Looking Out To Sea

Recovering from an armbar (elbow hyperextension)

On the 23rd of January of the Year of our Lord 2017 I was laid low by… a large man bending my elbow the wrong way. The details are not exciting: we were practising back mount escapes and he landed on my arm as it was posted with my body weight through it. He landed on the outside of my upper arm, sliding down the arm and causing it to bend the wrong way. It went *pop* and hurt a lot.

After an evening sitting at the A&E department in Little France they told me it was not broken. But the injury doesn’t stop there. I still had very little use of my left arm. I was staring into the abyss of inactivity — stopping all cycling and grappling. Thoughts of returning to capoeira were discarded.

My forearm and hand was swollen and later turned green around the elbow. Anything requiring forearm strength, be it pushing, pulling, carrying or twisting, was not possible. I had about ninety degrees of range of movement — neither fully extended nor flexed. Just a permanently crooked elbow. It was two weeks before I could hold a cup close enough to my mouth to drink from it.

The swelling didn’t disappear for the first week and I was taking painkillers regularly. Icing the inside of the elbow still felt good for the first few days so I continued to do that while the swelling was clearly visible. At that point I started on a gentle physiotherapy regime adapted from the NHS Inform pages.

The routine I have ended up with, with particular focus on the flexion of the elbow joint, is short but apparently effective. Repeat this cycle for two minutes. Do this every hour.

  • 10 seconds with the arm extended towards the ground
  • 10 seconds with the elbow flexed

The significant difference between the NHS recommendation and what I’ve been doing is the focus on the extremes of the motion. Rather than slowly moving through the motion I spend the majority of the time at the limit of the extension/flexion, where I need to improve. In the next step I will revert to the recommended routine to build up strength in the arm. Doing those pint glass bicep curls!

Two weeks ago my thoughts about recovery were quite bleak. Since I’ve settled on what seems to be the right routine and sticking to it I have seen a massive improvement. I am feeling positive about recovery now.