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  Elbow bursitis from paddling
  Posted by: yatipope on Jul-15-13 9:46 AM (EST)
   Category: Canoeing Technique 

Well I am a little shy of 50 and have paddled 20 years. After my last two canoe day-trips, I have awaken to a badly swollen left elbow. It is very tender to the touch for several days afterward. Even though I am in otherwise great shape and health,.. this is obviously bursitis and it even prevents me from doing pushups. Haven't taken any medication except a little painkiller to help sleep the first couple nights after the paddle trips. I wonder if surgery might be in my near future? Anyone out there have similiar problem? Advice?

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Messages in this Topic


  I've had it, mostly swelling, not much
  Posted by: ezwater on Jul-15-13 10:23 AM (EST)
pain, and it didn't stop me from paddling. Wikipedia short summary:

  A preventative, not treatment
  Posted by: davbart on Jul-15-13 10:50 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jul-15-13 3:15 PM EST --

I paddle, shoot traditional archery gear and have had tendonitis (slightly different issue) problems in my elbow. I have found that daily use of a grip strengthener has prevented reoccurrence of inflammation.

  It's got'ta come off...
  Posted by: fatelmo on Jul-15-13 12:57 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jul-15-13 1:00 PM EST --

An' de leg while yer at it too, befo' de miseries set in.

Doc FE
Frencher an' Injun War Soyjin
Wooden Leg Whittler

  Common Problem
  Posted by: seadart on Jul-15-13 1:47 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jul-15-13 1:49 PM EST --

I never experienced this paddling canoes, but when I started kayaking I was using a heavy paddle with with thick diameter paddle shaft, and I tended to grip it too hard. Problem solved by getting a small diameter paddle, lighter and learning better paddling technique. Since you have an overuse injury you might consider using a double blade paddle too, or switching to a kayak.

If it keeps bothering you go see a doctor, you may have a calcium deposit, torn ligament or tendon or other problem. If it's just over use injury rest and ice while it is swelling and a compression band using healthy doses of ibuprofen or Alleve ( as long as you don't have stomach trouble) will knock down the inflammation. Also there are over the counter arthritis pain cremes that contain salicylate and triethanol amine (usually a generic brand at a drug store) that are good for the discomfort. Don't use the brands that contain menthol, it does not really help the pain.

  If the swelling is over the point of the
  Posted by: ezwater on Jul-15-13 3:59 PM (EST)
elbow, then it's a bursitis problem.

As for Aleve and ibuprofen, they give short term relief but delay healing. When I had a swollen elbow bursa, NSAIDs really were no help at all.
  smaller blade, faster cadence.
  Posted by: daggermat on Jul-15-13 5:18 PM (EST)
I got bursitus from a combo of too much canoe poling combined with using my Werner Rec paddle. Woke me up about 1 a.m. with horrendous elbow pain. Took a few weeks off (went bicycling) and went back to ONLY using my AB Edge paddles, which have a smaller blade.
Funny, I screwed my knee up a few weeks back after a particularly aggresive road ride on my bicycle. Been carrying taller gears up the hills, muscles are happy, but the knee said heck with that. Taking a shower after the ride, I noticed my left knee swollen to twice normal size. Back to easier gears....and faster cadence...
This getting old thing sucks at times..
  But if it is bursitis, it probably has
  Posted by: ezwater on Jul-15-13 6:40 PM (EST)
nothing to do with cadence or stress, but started with a short, sharp blow to the eminence of the elbow.
  well, that didn't happen
  Posted by: daggermat on Jul-16-13 4:56 AM (EST)
with the knee or the elbow. Elbow was "burst bursai"?? per my chiropractor. Easy potential cure to try and see if it helps. It did for me.
  chiropractors are for help, but not for
  Posted by: ezwater on Jul-21-13 7:21 PM (EST)
  Do you have a reference for that?
  Posted by: seadart on Jul-16-13 11:11 AM (EST)
I'd like to see a published study (in a medical journal) that says ibuprofen delays healing of inflammatory overuse injuries.

  I'm tired of digging up references
  Posted by: ezwater on Jul-21-13 7:27 PM (EST)
that anyone with access to google can find on their own.

Inflammation is a key part of the process of healing. If inflammation is prevented, healing may not proceed.

In one study I saw, men with rotator cuff injuries were assigned either to a group that go just normal treatment, plus a placebo pain pill; and another group that got the same treatment, plus a powerful NSAID.

