Mar 09, 2021
6 mins read
Next up, physical therapy based on a foundation of acupressure and Graston technique to scrape the “scar tissue” around my elbow with ultrasound tacked on after the treatment. I couldn’t believe I was paying $100 per session to have some guy “scrape” my skin, so I found a Graston knock off and decided to treat the elbow pain myself!
I was down a rabbit hole though and wasn’t ready to climb out to be back at square zero. Those first few minutes after each session of active release therapy and the feeling of being elbow pain-free felt addictive. Active release may have been too aggressive but was there a similar version that would lead to a cure for golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow?
Through a martial arts friend who was in deep with homeopathy and natural remedies for everything, I found my way to what he called a medieval physical therapist. Medieval because he was known for using strange metal objects to scrape areas of pain to treat everything from sore knees to golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow.
As soon as I met the guy, I was hooked. He was finishing my sentences, he knew exactly what I was going through. He knew that my golfer’s elbow was painful right on the tip of my inside elbow bone and that my tennis elbow pain was radiating out from the hollow area of the elbow bone on top of my forearm. He told me the pain really wasn’t from the bone or caused by the elbow at all. Rather, the tendons and tissues that attach to the bones in those two areas of the elbow were being irritated due to overuse and misuse further down the forearm.
All of the years of irritation from twisting and snapping the elbow and likely bad form in my case playing tennis, rock climbing and other activities were causing scar tissue, swelling and pulling on the attachment point at the elbow bone. That sounded, well painful!
Similar to many of the previous explanations, the elbow pain remedy was to eliminate the irritation, smooth out the scar tissue and make the tendon and tissues “longer” so the pull on the elbow bone attachment point wasn’t being pulled.
And just exactly how does that happen? In this guy’s case, using a set of medieval looking metal tools. Encased in a cloth wrap, the metal tools would have easily been mistaken for a surgeon’s scalpels and vices. These tools all had a handle of some sort and a blunt end. While there were no blades or sharp points, a heavy metal object used to scrape my skin didn’t sound all that appealing.
But the technique it turns out is quite gentle. The look of the tools was the worst part. The therapist would very gently scrape along my forearm starting closer to the wrist and scrape lightly towards my elbow. This was meant to elongate the tendons and tissues while also smoothing out scar tissue. Made perfect sense! Except that similar to treating pain and swelling with ice that is unable to get deep enough, I didn’t get how this very superficial scraping would actually be catching tissue and tendons deep below the skin and then manipulate and smooth and cure the golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow.
At the end of the treatment, the therapist would do a few minutes of ultrasound. Now I could start a whole website on ultrasound therapy because I’ve read and heard it all. The idea is simple – like ice not being able to penetrate to the depth of the swelling and where muscles and tendons reside, superficial heat can’t either. So ultrasound delivers very focal heat deep into the skin at the source of the problem.
Do your own research if you are being told this “expensive” machine and thus expensive bills to get a treatment is the cure to pains like golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow. The conclusions I’ve come to having had many ultrasound treatments before this and as it turns out even after these visits, my brain always tells me it does nothing for curing pain but my emotions override logic because it’s pain free, comfortable and something you wish can be the cure for pain.
So what happened? Well, I drove almost an hour to see this PT for several weeks to have the Graston and ultrasound treatments that were very comfortable and even enjoyable. But I left the office each time with the same golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow pain and after being told that after a good night’s sleep I would feel less pain, that promise never came true. Yet, I so wanted to believe in the Graston method – something about the idea of scraping away scar tissue was such a pleasurable visualization, I wanted to keep doing it. But I didn’t want to drive an hour and I wasn’t convinced that it took attending conferences and training sessions to learn how to use one. The therapist did the exact same thing each time I went! But there was one problem. The original Graston tools cost like $700 per tool! It didn’t feel like there was a way I could treat myself as I wasn’t ready to plunk down $700 on even one tool. And the ultrasound machine – forget about it. And I had come to my senses and was convinced the ultrasound was doing nothing for my elbow pain – if there was hope, it was Graston.
Around this time by sheer coincidence, I was talking to a friend and describing my latest time waster in treating my tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow via the Graston technique. I told him that 80% of me thought it was a crock and couldn’t believe one of the tools could cost $700. He said he agreed about the crock part but said someone had knocked off the tool for $100. And others use kitchen utensils like spoons because it’s not the tool, it’s the method that matters.
I was in luck, and I wasn’t about to bank on the future of my elbow to a spoon in the kitchen drawer. I quickly cancelled my next appointment, went on Amazon and bought the Graston knock-off. I diligently scraped my elbow and forearms and upper arm – at first the same way I had memorized from the therapist. But when the pain didn’t change one iota, I began scraping more aggressively or in different directions or simply pushing into the elbow area with pressure.
I so wanted this idea to be right – that there was ugly scar tissue and if only I could smooth it out from the outside instead of from the inside (surgery!), those beautiful, linear silvery sinews would once again be the appearance of my forearm and elbow on the inside. How convenient that would have been, and thus it was never realistic to think it would work. But I kept at it and even after realizing this was a waste of time, I would find myself reaching for the faux Gaston tool on my nightstand every few weeks to try smoothing out the tissues and tendons in my elbow.
Bear in mind, I am now fully 18 months into my elbow pain journey - what started off at golfer's elbow has now had tennis elbow added onto it. Keep reading the subsequent posts (back to another nutrition idea and starting to go around in circles) to see how it all ends (happy ending!), or click here to jump to the all-natural, 11 minutes a day method that allowed me to go from chronic pain to pain-free in less than 2 weeks.