How Do You Treat Fisherman’s Elbow? (Tennis Elbow) Pain Relief & Non-Surgical Recovery Plan

Recovering from Fisherman's Elbow (Tennis Elbow Relief)

SNAP… CRACKLE… POP!!!

That’s a sound we all know and love… if we’re talking about cereal.

If we’re talking about elbows… ugh.

Caddyshack caddy shack gif funny  rodney dangerfield
“Don’t put me in, coach!”

If you’ve fished for long hours over days, months, years or decades, there’s a good chance you’ve experienced some pain or nagging discomfort in your joints, muscles and ligaments.

In this article I’ll tell you how I developed Fisherman’s Elbow, how I was able to relieve the pain, and ultimately develop and implement a non-surgical recovery plan to eliminate my pain 100%.

The goal is to give you a complete plan of action. Something that you can easily follow, that will be beneficial in many ways, and put you on the path to recovery and better health overall. If you’re confused, that’s ok – but you’re here because you’re in pain. Make the decision: today is the day you’ll start taking steps to fix your problem, even if you’re not sure how it will all play out.

Just start.

WARNING: I am not a doctor, and this should not be viewed as medical advice. This is an account of my personal experience. It’s what worked for me to get back to enjoying 100% functionality in my elbow, pain free. The pain we describe here could be arthritis, muscle or ligament tears, degeneration or nerve issues like radial tunnel syndrome.

Be smart. If you are not sure what you are dealing with, seek professional consult!

In this article we’ll cover:

  1. What is Fisherman’s Elbow?
  2. How I Developed Fisherman’s Elbow
  3. Fisherman’s Elbow Symptoms & Diagnosis
  4. Relief & Recovery: Step 1 – Root Cause
  5. Relief & Recovery: Step 2 – Recovery Plan
  6. Elbow Recovery Plan Quick Summary
  7. My Personal Results
  8. Fisherman’s Elbow: Helpful Tips & Advice
  9. Sign Off & References

What is Fisherman’s Elbow?

Fisherman’s Elbow is a painful condition that stems from aggravating tendons running through the forearm, resulting in pain felt on the outside of the elbow. This pain becomes very apparent when performing tasks like lifting objects with your palm facing down, setting a hook, casting, squeezing and twisting – even simple tasks like putting on clothing. It may also be called Fisher’s Elbow, Tennis Elbow or Golfer’s Elbow.

The fear we all have is that the pain could be coming from degeneration of the tendons and their connections, meaning it’s permanent. The hope we share is that the pain stems from aggravation or overuse, meaning it can be reversed.

Woody Arm Broken Gif Toy Story
“Is this gonna be forever??”

How I Developed Fisherman’s Elbow

Personally… I was in in severe pain when I began writing this article and feverishly praying it was not permanent… because NOT fishing was NOT an option! The tendons in my elbow became inflamed shortly after I started weight training (after an extended hiatus) while also fishing 3 or 4 times per week primarily using spinning rod & reel combos. This meant casting, working baits, hooksets and fighting fish all put stress on my right elbow exclusively – and the combination led to overuse and pain. Quickly.

AJ Hauser 4lb Largemouth Bass
One of the reasons my elbow hurts…

I assumed it was arthritis.

Pain or no pain, not fishing was not an option… so I kept doing the things that were actually hurting me, even though my body was screaming at me to stop.

This stubbornness caused me to aggravate my elbow again… and again… and again… and it got worse… and worse… and worse… at one point I just gave up: “this is my life now, it’s arthritis and I just have to learn to work through the pain in order to do the things I love.

Grin & bear it.

Be a man.

There is a time and a place to “be a man” and simply work through the pain, and there is a time and place to be smart.

Stonks Very Smort Meme
Stonks.

It was time to try something different.

Fisherman’s Elbow Symptoms & Diagnosis

Let’s compare your symptoms to mine:

  • At the time of writing, I was in severe pain.
  • The pain could be felt throughout my right wrist and forearm, and especially on the outside of my right elbow.
  • The pain was constant and dull, but simple tasks like getting dressed led to that pain sharpening dramatically if I moved the wrong way.
  • I had lost over 50% of my “grip strength”, and I couldn’t lift desktop items the size of a coffee mug with my palm down and arm extended.
  • Fishing motions – especially setting the hook while using a spinning rod, or repetitive casting with larger baits – caused sensitivity and an increase in pain, especially upon waking the next day.
  • Strength training had come to a complete halt since the act of curling a dumbbell caused pain immediately and again on waking the following day.
  • Symptoms worsened over time. My elbow had become noticeably more irritated after returning home from a 2-week fishing trip to Wisconsin. Fishing two, four, even six hours a day – every day – was common.

