/ Unique Elbow Injury Help?

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jonnie3430 - on 09 Nov 2012

I can't find any other information on this problem, so I thought I'd log it here. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

What happens is that something in the elbow seems to "lock," meaning that I can't straighten the elbow, nor bend it due to pain (10/10 on the pain scale,) massaging the tip helps free it and leaving it for a minute or two of not bending it but doing something else generally frees it, once it's "locked," it'll happen again regularly over the next few days, more if I work it hard, less if I rest it. Random "locking," happens when driving the car, drinking tea, washing hair in the shower, etc... Because I know this happens, I have reduced my training and hard climbing (no indoor or bouldering, saving myself for trad,) but really love climbing in general and winter climbing in particular. I can probably comfortably climb IV, but V will cause the "locking." I really want to climb at this grade and above (and boulder and train,) so want a fix!

Bit of history: On 19 Sept 2009 I hurt my elbow on Huntly's Jam, a visit to the climbing wall a couple of days later showed that it was going to stop me climbing hard as the elbow would stick when climbing routes that required a lot of arm strength. I went to the sports physio at uni after about 6 months as it hadn't cleared up and they said it was damage to the triceps tendon where it enters the elbow. I was given ultrasound, massage and exercises and it improved but never went away (see post here when I ask for advice on more exercises: http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=455593 )

Three weeks ago I started more winter specific training by using what is easiest to describe as a campus board for axes (so climbing up and climbing down over a couple of metres using axes,) as the elbow is worst when winter climbing. The elbow started acting worse almost straight away and I decided to try to get it properly sorted out. A visit to my GP showed that there is restricted movement (about 5 degrees, or the hand is about 4 inches off a table when I put the upper arm flat,) he had me get x-rays and go to the physio.

I have just come back from the physio, who said there is nothing he can do as the x-ray showed two particles (calcius (?) type, which I take to be bone,) in the elbow socket and I still have equal strength in both arms. His understanding is that one of the particles is what is restricting the movement, the other jams occasionally, hence the locking. His initial advice was that it'll go away, which it hasn't. His second advice was that the body is not like a car which can be fixed when it is broken, so I should live with it, which means no hard climbing, and the third advice, after I told him it'll affect my career (I have a very active part-time job,) was to get an orthopaedic referral to get the joint looked at. I'm not entirely sure he believed me about the locking. I was waving a chair about in the hospital trying to get the arm to lock, (what he must see every day!) but couldn't do it!

I'm going back to my GP for an orthopaedic referral, but any advice would be appreciated, as would suggestions for further reading.
butteredfrog - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to jonnie3430:

Not that unusual, a mate of mine had his elbow operated on a couple a couple of years ago, for the same problem. Can't remember the details though, sorry. He may post later as he sometimes frequents these parts.

Cheers Adam
jonnie3430 - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to butteredfrog:

Glad to hear it, I have found nothing that matches it and a lot on tendon injuries (that I thought was the problem...) Not liking elbow operation idea though..
vark - on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to jonnie3430:
Sounds like you need an arthroscopy to remove the loose bits.
They will not go away by themselves.
Timmd on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to jonnie3430:
> (In reply to butteredfrog)
> Glad to hear it, I have found nothing that matches it and a lot on tendon injuries (that I thought was the problem...) Not liking elbow operation idea though..

I'm not sure it sounds as if you have any alternative if it's these bits of bone which are causing your arm to lock?

Possibly once you've had the operation you'll wonder why you left it so long once your arm feels great...
In reply to jonnie3430:

It isn't unique. I slipped of the lip of Tom Thumb way back and damaged my elbow. I couldn't bend it for quite a while, eventually got a fair range of movement back but it would lock at random times or really suddenly hurt (enough to make you let go).

I had an "OK Procedure" (look it up) done at the Northern General, in Sheffield, when I woke up I had what looked like a small tooth in a phial round my neck. It was a piece of bone that had been pulled off and was rolling around in the joint.

I never got the movement back but the pain and locking went away.

Timmd on 09 Nov 2012
In reply to jonnie3430:Not to imply you have been leaving it ages, more it'll feel like you did once your arm is back to normal again.
koalapie - on 10 Nov 2012
In reply to jonnie3430: Yes this does sound like diagnostic MRI/Arthroscopy time for sure.

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