Community Commentary Lieback’s Lounge: Tennis Elbow is Not as Innocent as it Sounds

Lieback’s Lounge: Tennis Elbow is Not as Innocent as it Sounds

Awakening five weeks ago with an unknown pain in my right arm, I didn’t understand how much life was about to change for the next month.

The discomfort arrived after a solid week of a new workout regime that involved kickboxing. Yes, I had a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie binge over a few nights and was roaring to have some fun while working out.

And the workouts were fun—until I awoke in agonizing pain. This was followed by a short, three-day motorcycle trip up north that included some aggressive street riding aboard the Multistrada with friends.

Every night on that trip, my arm got worse; the pain first achy, then numb. This prompted me to call the doctor: “Doc, I jacked up my arm punching bags and twisting throttles. I’ve broken bones before, and this feels eerily similar.”

The next morning, I was waiting in the medical facility’s entrance that split two offices—one doctor on the left and my doctor on the right. Due to the current situation, I had to wait in the hallway for a nurse to take my temperature upon entering.

That was expected, but in this hallway, I struggled to find the optimal place to stand. It seemed every position triggered the automatic door sensors. The entrance, and two doctor office doors, kept opening and closing.

Thankfully, I only had to annoy the other patients for about 10 minutes. Once inside, surprisingly, the doctor saw me within 15 minutes. I usually finished an hour’s worth of email responses before seeing the doctor before COVID.

The doctor and I had our usual conversations about motorcycles, business, and health. He’s the only doctor that doesn’t bitch about my weird biohacking—butter in coffee, 42 supplements daily, 24-hour fasting days—because my vitals are always perfect.

Then he asked what was wrong. I explained, and he pressed one spot on my elbow. I nearly jumped out of the chair.

Yep. As expected, I had the dreaded tennis elbow, which occurs when the tendons in your elbow are overloaded—an issue caused by repetitive motions, such as punching a bag combined with right-hand throttle-brake inputs.

Lieback's Lounge Tennis Elbow
Can’t wait to get back to this stuff 🙂

The doctor’s prescribed healing regime? Be a wuss for a few weeks, use my left hand more often, ice periodically throughout the day, and take some ibuprofen to reduce inflammation. I was down for all but the last. I haven’t taken any prescribed or off-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or aspirin since 2016. I did listen, though, and continue to believe turmeric does a much better job at reducing inflammation.

I also asked my go-to healing guru, Backmate founder, and motorcycle racer Eric Bostrom, for some advice. He shared a similar diagnosis: “Basically, be a wuss until it heals.”

This meant no riding and zero working out—two things that relieve stress like no other activities. I also need to rack a ton of wines, but can’t lift the six-gallon carboys, and finish some wrenching on a few bikes (the Multistrada’s belts and valves are due already? Ahhh!). This all leads to added pissiness.

By far, the worst is the no-riding part. I haven’t ridden a motorcycle in nearly four weeks, which is painful in more ways than one. I am not an unhappy person, but I can feel my nerves on end when not riding, and my mind wanders drastically more while working.

My imagination sometimes gets activated in a cinematic way, as I picture myself riding some of my favorite roads or trails. Motorcycles are true therapy, and this is the longest stretch I’ve been teased with riding in seven years.

The last time I couldn’t ride for an extended period was 2013. During September of that year, I crashed my 1198 and got about 40 “foreign bodies” (aka rocks) under my left knee cap. This resulted in 93 stitches, and a few months of healing. Yes, that was one of my most miserable periods in life.

And now I have another bout of no-moto misery. Not due to an accident this time, but tennis elbow, an injury that sounds so innocent but produces pain—much nagging pain.

One future action will be to slow on the karate movies. Bye-bye, Van Damme. Bye, Steven Segal. Bye, Bruce Lee.

Next time I want to switch up the workout, I’ll jog backward for a few miles, or attack a tighter single track on the 1190 Adventure R—anything that can help prevent a future of tennis elbow. Please be aware of those elbows, especially if you like to punch things.

Ron Lieback
Ron Lieback
One of the few moto journalists based on the East Coast, Ron Lieback joined the motorcycle industry as a freelancer in 2007, and is currently Online Editor at Ultimate Motorcycling. He is also the author of "365 to Vision: Modern Writer's Guide (How to Produce More Quality Writing in Less Time).

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