The bottom line is that this situation was extremely aggravating and painful, and I would rate the sharp pains at about an 8 out of 10. Something had to be done before I created scar tissue or permanent damage.

Relief & Recovery Step 1: Figure Out What is Causing Your Fisherman’s Elbow

Like I said, my fisherman’s elbow was caused by overuse. Lifting weights (and kids), casting, working baits, hooksets and fighting fish all put stress on my right elbow – which caused my pain.

Look at your situation – fishing might be causing tendons in your arm to flare up, but what else in your day-to-day routine is adding additional stress on your arm(s)?

The repetitive motion of fishing might just be bringing the damage you are doing, with those other activities, to the forefront.

Identify these activities.

You’ll need to know what caused the injury, if you want to make sure this never happens again. Like I mentioned, my injury was caused by weight training, lifting children, and fishing – all things that I am not willing to give up.

Instead of fixing the problem, I masked my symptoms with an over-the-counter “forearm brace“. This stayed on at all times, and provided nothing but temporary relief.

Fisherman's Elbow Tennis Elbow Relief Armband Arm Band
Vacation pics show the arm band in every photo…
Fisherman's Elbow Tennis Elbow Relief Armband Arm Band
… it never came off…

So, an item like this can be useful for pain relief – but it does not aid in actual recovery.

My plan focuses on relief and recovery… and you can have it for free.

Relief & Recovery Step 2: Start This Free Program to Reduce Your Pain & Promote Real Repair

Now that we know what has led to your injury, we can go about developing the behaviors to relieve elbow pain, and yes, promote real recovery. Developing quality behaviors is one of the things I harp on a lot. I fail, like everyone else, but if you take nothing else from this website, make sure to remember this: mindfully implementing behaviors that will take you from where you are to where you want to go is a life-skill that transcends fishing. It will help you become better, in all things, if you choose wisely.

Remember:

Minimalist Fishing is the careful accumulation of quality fishing behaviors, knowledge, skill, technique and gear.

Taken from: What is Minimalist Fishing?

The following plan is not just a checklist.

This is a tool for tracking, which will allow you to see what you are doing to both help and aggravate your injury, and how often. It is a minimalist plan for recovery – which means it is intentionally simple.

If something is easy to follow, we’re more likely to do it.

Implementing a simple plan in any situation is far better than creating a complex, technical plan that gets set aside. Anyone can understand this process. Check it out, and put it to use.

Non Surgical Fisherman's Elbow Tennis Elbow Recovery Repair Plan Inner Pages.jpg
Non-Surgical Fisherman’s Elbow Recovery Repair Plan – Free Download

Fisherman’s Elbow Recovery Program: Quick Summary

The following is a brief summary of the 2-Week Fisherman’s Elbow Relief & Recovery Plan. For day-by-day instructions, download the PDF for free.

Week 1:

  1. Rest & Reduce Inflammation for 7 Days
    Take it easy, boss. Don’t go completely sedentary (some movement is required for a full recovery) but lay off the motions and activities that aggravate the tendons in your arm for at least 1 week. No fishing. No weight lifting. 1 week. Difficult… but necessary.
  2. Apply Ice
    Ice numbs pain, causes blood vessels to constrict & reduces swelling. Grab some simple rice packs, keep them in the freezer and apply for 15-20 minutes at a time. These sessions should be at least 1 hour apart. Complete them the number of times listed in the recovery plan each day.
  3. Apply Heat
    Heat promotes healing, relaxes muscles and increases blood flow to an area. Heat your rice packs in the microwave (don’t burn yourself…) and apply for 15-20 minutes at a time. These sessions should be at least 1 hour apart. Complete them the number of times listed in the recovery plan each day.
  4. Stabilize the Area
    Grab yourself an ACE Custom Dial Elbow Strap. This brace is useful, because it allows you to increase or decrease pressure quickly. Use it to stabilize your elbow tendon in between the ice, heat and stretching sessions as listed in the recovery plan. It will help “hold things in place” without completely restricting your movement. Just be careful you don’t mask your symptoms and overuse your arm, which will lead to additional injury.
  5. Stretch Daily
    The following stretches will help improve the flexibility of your tendons. Add these in daily, as noted in the recovery plan, but if you feel any pain: STOP. Keep it simple. Create a daily behavior and keep it going beyond just this process to further improve mobility. (Technical terms: Wrist Flexor Stretch, Wrist Extensor Stretch, Pronation & Supination of the Forearm)
    Stretch #1: Hand flat, palm up, arm extended. Pull fingers down, towards floor (15 seconds x 3)
    Stretch #2: Hand flat, palm up, arm extended. Pull fingers up, towards ceiling (15 seconds x 3)
    Stretch #3: Arms straight out. Hands flat, palms up. Slowly rotate palms inward until they face the floor (your shoulder, elbow and wrist will all move). Hold 5 seconds. Then slowly rotate back to palms facing up. Every time you repeat the back-and-forth motion count it as 1 rep. (10 reps x 3 sets)
  6. Supplementation
    What we put into our body has a direct impact on our overall health. If we eat crap, we’ll feel like crap. So the first thing we need to do is make sure we’re eating healthy foods. Then, we need to supplement our food with the following. Notice that I said supplement, not replace. Supplements can’t replace a healthy diet – however, they can fill in the gaps. Here’s what I take:
    Krill Oil: Omega-3 fatty acids that + fights inflammation & arthritis pain.
    Algae Oil: Alternate option to Krill Oil.
    Glucosamine Chondroitin: Joint support, flexibility & health.
    Collagen Peptides: Additional joint support + hair, skin & nails.
    Protein: Most of us don’t get enough protein to support muscle growth or retention. Fix that.

