elbow Pain
1) Breathwork, Mindfulness, and/or Meditation
I don’t care what term you use; connecting with your breath is crucial for easing elbow pain.
Quick story. Because of the CRPS, I had to go through a series of weekly nerve block injections. These procedures were done at a hospital, on a surgical floor. Right there, you’ve got feelings of panic and terror. Back to the hospital!?! What? Why?
Anyway, I did it. I made it through 15 weekly nerve blocks. That’s right… 15 of them!
The injection procedure itself wasn’t all that wonderful. At times, it hurt just as much as my elbow pain did. Yet, I had to go through with the injections. So, how did I do that?
You guessed it! With breathing techniques, mindfulness, and mini mediations.
As the interventional pain specialist would lean over me, my body draped with the sterile field, I would close my eyes and breathe deeply in and out of my nose. I’d keep my right hand on my belly, as much as I could, breathing all the way down. I kept my attention, as much as possible, on my right hand as it rose and fell with my breathing. Inside of my head, I would recite a healing mantra over and over again.
Did it take away the elbow pain completely? No. Did it remove all of the scariness from the injections? Not a chance. However, through mindful attention, focused breathing, and meditation… I was able to get through those 15 nerve blocks.
And, with time, overall… my elbow pain has improved.
2) Yoga, Qigong, and Easeful Movements
So, fresh out of surgery, I wasn’t practicing yoga. Maybe I should have been… could it have made my journey easier? Who knows?
I can tell you this. I was walking on a flat, easy hiking trail just 24 hours after surgery. As a nurse, I’ve heard it over and over at my hospital jobs, “Get those patients up, out of bed, and moving!” And, like a ‘good’ patient, I followed orders to gently move my body.
Qigong is wonderful for easing elbow pain. The gentle flow of the energetic movements made me feel as close to “normal” as I’d felt in weeks. And, unlike yoga, I didn’t have to put any pressure on my elbow joint. Yes, my arm was bent in place, but I was moving. And, it felt wonderful.
Yoga, like qigong, has many healing effects. Practicing yoga regularly increased my strength, decreased my elbow pain, and helped me get better sleep at night. Yoga also made me feel less tense and more at peace with my injured arm.
Finding an easeful movement practice can do wonders for your physical healing and overall wellbeing.
3) Journaling or Notetaking
If you’ve suffered an elbow injury, there’s a chance that it will change your life forever. I know mine has. And, one thing that really pulled me out of my sad slump was writing about it.
In fact, I experienced nightmares, several times a week, about my bike crash. When I walked by the accident site, I would cringe in disgust. The fall was eating at me.
So, I started keeping a diary… several of them, actually.
I kept a pain log. I’d write down my pain levels, sleep habits, and other physical measurements so I could report back to my surgeon and pain specialist.
I started writing down my story. I typed or wrote (depending on the severity of my elbow pain) about the events that happened. And, something amazing occurred!
As soon as I wrote about the bike accident itself… I stopped having nightmares! That’s right. The day I wrote about the actual fall was the last day I ever had a bad dream about it again. Wow!!
The power of cleansing the mind, body, and spirit.
Other than the pain log and routine diaries, I also started taking notes, using my phone’s note application. I’d take notes at my OT appointments or notes to remind myself of things I wanted to tell my care team.
No matter how you do it, you might consider writing (or typing) to ease your elbow pain. Sure, it’s not necessarily the act of writing or typing that helps. But goodness sakes. It’s the activity of getting those thoughts out of your head and onto the paper… that’s what eases elbow pain.
Ready to ease your elbow pain? Check us out and come join us!
About the Author: Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, HNB-BC is a board-certified holistic nurse, registered yoga instructor, and reiki master.
Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is also a certified coach and Reiki Master Teacher. Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and playful pit bull.