Chiropractic for Tennis Elbow

Originally written and posted by the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors

 Tennis elbow is a misleading name for a common injury.

Despite the name, tennis elbow is not just a concern for Serena Williams or Roger Federer.

While tennis players can be affected by this problem, it also affects baseball players, swimmers, carpenters, plumbers, meat cutters, or anyone who repeats an arm motion over and over. It can be so painful that lifting your morning cup of coffee to your mouth can become an ordeal. 

What is tennis elbow?

Tennis Elbow can be acute, caused by inflammation, or chronic, caused by degenerated collagen.

In acute tennis elbow, you will find the inflammation in the tendon and bony lump at the outer part of the elbow. This inflammation happens because of repetitive stress placed on the forearm muscles. The repetitive stress causes the tendons of the elbow to become irritated,and exert a force on the joint of the elbow leading to inflammation.

Chronic tennis elbow is most seen in non-athletes between the ages of 35-55 years old. In most cases, it is a result of tendon degeneration, which causes normal tissue to be replaced by a disorganized arrangement of collagen. It can happen as a result of a single traumatic event or repetitive stress.

 How do I know if I have tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow will cause pain in the bony knob on the outside of your elbow. This is where the injured tendons connect to the bone. You may also feel pain in the upper or lower part of your arm.

Tennis elbow sufferers may feel pain when you ;

  • Lift something
  • Make a fist or grip an object
  • Open a door
  • Raise your hand or straighten your wrist

How do I prevent tennis elbow?

Stretching – For those who know their work or play will involve a lot of repetitive arm motions, stretching will be your best preventive measure against tennis elbow. Stretching these muscles works to strengthen them over time. For a list of stretches, click here

Squeeze and release exercise – Strengthening your wrist muscles will help to avoid tennis elbow.  Ironically, a great tool to accomplish this, is a tennis ball. Grip a tennis ball in the hand of your injured arm. Squeeze and release the tennis ball for 2-3 minutes, 3-4 times a day.

How do I treat tennis elbow?

A recent study has shown chiropractic treatment to be effective for tennis elbow. Your chiropractor will assess your pain and first determine the cause of your tennis elbow.

Chiropractic treatment for tennis elbow may include: Active Release Therapy (ART), the Graston Technique, which is an instrument-assisted method your chiropractor uses to detect and resolve adhesions in the muscles and tendons, and extracorporeal shockwave therapy, where your chiropractor sends acoustic shock waves into the bone or soft tissue and breaks up the scarring that has penetrated tendons and ligaments.

Tennis elbow should not be ignored. Without the proper treatment it is unlikely to go away on its own. The pain can even begin to spread to the forearm and the wrist. Temporary bracing can help stop tennis elbow from worsening, but is a Band-Aid rather than a cure.

Lessons from Triathlon Training

As the weather starts to chill I find myself daydreaming back to the summer. Ours was a rainy one, but there was one day in particular that will forever be etched in my mind. Perhaps more importantly what that day represented to me. 

I have had a long time goal of completing an Olympic triathlon. This seemed out of reach a mere 4 years ago, having been involved with running events my entire life, but only getting into cycling and swimming as an adult. My first taste of the sport was when I entered the Banff Sprint Triathlon in 2012. I was untrained (active through summer but nothing structured) and despite the water being brutally cold it was fun and the most beautiful race I've been involved in. If you asked me that day if I imagined doing an Olympic triathlon, I would have said it would be a stretch. I couldn't get through a bike ride without a fall at the time and swimming in a lake was the most daunting thing imagineable. I tabled the thought but there was always a nudge to one day attempt it. 

Fast forward four years, to a time where I was redirecting my focus to myself. I decided that I needed to commit to a race to make it a real goal, and to enlist the expertise of someone to give me some structured training. I wanted to see what I was "capable" of if I actually trained with someone who knew what they were doing.

You know you're in your zone when even the hard is fun. Training was just that. Tough physically at times, mentally at other times. But it was fun and I loved every minute of it. I found a discipline to stay on track and make training my non-negotiable commitment like I never knew was possible. It became very clear who had my back in supporting me along the journey as well, from the occasional inquiries into how I was doing, understanding when I had to leave events early because I had an early training session the next day, or the post-race texts and calls that meant more than anyone can know. 

As with other events where I've had to "dig deep", I always find some golden nugget life lessons, or sometimes just observations in the thick of the tough of it, that ultimately translate to my everyday life. 

