I originally got into lifting weights because I had been suffering from chronic tendonitis in both arms.
I worked and studied as a web designer in pain for five years from about 18ish to 23 years old.
My physiotherapist said she had never seen tendonitis in someone so young—let alone in both arms.
After getting into lifting, Marco showed me how to do DIY manual therapy work. After gaining over 30 pounds through training, eating better, and doing the DIY Graston technique—my tendonitis was cured.
I would feel flare-ups here and there when I acted stupid, such as not packing a mouse when travelling and using a trackpad for work. But otherwise, it was now a non-issue.
Now, I’m getting a refresher on tendon issues.
A few months ago, I started working with a couple of dozen men and women to help them get their ideal body and the health outcomes they wanted.
A few of them had tendon issues already coming into the coaching.
But a couple of guys were growing so fast and hitting new personal records (PRs) week after week when lifting weights—that they started feeling some inflamed tendons.
For example, one of our testers has dropped 18.5 pounds over 12 weeks while hitting new personal bests in strength.
He had been lifting for nearly two years after eight years of doing callisthenics.
In just a few weeks, he added 35 pounds to his overhead press and started weighting his chin-ups.
He’s absolutely crushing it.
But he started running into some inflamed tendons in his elbows.
What did we do?
Well, the top result on Google, from a university, gives this advice on inflamed tendons:
1. Rest the painful area, and avoid any activity that makes the pain worse.
2. Apply ice or cold packs for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, as often as 2 times an hour, for the first 72 hours. Keep using ice as long as it helps.
3. Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen or naproxen) if you need them. Be sure to follow the nonprescription medicine precautions. Always take these medicines exactly as prescribed or according to the label.
4. Do gentle range-of-motion exercises and stretching to prevent stiffness.
If these steps don’t help, your doctor may suggest physical therapy. If the injury is severe or long-lasting, your doctor may have you use a splint, brace, or cast to hold the tendon still.
I tried all of these suggestions ten years ago, at the recommendation of my doctor and my physiotherapist.
I took naproxen for five years, sparingly, as it gave me nosebleeds.
I iced my arms and wore braces to numb the pain.
I’d highly recommend against these solutions.
It doesn’t solve the root problem and causes a ton of side-effects.
As for the prescription meds, you can imagine my horror when I found this year that a number of studies show that antiinflammatories like Ibuprofen and naproxen can alter testicular function, causing hypogonadism and reduce fertility markers.
Ice reduces inflammation—causing less pain temporarily—but inflammation is “good.” It is sent by our body to solve a problem. With ice, all you’re doing is reducing your body’s ability to heal by reducing blood flow.
What do I recommend—as a layman with no relevant credentials after my name?
- Step 1: Give your body what it needs to have healthy tendons
- Step 2: Help improve your body’s natural capacity to heal
Step 1: Giving your body what it needs for healthy tendons
After reading a 2019 review on tendinopathy—a big takeaway was not getting enough…
Glycine is an amino acid found in—wait for it—tendons.
Among with its other co-factors, all found in collagen, you can have healthy tendons.
Almost nobody is eating enough bone broth, bone marrow, or tendon/cartilage-heavy cuts of meat.
Rarely is anyone eating perfectly pan-fried, crispy fish skin either.
How much glycine, found in collagen, should we be aiming to get?
Without getting too deep on this topic, there’s a need to balance out methionine (another amino acid), found in meat, with glycine for optimal health and results.
Chris Masterjohn PhD wrote that a good rule of thumb is 1g of collagen per 10g of animal meat.
So if you’re eating 150g of protein per day, mainly from meat, aim to get at 15g of collagen per day.
That could be one serving size from Vital Proteins Beef Collagen.
Or 1.5 cups of bone broth to get 15g of protein from beef broth, as listed from Kettle and Fire. You can even drink it like a hot coffee with your meal.
I’ve personally been mixing in a scoop, about 8 grams of collagen as Vital Proteins Grass-Fed Beef Collagen into my workout shake. (But I ought to increase it.)
As for my coaching client, he bought the Vital Protein Collagen Peptides, and after a bit of rest on the problem exercises and taking some collagen, he’s feeling a lot better. He’s back at it and continuing to push himself.
Keith Baar has done research (2016) saying that ideally, some sort of a vitamin C source is best to include as well for absorption. (Bell peppers, potatoes, peas, oranges, thyme, etc.)
Step two for curing tendon pain?
You can also try a myriad of techniques to help your tendons recover faster once your body has what it needs.
This article is too long already, but for those interested, you can go look deeper into combining these techniques with dietary collagen.
- Manual therapy like the Graston technique to bring acute inflammation and blood flow to remodel scar tissue
- Red light/infrared therapy (2015 review)
- More sunshine for vitamin D (2016)
- Matcha/green tea (2016)
- Curcumin/Turmeric (2016)
- Possibly vitamin E + magnesium (2018 case study). Could even experiment with topical magnesium directly on the affected muscle/area.
Anyways, if you want to learn how to rapidly hit new personal records while simultaneously getting leaner, healthier, and more aesthetic looking, check out True Gains.