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Thread: forearm / elbow pain

  1. #1

    Default forearm / elbow pain

    Hi all!
    About a year or so after taking up mandolin about 4 years ago, I noticed discomfort / inflammation near my left elbow, inside area of the forearm, not far from the funny bone. Didn't seem like much at the time, felt more like tension, so I'd typically rest and stretch it and play again later.
    After a couple years, I played less and less, and life got busy, and the elbow thing didn't seem to bug me as much. Fast forward to pandemic times, and I thought I'd pick it back up as a regular thing. The inflammation at the left forearm is now back with a vengeance, particularly acute as I extend my arms out to simply set the instrument back in its case after playing / practicing. We're talking 15-30 minute sessions tops, 3 to 4 times a week...I'm not overdoing it.
    The mando itself is a very nice Weber, pro set up, so I can't blame the instrument. I'll be talking with my doctor soon, but I was wondering what other folks have tried or if you've even run into this issue. I'm primarily an electric guitarist and in 40+ years of performing and recording I've never had a similar problem with electric or acoustic guitar.
    Thanks in advance for your advice!

  2. #2
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: forearm / elbow pain

    If you’re self taught, consider having a pro (Teacher) examine your technique. You might be using your body in the wrong position, resulting in excess strain...
    Also take your mando with you to the dr to show them what you’re doing that aggravated the elbow.
    Correct ergonomics is not intuitive for hand and finger position. I’ve spent lots of time correcting self taught students on proper posture and position.
    Guitar hand technique is very much not the same as mando! Particularly thumb position.
    Best of luck
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  3. #3

    Default Re: forearm / elbow pain

    Had similar issues in the past. Was tensing up too much as I played. Going from the "muscle memory" of a longer scale instrument to a shorter scale changes the geometry of the shoulder, elbow, and wrist. Solved it with breathing, stretching and basically relaxing more.

  4. #4

    Default Re: forearm / elbow pain

    Thanks guys...much appreciated. I did take lessons early on, yet I could always tell that I'm more tense on the mandolin than guitar. It seems to take enormous finger pressure to fret cleanly...even with a dialed-in Weber! I'll try coming at it again from a much more relaxed position after seeing a doc and resting the injury. Now that things are easing up (covid-wise) a bit, perhaps another round of in-person lessons may be in order. Again, thank you for the advice.

  5. #5
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: forearm / elbow pain

    It’s not just tension that can cause injuries, but wrist, thumb and finger angle can create adverse pressures in tendons.
    2007 Weber Custom Elite "old wood"
    2017 Ratliff R5 Custom #1148
    Several nice old Fiddles
    2007 Martin 000-15S 12 fret Auditorium-slot head
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  6. #6
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: forearm / elbow pain

    What you're describing is commonly known as "golfers elbow.". A similar pain on the outside of the elbow is "tennis elbow" which I developed early this year, exacerbated by guitar and mandolin playing, but mostly due to that's my dominant arm (I'm a lefty who plays righty).

    I do a lot of manual work (working on cars, yard work, chopping wood, etc.). You should have a doctor or physical therapist look at it. What has worked for me is a brace, ibuprofen, aspercream with lidocaine and most importantly not working it so hard.

  7. #7
    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: forearm / elbow pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
    What you're describing is commonly known as "golfers elbow.". A similar pain on the outside of the elbow is "tennis elbow" which I developed early this year, exacerbated by guitar and mandolin playing, but mostly due to that's my dominant arm (I'm a lefty who plays righty).

    I do a lot of manual work (working on cars, yard work, chopping wood, etc.). You should have a doctor or physical therapist look at it. What has worked for me is a brace, ibuprofen, aspercream with lidocaine and most importantly not working it so hard.
    I've developed this this year as well - most likely due to a lot of manual work on the farm and chopping wood - just curious what brace you're using, is it one of those band types or is it a full brace?
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    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: forearm / elbow pain

    I’ve used an adjustable wrap on the hand side of the elbow, about 2 inches below the joint. It reduces the stress on the attachment point by diminishing the pull of the tendon. And nsaids.

    Better technique, ie., using less left hand force, is the long term fix. Good luck, it can be a slow fix.
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  9. #9

    Default Re: forearm / elbow pain

    I developed tendinitis many years ago from a combination of excessive fishing and poor posture while keyboarding at work. Treatment (successful) included primarily ibuprofen and a pressure band (and fixing the ergonomics issue). Two things that stuck with me that the doctor shared... first, he asked how long I’d been suffering from pain before I started treating it and I told him about six months. He told me, “then it’ll take up to about six months to heal”; apparently the longer the condition exists the longer it can take to heal. Second, he told me to stay on the ibuprofen 24/7 until healed, not just when there is pain. He said the ibuprofen is providing therapeutic effect decreasing inflammation and promoting healing, not just blocking pain, so don’t try to “tough it out”.

    Of course the best advice is...listen to what a real doctor says, not to me

  10. #10
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    Default Re: forearm / elbow pain

    I had the same issue after really digging into scale practice for the first time ever. Golfers elbow, aka guitar elbow. I paid for this therapy program on-line , and it’s helped - although rehab can take months. https://tenniselbowclassroom.com/golfers-elbow/ No financial interest.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: forearm / elbow pain

    Also, per my previous link, https://tenniselbowclassroom.com/golfers-elbow/ suggests that ibuprofen etc actually inhibits long-term healing ....

  12. #12

    Default Re: forearm / elbow pain

    Quote Originally Posted by mjbee View Post
    Also, per my previous link, https://tenniselbowclassroom.com/golfers-elbow/ suggests that ibuprofen etc actually inhibits long-term healing ....
    Interesting!
    Well, my recommendation would still be to consult a physician!

  13. #13
    I really look like that soliver's Avatar
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    Default Re: forearm / elbow pain

    Do you have any numbness in your fingers? I experience the same thing as you with added numbness in my fingers...

    By my research it's called Ulnar Entrapment aka "cellphone elbow" which comes from having your elbow bent too frequently for extended periods of time, such as talking in your cell phone a lot. For me it happens because I sleep on my stomach often with my elbows bent underneath my torso or my head. Just like carpel tunnel syndrome, this "over use" causes inflammation in the passage at the elbow joint through which the nerves pass. The inflammation causes pain in the elbow and pinched nerves which makes your finger numb or sore. For me it gets exacerbated by heavy lifting or playing my mando more than normal.

    The best fix for it has been working to sleep with my arms fully extended, sometimes by wearing a brace. There is also a litany of stretches called "nerve flossing" that help a lot and many can be found on YouTube.
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  15. #14
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: forearm / elbow pain

    Quote Originally Posted by Jill McAuley View Post
    I've developed this this year as well - most likely due to a lot of manual work on the farm and chopping wood - just curious what brace you're using, is it one of those band types or is it a full brace?
    I have the band type with a gel pad.

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  17. #15

    Default Re: forearm / elbow pain

    Hey everybody - I can't thank y'all enough for the great pointers. I feel like I have a path forward now that doesn't involve selling off the mandolin All the best to you and happy pickin'!

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