Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ow! My Brachioradialis!!

I know, one doesn't say that very often, but I find this to be one of my most common injuries after a sword workout. The brachioradialis is the muscle responsible for flexing the arm at the elbow. If you've ever done a lot of sword work, you may recognize this as the muscle which is especially tight the next day on your right arm. especially in that fleshy point just to the side of the elbow.

Big deal. People hurt themselves all the time during martial arts. Why is this little muscle so special? Well, unfortunately for me, it takes all the fun out of several other toys such as nunchaku, rope dart and sai to name a few. I also feel it for a few days afterwards at work, making me even less productive than usual.

Left untreated, the tightness in the forearm starts radiating into the hands and wrists, making them feel stiff and painful. In fact, this is why I really started paying attention to the problem, as it was becoming very painful to do other things, and I was really starting to worry about wrist problems or carpal tunnel. Over Thanksgiving, my future aunt - a massage therapist -- gave me some excellent advice on my wrist problems. After talking to me for a little bit and getting some ideas about the motions I was performing, she grabbed my arm and jammed her thumb into my upper forearm. My jolt and yelp confirmed her theory (and made me wonder if she was a secret ninja.) that my "wrist problem" was really a forearm problem.

I had not considered this option. To me, if my wrist hurt, it was because there was a problem in my wrist! Then I thought of my back injury, and how we spent so much time in PT warming and stretching the hamstrings and I started to understand how tightness in one area can radiate throughout the body.

Afterwards, I started doing a little research, and came across this article in EJMAS. It's title, "Iai Elbow" says it all for me.

Prevention: Try stretching! The Aikido wrist exercises work great for this. In the last few years, I've come to put a greater value on stretching. Maybe some strengthening of the area could help as well.

Recovery: Ice and Advil. Contrast baths may also help. I've found massaging the muscle helps a great deal as well.

I'm certainly not an expert in sports medicine or pain management, but I've found that this helps me a great deal. I hope that someone with hand or wrist pain comes across this and it is helpful to them. I know that the thought of hanging up the sword or nunchaku was very depressing to me, and I'd hate for the solution to be hidden from someone else.
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