As the global coronavirus pandemic has confined us at home much more, many people took the opportunity to tackle projects they previously didn’t have time for, or were simply avoided. We cleaned closets, garages and basements; took on yardwork and landscaping, did more cooking and baking and threw ourselves into do-it-yourself (DIY) projects.
While home improvement jobs have become increasingly popular over recent years, thanks in part to TV shows like Fixer-Upper and This Old House, the quarantine period, with its combination of time at home, boredom and compulsion to be productive, significantly boosted the DIY rage. From painting rooms to refinishing floors, remodeling bathrooms and upgrading lighting, to building home gym items, there has been no shortage of creativity, sweat equity, YouTube searches and trips to the hardware store.
We are definitely big supporters of basic handyman skills, along with more sophisticated DIY know-how. These projects can save you money, teach you new abilities and ultimately enhance your living space.
But for those ages 40 and up, these jobs may lead to some physical aches, pains and even injuries – particularly when we don’t do them daily (like a plumber or construction worker, for instance), and instead adopt a Weekend Warrior approach. If our bodies aren’t ready for the new challenges, we can end up with nagging issues that range from aggravating to immobilizing. Safety must be top priority!
Cuts, scrapes and bruises are common with DIY projects. Larger jobs can lead to falls; hernias, muscle strain, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow.
What is tennis elbow?
Most people wrongly assume that tennis elbow only afflicts those who play racquet sports. In fact, less than five percent of tennis elbow sufferers get it from a racquet sport. This painful condition affects anyone who performs repetitive motions with their forearms and wrists, like enthusiastic DIY-ers, painters, carpenters, mechanics, builders and more. It is estimated to impact 6.5 million to 9.5 million people annually in the United States, typically those ages 40-60.
Tennis elbow is an overuse injury that results when tendons in the forearm become inflamed or tear, resulting in pain. It starts gradually with pain at the outside of the elbow and forearm areas, but can worsen over time. Symptoms include a dull ache, sharp pain when using the forearm and wrist, stiffness at the elbow, weak grip strength and numbness or tingling in the fingers.
Needless to say, tennis elbow can lead to frustrating setbacks on your DIY projects, in addition to challenges with other active hobbies, like exercise, golf and even simply using a computer. Unfortunately, the pain doesn’t usually go away on its own.
Tennis elbow treatment
The good news is that it is rare that you will need surgery for tennis elbow. Home treatments begin with rest, ice and over-the-counter pain relievers. Some individuals also try compression braces or straps to reduce strain on the tendons and muscles. Cryosleeves, which combine compression with cold treatment, can offer some short-term relief.
Clinical treatments include injections, such as cortisone or platelet-rich plasma (PRP), ultrasound, TENS/EMS or acupuncture, but these are costly and temporary. Physical therapists can oversee a plan of strengthening exercises and stretches, and may use instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM – also known as Graston®, HawkGrips®, Gua Sha) to alleviate pain.
One valuable new treatment option is the E5 tendonitis recovery device from Stā Active, which automates IASTM for simple self-treatment at home. It delivers concentrated, repetitive linear strokes that break down adhesions and scar tissue to ultimately provide pain relief and promote functional restoration. With the E5, you’ll be back to your DIY projects quickly!