One of the lessons I was reminded of was the concept of letting go. I've encountered this a number of times in life, when I've held so tightly to an idea, person or goal that I could not fathom why it eluded me. In the context of triathlon training, it was letting go of what I thought my gains were supposed to look like. Two months into training, I was frustrated to the point that I almost backed out of the race. I was about 6 weeks from the goal but wasn't seeing any apparent improvement despite training intensely 6 days a week. Luckily, my trainer heard my desperation and insisted we meet for a coffee. In this conversation, she shared not her wins but her struggles. It helped. It made me realize that me keeping my agreement with myself and allowing myself to see it through was the progress I needed and that everyone goes through the mud...thats how we learn. My frustrations stemmed from the fact that my 10 km times weren't better, in fact they were worse, and although I was increasing the weight I was lifting, I didn't feel I LOOKED any stronger or "better". I assumed gains would be in trimming the extra insulation and being faster in the pool, on my bike and in my shoes. This wasn't happening. I stuck it out, completed the race in the end and even then had a slower run and a mediocre swim (I did however kick as$$ on the bike). When I reflected back though, I realized I did indeed have gains and improvements with training, they just looked different than I assumed they would. I wasn't looking for them so I didnt see them. In fact, the gains I did experience were probably the most valuable.

For one, my recovery post-race was virtually nothing. Most races I would be stiff for a day or two, my biggest race, the Chicago marathon, I couldn't walk upstairs for three days. If you asked me the day after the Olympic tri this summer though? I felt 100%. My improved recovery told me that my body was less damaged in that race, I had less healing to do and that I could probably even push myself harder next time.

The second win, was my self talk. I won't lie, in most races there are moments (sometimes many) where the voice in my head is an a$$hole. I question who I think I am to be attempting that race, or compare myself to the other seemingly more qualified participants. I tell myself to just give up and save face (although I never listen to that one). This was the first race EVER I have been in that I was my biggest cheerleader. I had compassion for myself like I've never experienced. I trusted myself when I needed to walk during the run due to the massive blister on my arch. I believed I could and I did. It was progress. 

I can see now that the mental shifts that took place throughout the training were more valuable than the tweeks to my swim technique or the volume of lunges I could do. I realized that my goal was to "see what I'm capable of" with training, but the truth was, I was always capable, the bar just moved depending on how much I put in.  Outcomes may vary, but doing my best always looks the same and it starts between my ears. 

Although I had goal times for the race, my true intention was to have fun. I set this intention firmly long before the start of the race and it helped from easing pre-race jitters, to laughing it off when someone pointed out my wetsuit was on backwards (really. I wasn't even mortified although I probably should have been haha...instead I was so grateful for the woman who pointed it out before the plunge into the lake). I was chatting with another woman before the race who was also doing her first Olympic distance,  and her biggest fear was coming in last. I was almost last in the swim and minutes away from the disqualification time. I didn't expect to be, but I didn't drown or panic (so thats a win), I just took it one stroke at a time and giggled during the swim at how special I must be to have my own "personal" SUP paddleboarder and kayaker to escort me in. Even an intense thunder and lightening storm on my bike didn't phase me, in fact I was grateful to have the rain to cool me off and I saw it as Mother Nature's way of giving me a kick in the a$$ to pick up the pace. The rain and the pain came and went, as it always does, and I was proud for how I "showed up" and my event times meant far less knowing I had fun. 

You hear the common themes often among authors, podcasts and gurus...the power of thought and intention. We learn through living and being active observers and participants in our own lives, taking accountability for our role. The progress is there, it just may not look as you initially imagined. 

Catching some ZZZZs - How to Prevent Sleep Associated Pain

Originally written and posted by the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors


Sleep. All of us could probably use more of it with our go-go lifestyles. A good night’s sleep is essential to our overall health and well-being.

It can be frustrating, when we do get around to getting some shut-eye, we can wake up with neck, back or shoulder pain. We should wake up from our slumber refreshed and relaxed instead of in pain.

Changing or altering your position in bed can help you reduce the pain associated with your sleeping pattern and will go a long way in making your slumber that much better.

Changing your sleeping position can be easier said than done. You’ve most likely slept that way your entire life, so breaking that habit can prove to be quite difficult.

Below are some common sleeping patterns and what you can do to improve your sleep for each.

Sleeping on your back – This is the optimal position to reduce pain while sleeping. Sleeping on your back is great for keeping the spine, neck and head aligned and does not force your body into any contortions. This position helps the mattress do its job of supporting the spine. When sleeping on your back, your face should be parallel to the ceiling, not tilted up or down.

Sleeping on your stomach – Sleeping on your stomach is regarded by chiropractors as the worst position for putting stress on your body. This position alters the natural curve of your lower spine, or lumbar and can cause numbness, tingling and pain in your extremities.

If sleeping on your stomach is absolutely necessary, try to shift positions several times in the night to avoid prolonged stress.

Sleeping on your side - Sleeping on your side is an effective way to reduce pain if your mattress is properly suited to your body shape. A good mattress should distribute your weight evenly while ensuring your lower back keeps its proper curvature. Sleeping on your side keeps your body in a relatively neutral position.

Also, for side sleepers, try placing a second pillow between your knees. This helps to keep your hips open. The pillow will help reduce low back pain as well as the strain on the ligaments in your hips.

Sleeping in the fetal position (knees to your chest) - Sleeping this way can be very harmful to your body. This position may be acceptable for pregnant women, but isn’t good for your body in the long run. Keeping your body and spine tightly curled in the fetal position can lead to muscle and ligament adaptations in one of or all of your neck, back or hips.