At the end of a set period, all patients were evaluated with both physical measures (Scans, etc.) and with interview and clinical exam. While the NSAID group *thought* they had recovered well, all objective measures showed that they were well behind the placebo group.
  There is no way anyone
  Posted by: rpg51 on Jul-15-13 7:11 PM (EST)
can read posts over the internet and make a diagnosis or treatment recommendation. See a good doctor.
  Posted by: string on Jul-15-13 10:35 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jul-15-13 10:37 PM EST --

And see a Doc. Cortizone is amazing stuff.

  So are we placing bets? When I
  Posted by: ezwater on Jul-15-13 11:49 PM (EST)
went in with a swollen bursa sticking back from my elbow, the doctor said it was gout!

Another doctor ignored the clear information I gave him about aggravation of a previous medial collateral ligament, and said I had torn my ACI. He ordered an MRI, and when the results came back, he wouldn't look me in the eye, but said my ACI was fine, but my medial collateral ligament was partly torn.

I have known some doctors who were good diagnosticians, but in general, their ability to disregard clear evidence is astounding.
  oh for goodness sakes
  Posted by: slushpaddler on Jul-16-13 11:10 AM (EST)
He's right. Doctors are more informed. Your anecdotal experience doesn't disprove that.
  Who worked side-by-side with doctors
  Posted by: ezwater on Jul-21-13 3:03 PM (EST)
throughout his career, half the time in orthopedic and rehabilitation medicine settings, you, or me?

Not you.
  Sure doesn't show in your case
  Posted by: slushpaddler on Jul-22-13 11:02 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jul-22-13 11:05 AM EST --

Anyone who has worked with a doctor should know full well that you don't make a diagnosis and recommend treatment without seeing the patient.

Also, you couldn't know that my mother is an M.D.

Also, it's funny how you seem to know everyone else's credentials as well as their experience. How did you know the Chiropractor in question's medical credentials? You didn't.

I guess this confirms that sometimes a little information is a dangerous thing...

  Chiropractors have medical credentials?
  Posted by: ezwater on Jul-22-13 1:00 PM (EST)
Sort of, maybe. Your mom is a good diagnostician? Maybe. Plenty of doctors aren't. That is my point. It's no good saying only a doctor can diagnose, when doctors aren't that reliable at it.

You think diagnosis can't be done on the internet, or over the phone? Sometimes it can, sometimes it can't. But if you want to insist on your way of looking at things, that's OK.

But in this case, if I could just see the OP's elbow on my computer screen, I would know whether he has the same thing I had. It's that characteristic.
  Had bursitis in my knee
  Posted by: eckilson on Jul-16-13 4:40 AM (EST)
Doctor prescribed rest and large quantities of Ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation. Once it settled down he suggested getting some regular exercise, so I now do about 10 minutes each day on the bike at the gym - seems to have solved the problem.

I've never had elbow problems, but I frequently had pains in my offside shoulder - some light weights seem to have solved that problem. It's tough to get old, but I'll bet there are some exercises you can do to focus on your elbow which will strengthen the joint and reduce the stress when paddling.
  The swollen bursa problem at the elbow
  Posted by: ezwater on Jul-16-13 10:41 AM (EST)
has no direct equivalent at the knee. Swelling at the knee typically occurs in the joint space. The elbow condition I had, and which it appears the OP has, is like an exterior blister in the bursa. If not aggravated, the fluid will subside and, usually, the pocket that held the expansion will decrease.

The elbow bursitis condition is so obvious that old-time physician colleagues at the hospital where I worked were diagnosing it, unasked, whenever I rolled up my sleeves.
  This has been my experience as well.
  Posted by: deuce on Jul-16-13 11:02 AM (EST)
I had a large swelling of the bursa around my left elbow (pain too) and it eventually went away. My wife was grossed out by it which gave me a good chuckle or two. I had the same thing on the lower front of my right shoulder coupled with impingement issues and this problem eventually resolved itself, but I did find a TENS unit very helpful. Now I have it on the left shoulder albeit worse and I'm confident it will go away as well, but if it doesn't soon I may have to let the doc jab me. This one is bugging me quite a bit. I'm too young for this stuff.
  I know what helps for tennis elbow
  Posted by: tdaniel on Jul-16-13 11:46 AM (EST)
or tendonitis. A simple fix is to buy a stretch band at a drug store that is designed to fit around your arm above the tendon. The band takes the stress off the tendon at the joint where it is hurting. Quite effective. Kayaking doesn't aggravate my elbow like canoeing does so you could also try switching paddling styles.

I like slammy little creeks. I paddled "piney" here in wv for the first time on Fri. I was worthless for two days afterwards. I could barely walk. Knees were really tight but I was not the least bit sorry I did it. The thrill and excitement outweighed the temporary physical set backs. I admit I'm struggling to find a balance between the fun and the hurt that paddling can impose. Arthritis pain rub and Tylenol travel with me to the take out now. I'm trying to strike a balance. I have a tendency to overdo it but that can be a good thing.
  Had same thing
  Posted by: Jaybabina on Jul-16-13 1:02 PM (EST)
I have kayaked since the 70's. Go to a gym, take yoga etc.