Week 2:

  1. Continue to Apply Heat
    Heat promotes healing, relaxes muscles and increases blood flow to an area. Heat your rice packs in the microwave (don’t burn yourself…) and apply for 15-20 minutes at a time. These sessions should be at least 1 hour apart. Complete them the number of times listed in the recovery plan each day.
  2. Continue to Stabilize the Area
    Grab yourself an ACE Custom Dial Elbow Strap. This brace is useful, because it allows you to increase or decrease pressure quickly. Use it to stabilize your elbow tendon in between the ice, heat and stretching sessions as listed in the recovery plan. It will help “hold things in place” without completely restricting your movement. Just be careful you don’t mask your symptoms and overuse your arm, which will lead to additional injury.
  3. Continue to Stretch Daily
    The following stretches will help improve the flexibility of your tendons. Perform daily, as noted in the recovery plan, but if you feel any pain: STOP. Keep it simple. Create a daily behavior and keep it going beyond just this process to further improve mobility. (Technical terms: Wrist Flexor Stretch, Wrist Extensor Stretch, Pronation & Supination of the Forearm)
    Stretch #1: Hand flat, palm up, arm extended. Pull fingers down, towards floor (15 seconds x 3)
    Stretch #2: Hand flat, palm up, arm extended. Pull fingers up, towards ceiling (15 seconds x 3)
    Stretch #3: Arms straight out. Hands flat, palms up. Slowly rotate palms inward until they face the floor (your shoulder, elbow and wrist will all move). Hold 5 seconds. Then slowly rotate back to palms facing up. Every time you repeat the back-and-forth motion count it as 1 rep. (10 reps x 3 sets)
  4. Continue Supplementation
    What we put into our body has a direct impact on our overall health. If we eat crap, we’ll feel like crap. So the first thing we need to do is make sure we’re eating healthy foods. Then, we need to supplement our food with the following. Notice that I said supplement, not replace. Supplements can’t replace a healthy diet – however, they can fill in the gaps. Here’s what I take:
    Krill Oil: Omega-3 fatty acids that + fights inflammation & arthritis pain.
    Algae Oil: Alternate option to Krill Oil.
    Glucosamine Chondroitin: Joint support, flexibility & health.
    Collagen Peptides: Additional joint support + hair, skin & nails.
    Protein: Most of us don’t get enough protein to support muscle growth or retention. Fix that.
  5. Introduce Daily Strength Training
    Simple strength training can further aid in recovery and help train muscles that you have inadvertently been neglecting. In time, this will help prevent future injuries. Stay away from heavy lifting until you have fully recovered. (Technical Terms: Wrist Extensions, Strengthening Forearm Pronation & Supination)
    Exercise #1: Sit. Place right elbow on right knee. Hold a 2 to 5lb dumbbell with your palm facing up. Grip the weight, and pull it up, tightening your forearm. Hold 5 seconds. Release, then repeat. (10 reps x 3 sets for each arm)
    Exercise #2: Same as before, but face your palm towards the floor and allow it to hang with the weight, bending down at the wrist. Pull the weight up, tightening your forearm. Hold 5 seconds. Release, then repeat. (10 reps x 3 sets for each arm)
    Exercise #3: Take the weight in one hand and hold it straight out in front of your body. Twist your arm to the right (your shoulder, elbow and wrist will all move). Hold for 5 seconds. Twist your arm back to the left, and hold for 5 seconds. Every time you repeat the back-and-forth motion count it as 1 rep. (10 reps x 3 sets for each arm)
  6. Reintroduce Fishing!
    This week – go back to the lake. Start by fishing a slow presentation that does not require a lot of action. Stickbait. Bobber with something underneath. Jigworm. Stretch beforehand. Catch a few fish but if you set the hook or make a cast and it hurts – stop. Take a bit more time off, then try again.