See your chiropractor if pain persists

If you are still experiencing pain in the mornings as a result of your sleep, see your chiropractor.

Chiropractors are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions of the spine and musculoskeletal system (the body’s bones, muscles, cartilage, tendons, joints and connective tissue). Your chiropractor will first assess your current condition or the source of your problem and then develop a treatment plan for you to help ease your pain.

Chiropractic for TMJ Pain

Originally written and posted by the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors

When most people think of the work a chiropractor does, their thoughts immediately go to correcting problems with the back, neck, spine, etc.

Perhaps, the last place you’d expect a chiropractor to relieve pain is in your jaw.

Your chiropractor may be able to relieve pain in your  jaw, specifically your temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which can be a common sore spot for many people. 

A study showed that specific adjustments of the TMJ may be appropriate for the conservative treatment of temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD). 

What is the TMJ?

The TMJ connects the lower jaw to the skull in front of the ear. Certain facial muscles that control chewing are also attached to the lower jaw. You can easily find your TMJ by placing your fingers in front of either ear and opening your mouth. You should feel changing shapes beneath your fingers. Problems with the TMJ or the surrounding structures cause TMD.

What are some of the problems that cause TMD?

There are number of causes for TMD. The most common is clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth during sleep. These moments overwork the jaw muscles and put pressure on the joint.

TMD can also be caused by the following:

  • Disc dislocation
  • when ill-fitting dental fillings, crowns, dentures, etc. make the bite uneven
  • trauma to the mouth i.e. a fall directly on the jaw or dental surgery
  • hereditary issues
  • specific diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout or fibromyalgia

What are the symptoms of TMD?

TMD can have many symptoms that can be present all the time, or come and go. Some of these include:

  • trouble opening and closing your mouth
  • jaw locking, clicking or popping
  • headaches
  • pain in the jaw
  • pain in the neck or face
  • difficulty chewing
  • ear pain

How can my chiropractor help?

Your chiropractor will first assess the cause of your TMD. Most TMJ conditions respond well to conservative treatment like chiropractic.

If your chiropractor decides your specific case of TMD can benefit from chiropractic treatment, they may proceed with a few different methods, such as chiropractic adjustments, Myofascial Release, which works to relax muscles and soft tissue in order to optimize their function, or active release therapy, which is meant to release scar tissue.

Your chiropractor will also work with your dentist to ensure that the treatment chosen is the correct one for you.

Your chiropractor may also advise you of certain postural changes you can make, especially in the upper-neck, which could be causing or contributing to your TMD as well.

Back to School - Backpack Safety for your Children

Originally written and posted by the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors

 The Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors has long been a huge proponent of backpack safety for children.  

That’s why, as the pencils are sharpened, the smell of fresh Velcro litters the air, and your kids come to the realization their summer is coming to an end, we like to highlight the importance of protecting childrens' bodies when it comes to what is considered an essential back-to-school purchase. 

According to a study by the University of California, 61 per cent of school children analyzed had backpacks exceeding 10 per cent of their body weight. Those carrying the heaviest backpacks had a 50 per cent higher risk of back pain. This goes along with the fact that over 50 per cent of Canadian youth will suffer at least one back pain episode during their school years.

Choosing the right backpack, ensuring your child packs it light, and wears it the correct way, can go a long way in preventing them pain, both now and down the road.

Choosing the right backpack

Upon entering the store, your child may flock to the [insert popular kids movie of the summer here] themed backpacks, but it’s important to help them pick their backpack based on substance, not style.

When looking for a back pack you should look for the following things:

  • Choose a bag made of lightweight material, such as vinyl or canvas.
  • Pick a bag that has two wide, adjustable and padded shoulder straps, along with a hip or waist strap, a padded back and plenty of pockets.
  • Ensure the bag is proportionate to body size and no larger than needed. The top of the pack should not extend higher than the top of the shoulder, and the bottom should not fall below the top of the hipbone.
  • Explore other options like bags with wheels and a pull handle for easy rolling.

Packing it with the right weight

The type of backpack your kids are using is key, but the weight your kids are putting in them is of equal importance.

The total weight of the pack should not exceed 10 to 15 per cent of the wearer’s body weight. A typical 10-year-old boy’s weight in Canada is estimated at around 50 lbs. A child this size should only be carrying around 7.5 lbs. maximum.

Also keep in mind that the weight should be distributed within the pack evenly. It’s a good idea to pack the heaviest items close to the body as this reduces the strain because the weight is closer to the body’s own centre of gravity.

Wearing it correctly

It’s important to teach your child the proper way wear their backpack as well. Slinging the backpack over one shoulder can cause stress on the joints and muscles in the mid and lower back. Both shoulder straps should always be used and adjusted so the pack fits snugly against the body. You should be able to slide a hand between the backpack and the wearer’s back.

If you’ve bought a bag with a waist strap, ensure that they do it up as it reduces the strain on the back and transfers some of the load to the hips.

To ensure your child’s back is healthy and strong, consult your chiropractor. They can teach you and your child how to pack, lift and carry a backpack properly to prevent injury.