It’s a beautiful day and you’re out enjoying it, walking your dog.
Distracted momentarily, as you fumble to answer your phone, you’re suddenly jerked forward by the lead… Your dog has chased in pursuit of a distant, furry animal and has taken you along for the ride!
You feel a short, sharp, sudden pain in your hand, elbow and shoulder from the leash, wrapped around your wrist – and later that night it’s aching so badly you can’t even sleep.
Or maybe there was no specific, sudden “event” and your problem seems to have crept up on you from simply holding and pulling on your dog’s leash day after day…
Perhaps exacerbated by countless hours of throwing a tennis ball to your dog.
And what you feel is that your hand, wrist and/or elbow has become increasingly sore and painful.
And the muscles in your forearm have become so persistently tight they never seem to fully relax!
Either way, whether it happened quickly – from a big, sudden jerk on the lead…
Or slowly – from countless hours gripping and pulling that leash and tossing tennis balls…
You may be suffering from the modern malady known as “Dog Walker’s Elbow!”
The sad result being that what was once a fun and relaxing activity, you looked forward to every day with your dog, has become painful drudgery.
And unlike obvious acute injuries often suffered by people walking their dogs, like sprains, fractures and joint dislocations, which require immediate medical attention…
It’s all too easy to fall through the cracks of “Modern Medicine” when you’re suffering from a chronic dog walking injury of your wrist, elbow or shoulder.
The classic Dog Walker’s Elbow comes about as a result of months or years of holding and pulling on a lead. (Or should we say “being pulled ON?”)
Or sometimes it can arise – OR flare up suddenly – from a big jerk on the lead, as we covered.
It’s typically either:
So, it’s really about where the injury IS that defines the injury – Not the activity.
You can still call it “Dog Walker’s Elbow” if you want but, technically, it’s probably either Tennis or Golfer’s Elbow.
Chuckit Elbow is another name for a Tennis Elbow injury that arises from the repetitive motions involved in throwing a tennis ball with a Chuckit or similar ball-tossing device.
Playing fetch with your dog using one of these ball tossing tools is, unfortunately one of the fastest and “easiest” ways to develop Tennis Elbow.
(And this can also happen simply throwing a ball to your dog by hand) – However…
There is something especially pernicious about the motions involved in using a Chuckit or similar ball tossing device.
Especially if you make a “snap” with your wrist to release the ball at the end of the throwing arc.
Repeat this enough times and it overloads the wrist extensor muscles and their tendon origin at the Lateral Epicondyle / outer elbow.
Yes, the advantage of using a Chuckit is that you won’t have to bend over as far to pick up (or touch) the slobbery ball…
And that you can throw the ball farther than you can by hand.
However, this may not be the best thing for your dog. According to this article:
Since the natural throwing motion is much easier on your arm, (and, potentially, your dog) here’s a compromise:
Chuckit TIP: Use the Chuckit to easily pick the ball up off the ground, but take the ball and throw it by hand instead of with the Chuckit.
Whether you have Dog Walker’s or Chuckit Elbow, the symptoms are essentially the same.
The symptoms may come on suddenly after a particularly hard jerk on the leash, but they often start gradually and worsen over time.
The nature of the dynamic causing Tennis or Golfer’s Elbow, whether from tennis, golf or dog walking leash injury is the same…
However, it’s often misunderstood and misrepresented as an inflammatory “Tendonitis” problem.
And this may be partially accurate in the earliest stages.
You might have a little inflammation in your tendons, at first – But that’s not a bad thing!
You see, inflammation (although demonized and attacked) is actually a stage of your healing process.
And if your tendons are getting inflamed it’s a sign that your body is trying to heal them.
Inflammation is NOT the problem.
The problem – especially with tendons – is that they often fail to heal.
What you can end up with, especially after several months have passed, is a state of degeneration.
And inflammation has “left the building”…
Essentially, the healing process stalls and fails, and instead of healing and repairing, your tendon starts breaking down.
Instead of the “house is on fire!” imagery often portrayed, visualize the foundation slowly rotting away.
If the body can heal most tissues, (which it can, with a few exceptions) why is it that tendons are so much at risk of not healing and slipping into a state of degeneration!?
Now, that’s the 64million dollar question!
The hard one to answer or give you a solution.
(But neither can medicine. Medical research has been going on for decades in this area.)
They did figure out back in the 70s that most chronic tendon disorders, like Tennis Elbow, were degenerative in nature, not inflammatory.
Technically, TendinOSIS – Not TendinITIS.
However, this knowledge is still not as widespread as it needs to be!
You will STILL be advised to:
ALL in the name of treating and defeating this non enemy: Inflammation.
(The brace may not be directed at inflammation but it’s still treating the problem as if it were an acute injury, rather than a chronic one, which is part of the misunderstanding.)
It’s obvious that the problem starts in the muscles.
In the case of Golfer’s Elbow, we’re talking about the muscles of the hand and fingers that you use to make a fist and grip things, which are mostly in your inner forearm.
In the case of Tennis Elbow, we’re talking about the muscles of the hand and fingers in your outer forearm, which open your hand and extend your fingers.
And these muscle groups have there ‘Origins’ – Their “upstream” attachment tendons at your inner and outer elbow, respectively.
When muscles get “overused,” fatigued and weakened, they get tense.
And when tension persists muscles have a tendency to develop adhesions.
Adhesions are basically layers of tissue sticking together.
The can happen quickly, via ScarTissue , in the event of a sudden, acute injury, like a cut or tear.
Or, in this case, very slowly over weeks, months and years.
The consequence is that the muscle gets progressively shorter and more restricted.
And this persistent tension eventually begins to harm the tendon(s) the muscle is connected to.
Again, those ‘origin’ tendons are “upstream” at the inner or outer elbow, which are the locations of the Golfer’s and Tennis Elbow “spots.”
At first, there may be some inflammation as your healing process kicks in…
But if the excessive load on the tendon continues, healing often fails to keep pace with the damage and the tendon often degenerates (breaks down.)
The conventional approach not only misses the mark – It does more harm than good…
By blaming inflammation (a symptom of healing) and then attacking it with pills, shots and ice.
Thereby suppressing the very healing response needed to repair the tendon…
And, instead of mobilizing, releasing and stimulating the muscles and tendons, the area is often immobilized with a brace…
Guaranteeing the worst possible situation: Lack of circulation, a suppressed healing response, restricted movement and an overall state of stagnation.
And, since stagnation and degeneration are kissing cousins, the result tends to be more degeneration…
Yet, all the while, if you’re going down this road, you may think it’s getting better, because it’s feeling better…
But, of course, that’s only because of all the symptom suppression and lack of movement.
And, eventually, when the brace comes off and you try to strengthen it …
It flares up worse than ever…
Because it IS weaker and worse than ever!
And the vicious cycle continues.
OR you can break that cycle by taking a more “healing supportive” strategy.
One of the first steps to avoiding leash-related injuries is to have the right leash type and length.
Retractable Leads: Many dog trainers and professional dog walkers seem to agree that the retractable leash is an invitation to injury – for both people AND their dogs.
Correct Lead Length: Another key consideration is “How long is your lead?”
The longer your lead the more speed and momentum your dog can build up before reaching the limit of the lead and potentially dislocating your shoulder if you have a large dog!
Don’t wrap the lead! Wrapping the lead around your wrist or hand won’t give you the option of letting go of the leash if you have to.
If your dog takes off or the lead gets tangled up with another dogs lead your wrist or hand could get crushed and/or sprained and you could end up falling.
Fingers under collar: Don’t put your fingers under your dog’s collar. If your dog takes off you could end up with a dislocated or even broken finger.