I have noticed several posts in the past regarding tendonitis. Since I have had two severe cases of this malady (both elbows twice) I will share what I have learned.
I am not a Doctor and what I have to say is clearly anecdotal - I am "an experiment of one." Do not rely on what I say as "medical advice."
1. Both times I acquired tendonitis resulted from working out in very cold conditions.
In the early 90's I spent a month in England. Up until the trip my workouts consisted mostly of jogging and a Hoist weight machine. Looking forward to a month without the machine I purchased a workout video ("Navy SEAL Workout Challenge" by Chris Caracci) and began doing body weight stuff (pushups, situps, pullups, jumping jacks - the usual).
My month in England was the coldest May that any of the natives remembered. I came home with my first and worst case of elbow tendonitis. It took at least six-months to get back to normal.
My second flare-up occurred when cross-country skiing. I'm not a great skier and while negotiating an uphill section and polling too vigorously I felt the sharp telltale pain in my left elbow. Again it took a good six-months to recover.
RULE NUMBER ONE: Keep your joints warm.
When exercising in cold environments I ALWAYS wear something on my elbows. Usually Body Glove neoprene elbow supports.
If you've ever seen professional ballet dancers working out you have probably noticed that most of them wear leg warmers around their ankles.
I also always warm up before doing an activity that will test my elbows. Sorry Pavel!
I've been experimenting with a fingerboard. I can't do better than to quote from the instructions from the manufacturer (Metolius).
"It is critical to warm up thoroughly. . . . Make the first 15 minutes ridiculously easy and gradually increase the intensity until you're at full power. Reverse this process at the end of your session to prevent injury and speed up recovery."
2. I also note that both times I got tendonitis I was either new to the activity or used poor form.
In England I was literally undertaking bodyweight calesthentics for the first time in over 20 years. It takes time for the body (especially an over 50 body) to adjust to something new.
In the skiing incident I used very poor form. Cross county ski poles have straps - which are supposed to be used to bear the brunt of pushing. In my uphill frenzy I was tightly gripping the poles while pushing down forcefully. BAD IDEA! Especially when your elbows are in sub-zero weather.
RULE NUMBER TWO: Learn and maintain proper form.
The common recommended solution for golfers and tennis players (this disease is usually called "tennis elbow") is to get some professional coaching and perhaps change grip size. Nuff said.
3. Preventative Maintenance.
I strongly recommend exercises to strengthen your joints - easier said than done. Among things I have found helpful:
- Joint Mobility Exercises every day. I do a combination of Scott Sonnons "Warrior Wellness", Pavel's "Super Joints" (especially the Russian Pool thing with a stick), Matt Furey's stuff from his carpal tunnel tape, and pronation/supination with a light weight (suggested by Brooks Kubik - except the light weight thing. Brooks doesn't do anything with a light weight as far as I can tell).
Matt's tape is expensive (too expensive in my opinion). The primary benefit I get is from one particular exercise which is similiar to some Qi Qong stuff I've seen. Basically make claws out of your hands (tense everything) and make slow clawing motions like a tiger. Ten to twenty reps. It's important to extend your elbows (sort of push your hands out) while to do the clawing motion. Really warms up my elbows.
- Begin ANY new activity that may have an impact on your elbows slowly. This applies mostly to us "older" types. Don't underestimate activities like tennis, golf, etc. just because your a "jock."
- Carefully add plyometric exercises or exercise variations to your workout. This the one of the few ways to significantly strengthen tendons. Examples: ballistic pushups and pullups. On the pushups try adding handclaps between reps. For pullups you can add (CAREFULL NOW) ballistic negative. To start, do a full pull up, lower down to about the 3/4 height and then drop and catch yourself at the halfway point. You get the idea. Again - IT DOESN'T TAKE MUCH TO HELP, AND A LITTLE TOO MUCH TO HURT!!
- Other things that may help. Always keep ice (or an ice pack) handy to combat inflammation before it turns into a problem. Like after a plyometric workout. Keep up your intake of essential fats - they really fight inflammation. Don't be afraid to take a day off if your joints are sore from the day before.
I've tried every supplement I can imagine including homeopathic stuff - can't swear by any of it.
The one weird thing I do is wear a pair of copper bracelets to bed almost every night. If its good enough for top tennis & golf players, hey! its good enough for me.
4. Capsaicin (like in Zostrex) helps with the pain but is not a cure.
5. Tennis elbow brace - really helps. I have a drawer full. The best one is the cheapest one - a plastic/cotton strap gizmo made by Ace.
6. NSAIDs help, but again, not a cure.
7. Change your behavior. I quit chins (with palms facing towards me) for a long time. Don't do anything that obviously makes matters worse.
Sorry for the length of this thing. Also forgive any typos, etc.