Drummers Elbow Forearm Tendonitis Nightmare!

I had drummers elbow (which is also known Tennis Elbow) for almost two years. It was terrible. I had it real bad.

That’s me to the right, suffering, with bags of frozen peas on my forearms and elbows. I couldn’t get on the computer, turn a door knob, or shake hands of over a year.

That’s me, miserable, icing my drummers elbow (a.k.a. tennis elbow) on both arms.
The way my forearm tendentious started is a complicated ironic story. Here’s what happened and how I dealt with it.

I got an ergonomic mouse because I work on the computer a lot. It’s the one pictured below.

Ironically, this mouse was one of the the main reasons I got drummers elbow! The reason it caused me harm is because your hand is put at a slightly raised angle while your wrist is flat on the surface.

This put stress on my forearm tendons and muscles over a long period of time. Looking back I remember the warning signs but this mouse is supposed to be ergonomic so I just kept working with it.

After I worked on the computer for several hours I would go and practice drum rudiments for one or two hours. This really antagonized the problem.

optical mouseI didn’t know it at the time but I was getting forearm tendonitis. First it started as a dull pain when I worked on my computer. It got pretty bad so I switched hands (using the mouse). And then I started getting it in my left arm so I would switch back and forth when pain would start.

Ultimately I got drummers elbow or tennis elbow really bad in each arm. It was so bad I could shake hands or work on my computer for one and a half years. I had to have my wife do some basic tasks for me. That was a really difficult time!

So here’s what I did in terms of treatment for drummers elbow over ten years ago:

  1. Active Release Treatments: this is where a chiropractor does basically a deep tissue massage on the areas that are inflamed. This provided temporary relief only. I did this two or three times a week for 6 months. It was $85 every visit!
  2. Injections. I hired a ‘holistic’ doctor to actually inject these crazy serums he had to create more inflammation in the tendons which in theory is supposed to bring more blood flow to the area and help it heal. This was very painful! I did not work and I must have had about 10 treatments.
  3. Massage. I would get a lacrosse ball, place it on a wall, and roll it up and down my arm. This actually provided some temporary relief. But that’s all.
  4. Cortisone shots: My doctor would give me 1 cortisone shot every six months. He said it’s not a good idea to keep doing it. This relieved the pain for several days but it always came back.

Thousands of dollars later, none of these were a solution.

Here’s how I got rid of it after a year and a half, but not completely. It will always kind of be there. I don’t have any problems anymore. I had to choose between the computer and drumming. Since I have to pay the bills that was an easy but very painful decision…

The only way to get rid of drummers elbow, or to get the paint to subside significantly is to stop doing the things that got you there:

  • Stop drumming and computer work.
  • When the pain subsides ice it and treat it with heat. This will feel good and your body will reward you for it.
  • Massage (but only after the inflammation is down considerably).
  • Use this drummers wrist band. I used it while playing drums, and when I do computer work. It really helps – a lot!
  • Stretch your wrist. Back and forth gently. Try using a table.

UPDATE: Fast Forward 11 Years Later and Here’s What I Learned!

So I had to make a choice 10 years ago. Quick the computer, or quit drums. If I quite the computer then my income disappears slowly but surely. The decision was simple. Quit drums.

For almost 10 years I did not pick up the sticks. And then I sufferred a herniated disc in JuiJitsu (yes I train, don’t mess with me because I will arm bar you or worse) which put me on the couch with pain killers. Since I was on the couch I somehow got inspired to watch drum videos and get my sticks out. I started playing on my legs and on the pillows, and was waiting for the pain to set in again my elbows. It came back a little bit, but then it went away.

After my herniated disc felt better I set up my practice pads, and started practicing at least one hour a day. I did get a bit of pain, but it seemed to subside after resting.

I was really excited that I could play again! So I bought a new electronic drum set (TD30 KV), and practice on that constantly.

But then the pain started to really come back and I was depressed. So I researched tendentious treatments again hoping that there was something new. And there seemed to be!

First I tried doing what the guy said on this video, which is basically strengthening the muscles around the area rather than just stretching and resting:

It helped a little bit but it didn’t quite do the job. So I kept searching, and found another video from a  doctor who recommended other strengthening exercises. The combination of the two seemed to work for a couple of months, but then the pain started coming back again.

The last video I found was one by a massage therapist which is basically showed you how to do Active Release Technique on yourself. I think she deleted it because I can’t find it. But if you do your own research on it you’ll find out what to do, if you are interested I can send you a video on what I do…

So I started doing ART along with the exercises in the first video,  stretching when I feel tension building up, massaging my arms and back (yes, your back is where a lot of pain begins as well. I use the BodyBackBuddy every week),  and wearing the wrist band as describe above AND Bandit forearm braces.

Now I am back again and have very little pain. The process above seems to manage it very well because I can work on the computer and play drums every day. I am stoked!

I hope this helps you out because I want through hell and lost 10 years of drumming which was heartbreaking.

How to prevent drummers elbow:

If you are young or you don’t have any tendentious you are lucky, but you should do some strengthening and light stretching to avoid it from happening. You’ll also benefit from these exercises.

  • Strengthen your wrist and forearm. Watch the video above.
  • Massage your arms, wrist, and back.
  • When you feel any pain stop. Rest, stretch. And massage.
  • Ice if you have pain.

4 Comments

  1. Gonz

    I’ve been lucky – playing over 40 years and I have not had this problem.

    What I did to avoid it was to ‘hit and release’. I also worked to find sticks that fit well in my hand and then learned to let the stick to the work and not try to drive the stick through the drum.

    It actually allows me to get a bigger sound from smaller drums. I am currently using Bozzio Stage 1 sticks and have never been happier with my sound or lack of physcial pain due to playing.

    Arthritis is starting to hit fingers a bit, but that comes with age.

  2. Buzz Miler

    Hey

    Sorry to hear about this. It happens to people all the time…. it’s called repetitive stress syndrome (I’m sure you know this.) but nobody ever gets that it comes about as a result of what you explain.

    So, I hope you get on with it and get back to doing what you love.

    Be well and be good at it.

    Regards,

    Buzz in Virginia

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