Additional instructions can be found in the relief & recovery plan.

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My Results After Using The Fisherman’s Elbow Relief & Recovery Plan

Week 1 Results: there were a few things that I noticed after the first week. One was that I started to feel like absolute CRAP because I was inactive, avoiding exercise and not really getting my blood pumping. This could be offset a bit by simple cardio, and if I had this to do all over again brisk walking for 20-30 minutes a day would be a part of my routine.

In terms of pain… I felt about the same. I started to notice that the day-to-day dull nagging pain started to improve, but trying to pick up a cup of coffee or perform any simple action that had aggravated my elbow in the past, still hurt.

Really. Freaking. Bad.

The heat was also much more soothing than the ice, and light stretching was very helpful for providing a bit of relief. The arm brace helped to stabilize things, but I had to keep reminding myself that I was hurt – and make sure that I didn’t overuse my elbow due to the brace masking my pain.

Week 2 Results: after a full week of supplementation & ice to reduce inflammation, heat to promote blood flow, and simple stretches to improve mobility, I was ready to re-introduce certain activities like fishing and light strength training.

If I was fishing and I felt pain, I stopped.

If I was exercising and I felt pain, I stopped.

Just listen to your body no matter what step you are on.

If you feel unbearable pain, stop everything and go back to the week 1 process – and repeat.

The most important thing here, is that you become aware of these different concepts and begin to apply them, because combined, they will help you move towards a full recovery. If at any time you feel extreme pain or you feel like you are doing something that is making your symptoms worse – seek help from a medical professional.

I ended up bouncing back and forth between the week 1 and week 2 processes many times over.

My Current Status – 100% Recovered – Pain Free: It’s been well over a year since I started to use this process, and I’ll be honest – it has been repeated many, many times. After I reintroduced fishing, if I felt pain I would stop and take a few days off, reintroducing ice and rest. This is hard, but necessary.

It took many cycles before I started to get real results.

After several months, I was able to begin lifting weights again, and have continued to this day. I am much more mindful of my movements, and if my body tells me something – I listen. This has helped me minimize – and in many cases, completely avoid – additional injury.

This process helped me to get healthy and stay healthy. I developed some good new behaviors, and learned a lot about how my body operates – and how I injured myself.

Give it a shot.

Fishermen’s Elbow: Helpful Tips & Info

Here’s a bit more info on the things that led to my injury – and some important facts I learned while researching & planning my own recovery. If you’ve read this far it’s going to be very useful for you.

  1. Planks were part of my daily routine. I’d perform them on my elbows (5 minutes) while scrolling through memes on my phone using my right hand. I have stopped doing this and replaced planks on my elbows with straight-arm planks for the time being.
  2. Muscle develops faster than connective tissue. “Tendons, ligaments & cartilage are much slower to develop than muscle, so muscles often outgrow the strength of the tissues supporting them, leading to strain and injury.” I was lifting too heavy and have reduced the weight I’m using, while focusing on technique and TUT (Time Under Tension).
  3. Denying I was injured made things worse. I should have slowed down as soon as I noticed there was an issue.
  4. Movement is required for ligament repair. Regulated inflammation can be beneficial, constant inflammation can be damaging. Do not completely immobilize the tendons in your arm.
  5. Massaging or “unsticking” tendons can be beneficial for this same reason.
  6. The ACE Elbow Brace I was using initially gave me some relief, but it also gave me false confidence by reducing the pain. As a result I overused my arm while wearing it and caused additional damage. Be careful.

Where do we go from here?

When I first injured my elbow – I felt an overwhelming sense of despair. I thought I was injured for life. I thought I wouldn’t be able to pick up my kids. I felt like damaged goods.

Progress leads to happiness. Injuries prevent progress, and cause us to slip back into mediocrity… or worse… to lose ground…

I was depressed. Felt inadequate. In a dark place.

If you are there right now, this information should bring you hope.

I stand before you (hypothetically) today to tell you that this kind of injury can be relieved, repaired & reversed. After I developed this process, I followed it – developed new behaviors – and came out the other side happier and healthier than before the injury.

It is my greatest hope that you will experience the same results.

Please let me know, and until then…

Tight Lines & Godspeed, Patriots.

Additional References:

This article goes in depth on heat vs. ice and other common treatments and concepts like immobilization vs using controlled inflammation to heal:
https://tenniselbowclassroom.com/sports-injuries/anglers-elbow/

This one goes further in depth and seems to favor anti-inflammatory steps and rest:
https://www.orthonowcare.com/2019/10/30/anglers-elbow-defining-a-common-painful-condition/

A few stretches & exercises can be found here:
https://myhealth.alberta.ca/health/Pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=hw225132

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