Just curious - what is icing my arm doing to my hurt tendon?
November 26, 2018 10:18 PM   Subscribe

When I ice my arm to help my tendinitis, my hurt tendon feels so tight that it seems like it could snap. What's happening?

You are not my doctor - but doctors' opinions greatly valued.
I have forearm tendinitis (larger issue - hypermobility pretty much everywhere), kept mostly in check by swimming 5 days a week. Only for the last few months, my swimming has been on again/off again due to other health problems. The pain in my left arm came back with a vengeance last week. When it gets this bad, the only thing that seems to help is dunking the arm in ice water, alternating 20 seconds in and out, until the water turns room temp. After that, my arm is much better for a couple days. I could use ice packs all day, every day, and get no relief. The submerging is what helps.

But while I'm doing it, and for about 20 mins after, the hurt tendon feels like a too-tight bowstring. I swear, it's so tight, it vibrates. It's kind of concerning. It feels like I could snap it if I moved the wrong way. I assume the cold is just tightening the tendon, but nothing else in my arm feels like this. I would think other tendons and muscles would feel something similar, albeit maybe less severe, but they don't. What makes just that one feel so odd? My understanding is that tendinitis is just inflammation. I'm just curious as to what's happening, and if this is OK.

Thank you!!
posted by greermahoney to Health & Fitness (2 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have that kind of body and that kind of pain, too, hi :)

It’s not just inflammation (and it’s not like a simple gross inflammation), there’s degeneration as well. Exactly how much of which is actually happening when is still being worked out.

Treatments for this are all over the map (see “treatments” at the link above), and afaik there’s no really convincing evidence for a lot of things that are usually recommended. (For example, Advil, it turns out, might impair healing.) Whatever helps you, helps you. Cold *could* briefly help by (afterwards) stimulating an increase in blood flow roughly around that area. Or by temporarily distracting you from the tendon pain. But the effect probably wouldn’t last for days.

(Cold applied to your skin can’t get directly to your tendon, it wouldn’t be able to make it stiff. Or if that happened, it’d be so cold you probably wouldn’t survive to tell about it.)

I think maybe your nerves are just working extra hard with the stimulation, and there’s some circuit happening between your usual pain, and pain from the cold. Nerves can be funny and pain is complex.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:54 PM on November 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

One thing though - the advice I’ve gotten in terms of minimizing risk of repetitive strain injuries, given hypermobility, has been to switch up repetitive activities (cardio). Swimming five times a week would definitely put some part of my body under stress (and has, actually). Maybe some rest would be a good idea. Have you talked to a physio?
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:49 PM on November 27, 2018

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