You’ve certainly heard of it in the context of tennis or golf, but what about umbrella elbow? Is that actually a thing? There is a rationale behind it, especially when you take Greater Vancouver as an example. When compared to the rest of Canada, residents here spend a much greater proportion of their time walking around outside with an umbrella pointed up to the sky. Many are complaining of pain that runs anywhere from the wrist to the shoulder region when doing so, and begin to wonder if the simple act of holding an umbrella can lead to injury. And if so, can physiotherapy help? Let’s review.
Why You May Be Experiencing Pain When Holding an Umbrella and What You Can Do About It
It May Actually Be Tennis Elbow
If you’re experiencing symptoms of tenderness on the outside of the elbow, a weak and painful grip, and/or pain with wrist and third finger extension when holding your umbrella, you’re probably experiencing tennis elbow. Tennis elbow (aka Lateral Epicondylalgia) is a very common overuse injury and one that you will absolutely feel symptoms of when attempting to shield yourself from precipitation. You may blame your umbrella because of the fact that you don’t play tennis, or haven’t played in quite some time, but don’t painfully point the finger quite yet. You see, the term “tennis elbow” does not explicitly imply that the injury is sustained from the sport. Instead, it most commonly occurs from the repetitive use of your wrist with daily activities. It may come from using a computer all day at work, or the act of rotating your forearm palm up to a palm down direction while gripping something of significant weight.
A physiotherapist will diagnose the true culprit and will take corrective action, including manual therapy to release the forearm muscles and articulate the joint, and may employ modalities such as laser, ultrasound, and interferential current. A physiotherapist will also prescribe effective at-home exercise programs which focus on eccentric exercise of the wrist extensors.
It May Also Be Golf Elbow
Alternatively, you may be experiencing golfer’s elbow. Golfer’s elbow is similar to tennis elbow, but instead of the pain occurring on the outside of the elbow, pain is the result of a malfunction where which the tendons of your forearm muscles attach to the “bony bump” on the inside of your elbow. Pain typically spreads to your forearm and wrist, which is why it also hurts when you hold an umbrella. Like with tennis elbow, participation in the sport is not the only precursor to the ailment. The condition is often caused by any activity when you overuse the muscles in the forearm that allow you to grip, rotate your arm, and flex your wrist.
A physiotherapist will provide for exercises that will gradually and safely stretch and strengthen the forearm muscles, however a chiropractor may also be brought in. Why? Spinal adjustments to the neck are actually a highly effective form of treatment for golfer’s elbow. View more on this topic here.
It May Be the Weather
You may associate the aches and pains felt with the literal act of holding an umbrella when in fact it’s the weather to blame. There are a variety of ways that excessive rain leads to pain. For one, you are less likely to participate in recreational activities. This lack of action reduces blood flow to important joints, muscles, and tissues. In addition, rain contributes to a drop in temperature which can increase your body’s need for the thyroid hormone which can then disrupt the way you burn energy and as a result the muscles in your arm feel excessively tasked. In a roundabout way “umbrella weather” can lead to decreased immune function and contribute to seasonal affective disorder, both of which can inflate aches and pains. View more on how rainy weather can increase pain symptoms and how physiotherapy can help.
Pain-Free Tips to Holding an Umbrella
Whether or not you have sustained an injury from holding an umbrella so often is beside the point. The bottomline is that it hurts when you do it. Aside from having a physiotherapist provide treatment for your overuse injuries, you will want to be more mindful when going outdoors with an umbrella in tow. Follow the practical tips below to mitigate the pain:
- Choose a sturdy but light umbrella – a heavy umbrella will strain your wrist, forearm, shoulders, and aggravate existing inquires, especially on a windy day. Leave the large golf umbrella at home!
- Alternate arms – Split the time you spend holding an umbrella between each arm. If taking a 20-minute walk, hold the umbrella in your left hand for 10-minutes and then in your right hand for 10-minutes. This will not only alleviate stress on each side, it will help balance your overall core. If you must carry a big/heavy umbrella, use both hands to hold it (centered in the front of your torso) which will evenly distribute the weight.
- Practice good posture while walking with an umbrella – don’t slouch/crouch under your umbrella to keep dry (which really makes no difference).
If you are experience pain while holding your umbrella we encourage you to get to the bottom of the underlying injury right away. Schedule a consultation with our Burnaby Greater Vancouver clinic by calling 604.558.2273 or complete the form found here.