Experiencing Elbow Joint Pain?
If you’re experiencing elbow joint pain that just won’t go away, then this article is for you. Holistic remedies can complement conventional care to provide optimal healing benefits.
Elbow Joint Pain… Pain in the You-Know-What
The elbow joint is one of the most versatile parts of the human body. Elbows, when working properly, move in all sorts of ways.
There’s flexion and extension, pronation and supination (essentially, rotation), and gliding side-to-side. Elbows help us reach for things, carry bags, or wave “hello”.
If you think about how often you use your hand, wrist, and arm throughout the day you’ll soon realize that elbow joint pain can become a pain in the neck!
Why Elbow Pain?
There are many reasons why elbow pain can occur.
You may have fallen on your arm, landing on your elbow. If this happens, there’s a chance you could fracture your elbow. Since there are three bones meeting at the elbow, there are several ways the elbow could break. In some cases, surgery is necessary to repair an elbow fracture. As with any surgery, there’s always a chance for pain afterward… even longer term.
Elbow joint pain can also occur from overuse. You may have heard of terms like “tennis elbow” or “golfers’ elbow”. Muscles and tendons can become damaged from repetitive movements. The elbow can become inflamed, causing elbow joint pain.
Another reason you could experience elbow joint pain is because of something called complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). CRPS can occur after an injury or surgery. Nerve fibers and tissues can be damaged, causing an increased amount of pain. CRPS can become a chronic condition, causing elbow joint pain to continue long after the injury has healed.
Living with Pain
If you’ve been living with elbow joint pain for some time, you know that it can become quite irritating. The physical pain hurts, of course. But the fatigue that results from constantly having nagging, gnawing pain can become mentally and emotionally exhausting.
Sure, you might be prescribed medications to reduce pain. Or, your provider may recommend that you ice or apply heat to the elbow. If you’ve been diagnosed with CRPS in the elbow, you may even be started on routine medications that treat nervous system issues.
However, the pain lingers on. Even though you’re taking medications, icing your arm, resting, and doing everything that your care team has instructed you to do… your elbow joint pain just won’t go away.
Trust me, I get it. I’ve been living with chronic elbow pain. And, suffering for way too long. So, I decided to add holistic therapies to complement the conventional cares I’m using.
Holistic Options for Joint Pain
Disclaimer time: I am not a doctor. I’m not a physical or occupational therapist. If you’re under the care of a medical team for your elbow issues, then continue to follow their orders. Do not discontinue anything that your provider team has prescribed for you. What I’m discussing below are ADDITIONAL suggestions that you might consider adding to your current treatment plan.
As a board-certified holistic nurse and elbow patient myself, I’d like to offer some suggestions for living with elbow joint pain. I had elbow surgery, went through months of occupational therapy, was diagnosed with CRPS, and have been dealing with elbow joint pain for a long time. Here are some holistic options that supported my healing journey.
1) Qigong or Yoga
This first suggestion is all about gentle movement. As you know, elbow pain can create stiffness. The elbow may become stuck. I was told, over and over, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.”
Intense physical exercise may actually worsen elbow joint pain, especially if you’re suffering from tennis or golfers’ elbow. Think about it… those issues happen as a result of overuse and repetitive movements. So, you’re not going to want to run right back to the gym and attempt to lift a 40-pound hand weight.
No, you’re going to need gentle, flowing, fluid movements. Movement that doesn’t put tons of pressure on the elbow joint. Exercise that is accessible for someone suffering from elbow joint pain.
I did qigong every single day for months. Living with CRPS, dealing with a stuck elbow, and constantly feeling tired… it was difficult for me to do strenuous exercises. However, I didn’t want to sit on my butt all day and become a potato head. So, I turned to qigong. And then, to yoga.
Qigong is a fluid type of movement. It’s about accessing energy within the body and using that energy how the body needs it most. Flowing with qigong supports the elbow’s range of motion. You can do as much or as little as you like. The movements are gentle and easy, yet helpful for healing.
Yoga has also been a constant part of my healing journey. I’ve found ways to use yoga props to assist me to get into the postures. Being able to stretch and move my body helps healing happen. As my body became stronger in all areas, I’ve been able to maintain balance and flexibility. Practicing yoga gently has eased some of my elbow joint pain.
2) Reiki or Acupuncture
As with qigong and yoga, both reiki and acupuncture are focused energy modalities. Here, during a reiki or acupuncture session, you just have to lie or sit back and relax.
Reiki is an energy modality that supports healing through bringing the body life force. During a reiki session, the client sits or lies down and a reiki practitioner gently rests their hands on or just above the client’s body. Reiki can be a wonderful therapy to reduce elbow joint pain. The client doesn’t have to do anything and rests still, allowing healing to happen.
Acupuncture is similar in that the client doesn’t have to do anything. Again, during an acupuncture session, the acupuncturist will place tiny needles just on the surface of the skin. The goal is to channel energy within the body and optimize that energy for healing.
Acupuncture is often used for painful conditions. Many people go to acupuncture with the hopes of reducing pain. Therefore, acupuncture can be a great adjunct therapy for those of us experiencing elbow joint pain.
3) Meditation or Mantra
I’ve used meditation and mantra in many ways, throughout my elbow journey. The way I see it is, meditation done in the quiet moments of stillness can help us in the chaos.
Here’s an example. As a CRPS patient, I had to go through multiple nerve block injections. A nerve block is an injection performed in the outpatient surgical setting. A large needle is inserted either in the neck or the armpit area. Having gone through 15 nerve blocks, trust me, it’s anxiety-provoking.
So, what did I do? Well, during the treatment, I’d place my non-affected hand on my belly. While the nerve block procedure was happening, I would breathe deep into my abdomen, feeling that hand rise and fall on my belly. As I would breathe deeply, focusing on that hand rising and falling, I’d recite the following mantra: “May I be happy. May I feel healthy. May I be at peace. May I live free, free from suffering.”
So, I wasn’t sitting on a block in some cross-legged posture, chanting or breathing. Sure, I did practice a daily seated meditation at home. And, yes, I recited that mantra over and over in my head before I went to bed every night.
But how this meditation and mantra practice helped my elbow joint pain was not just when I was at home. No… meditation and mantra got me through some of the scariest medical procedures that I’d ever been through in my life.
As you can see… meditation and mantra may not immediately take away elbow joint pain. I’m not saying that my pain rating went from a six to a two, just because of meditation. No, what I am saying is that through daily practice of meditation and mantra, I was able to continue with the scary medical procedures that I needed in order to reduce my elbow joint pain in the long term.
If you’re looking for support, I’m happy to help however I can. Click here to learn about opportunities to partner together for healing.
About the Author: Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, HNB-BC, RYT (200) 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 a certified coach, nature lover, and avid meditator.
Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and playful pit bull. She enjoys gardening, jigsaw puzzles, farming, music, and hiking.