I over did it one time and got tendentious in the elbow. Couldn't do one push up (pain). No pain when I didn't use it or paddle gently. It took 8 months for it to go away. It's always the "trip" or marathon of some type. As we get older we are just more vulnerable to these things because we're really not in as good shape as we think we are.

Go easy on it, ice it if it hurts and be really patient. Forgot the doctor. They'll collect $100 to tell you what everyone on this site has. If it's keeping you up at night, that's different and a cortisone shot might help.
  Well thanks for the vast experience
  Posted by: yatipope on Jul-20-13 3:16 AM (EST)
Thanks to everyone for a load of info here on I am 100% sure it is Bursitis. I did a very challenging paddle yesterday and iced it afterwards. I will see if the swelling is reduced. BTW this has occured only after doing double-bladed paddling in my canoe in power-paddling situations going UP rivers and on a big lake. I think my next trip I will do ONLY single-blade paddle and see if it re-occurs.
  Well there you have it....
  Posted by: eckilson on Jul-20-13 5:51 AM (EST)
The single blade gods are taking their revenge. ;-)
  preventative care = Yes, but also it's..
  Posted by: bigspencer on Jul-21-13 2:24 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jul-21-13 2:37 PM EST --

time to start building up muscles both below(lower arms) and above(back, shoulder, all the upper arm muscles), take off the inner-tube around the waist(don't ask me the physical specifics..but it helps), and go with less resistance in whatever paddle you use(as mentioned)...either in the blade and/or shaft. I know this works as to a canoe paddle(more flex, less dense wood)...but don't see where it would work any different with kayak paddles/spoons.
I'm not naturally super muscle-bound, but bumping up the upperbody mass lets the muscles do the work while relaxing one's joints...instead of tensing up for power in the arms. Also allows one to shorten up the stroke and terminate it earlier...where stress on the elbow is often at its greatest. All previous mentioned crap isn't rule out doing the medical action...etc, and if like tennis elbow = additional hw to place on arms..etc.


  OK,..UMM Not sure about that!
  Posted by: yatipope on Jul-22-13 1:50 AM (EST)
Well I do think your recommendation to use a less aggressive blade is good advice. The first time (and worst time) was when I used a mild sized touring kayak blade on an 8 mile lake paddle. I was paddling kinda aggesive though so that probably contributed. I have NO intertube so to speak and am otherwise in excellent physical shape at 5'11" and 188lbs. I keep very fit but this recent bursitis has reared up. I did ice it after last weeks paddle and it helped tremendously in keeping the swelling and pain in check. I just don't know about doing multi-day paddle trips? Probably have to ice it every evening.
  Paddle technique
  Posted by: waterbearer on Jul-22-13 2:00 PM (EST)
Years ago I developed tennis elbow after a season of lots of paddling. This was mostly WW canoeing. Painful elbow, but no swelling. Started using a support brace and did some thinking about my stroke.

I used a big blade and my stroke was almost entirely a pull on the arm lowest on the shaft. Once I focused on using the hand on high on the shaft -- the grip -- to push forward as I pulled back with the low hand, that took a lot of stress of the elbow. After about 10 months of wearing the brace and using the "push with the high hand" technique my elbow problems disappeared. I no longer need the brace, but I do have te remind myself to push on the high side.

Perhaps that might help you.
  Push-Pull stroke technique
  Posted by: yatipope on Aug-07-13 11:04 PM (EST)
I have seen SO MANY opinions and styles on canoe paddle stroke technique that it is dizzying! I met an native Hawaiian who is an open ocean solo canoe racer (who happens to be married to my neice) and he is a BIG believer in the push-pull stroke that basically makes your paddle stroke a nearly circular motion through the water,..NOT the more common "keep the blade perpindicular to the water for the longest distance possible by rotating your torso" method I have seen preached many times and use when I am concentrating on distance and speed. I certainly would think that the later IS more efficient for speed and distance per stroke but for endurance,.. maybe not?
  Posted by: CEWilson on Aug-07-13 11:32 PM (EST)
See a Sp[orts med MD, but also best to improve the forward stroke by not bending the elbow, which includes torso rotation. Best footage is SUP paddlers, who rotate from the toenails up.
  And shorten that forward stroke
  Posted by: kayamedic on Aug-08-13 6:49 AM (EST)
Its not a long distance power phase in the water. Its quite short!


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