September 25, 2010

Eccentric Therapy

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:47 am by lindaslongview

I injured my RIGHT elbow in December 2009 – lateral epicondylitis (aka tennis elbow).  It has taken until now to recover…

This is after I had the same injury in my LEFT elbow in April 2009.  Although I injured my LEFT elbow rock climbing, I blamed it on a coincidental risk factor (see Heeding Warnings).  I injured my RIGHT elbow weight-lifting (clean and jerk), but I had no one to blame but myself.

To recover, I tried all the easy things, rest, the exercises that worked on my LEFT elbow, and even acupuncture, but I never achieved lasting relief, so I sought professional therapy (again!).

I was fortunate to have engaged the physical therapy services of Caron, who worked me back to full-strength, mobility, and no pain both times.  Caron taught me unequivocally the importance of eccentric therapy – one must SLOWLY increase the relative strength of the tendon relative to the muscle in order to heal the injury.

Eccentric training requires restraining one’s desire to increase intensity (for faster results).  It also means suppressing the urge to curl upward and only resist the DOWN – that is the essence of eccentric therapy. Doing more mitigates the leverage of the eccentric healing.

Substantiating Caron’s Eccentric Strategy, see the article titled Dodgy Elbows by climbing enthusiast Julian Saunders, it’s a worthy read! Dr. Saunders reinforces that:

We are interested in an eccentric load (a.k.a. negative contraction) only. This will stimulate the tendon to strengthen without putting too much duress on the muscle. How? The muscle is about 40-percent stronger when contracting eccentrically. Hence, it is not stimulated to strengthen to the same degree as the tendon. Because the tendon has a vastly smaller blood supply, gains in strength take longer.

Although it has been a pain (really!), my suffering has imbedded the utility of eccentric therapy.

My long view advice:

  • Focus on the cause (tendon)
  • Leverage effort (eccentric therapy)
  • Accept that it takes perseverance (daily repetitions)

The good news is that I think my elbow has regained significant strength; check out what happened to my grip strengthener yesterday!

Do you know when eccentric methods might assist you?

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