Are there any Vitamins, nutrients or supplements you can take to help your Tennis Elbow injury heal faster or to help relieve the pain?
Sooner or later; sometime between the anti-inflammatories, the ice packs and getting the brace - and trying to figure out just what IS the right treatment strategy for Tennis Elbow (which should include NONE of those things, in this therapists opinion!)...
You're going to start wondering about vitamins, herbal remedies and supplements - And you'll come across all sorts of claims on the Internet that this, that or the other vitamin or supplement helps – including, but not limited to:
Table Of Contents (Links jump down the page to various sections of this article.)
- Basic Vitamins – like Vitamins A,B,C and D Vitamins
- Anti-inflammatory herbs – like Bromelain, Turmeric and Ginger herbs
- Glucosamine, MSM and Chondroitin– (Joint supplements) Glucosamine
- Fish Oil – (And vegetable Omega 3 oil capsules) Fish oils / Omega 3s
- Collagen supplements – (including Shark Cartilage) Collagen
Many people certainly want to avoid toxic anti-inflammatory pills, and they're looking for natural alternatives for both pain relief AND to support their healing process.
But the short answer is that this leads too many desperate Tennis and Golfer's Elbow sufferers down a rabbit hole chasing miracle cures.
Most of this stuff, like MSM, herbs, Collagen and anything claiming to be “Anti-inflammatory” is pointless and a waste of money – At least when it comes to healing tendon injuries like Tennis Elbow!
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However, with any injury or health problem you're trying to heal and recover from, good nutrition always matters!
And when it comes to the damaged tendons involved in Golfer's and Tennis Elbow, I think Vitamins C and D, and simple getting adequate protein are the key nutritional foundations.
There's nothing wrong with thinking about A and B Vitamins, too, but these vitamins are very common in most reasonably healthy foods, so let's about C...
Vitamin C And Tendon Repair
My slogan is, Vitamin C is key! Why? Because of this basic formula:
Vitamin C = Collagen = Healthy Tendons!
Vitamin C is key because our bodies can't synthesize or store it and it's essential for the production of new collagen.And that's critical because collagen protein is what tendons are made of (90% or more.)
New collagen is necessary to repair and replace the damaged tendon tissues that are causing us pain when we have Golfer's or Tennis Elbow.
Given enough basic protein building blocks, (known as amino acids) and Vitamin C – our bodies can synthesize new collagen…
Now, you might be tempted to think “I get all the Vitamin C I need from my diet” – But do you?
How many fresh, raw, vital fruits and vegetables are you eating every day?
How much Vitamin C does the human body need every day (keep in mind that it's a water-soluble vitamin that the body can neither store nor create)
- And what if you're under a lot of stress?…
- And/or exposed to toxic environments or materials?
Stress depletes Vitamin C and it's also necessary for the body's detoxification processes.
I can't necessarily cite or prove this, but I remember reading that tissue repair is rather low on the body's hierarchy of priorities...
All kinds of other metabolic necessities seem to have a higher priority and claim on available nutrients, and come first before tissue repair during sleep.
(Which is another good reason to make sure you're getting enough – More than enough sleep if you're injured, with Tennis Elbow or anything else – That's if it LETS you sleep, of course.)
Personally, I take that RDA, (Recommended Daily Allowance) for Vit C, whatever it is, with a grain of salt…
(Like I take anything proffered by Government Agencies – obviously influenced by various powerful lobbies, and therefore biased and unreliable.)
And I've been taking 4-6 grams of C a day for many years. (And never get colds or the flu, by the way.)
The way I look at it, you can't really go wrong. Vit C is cheap, difficult to take too much of, and it's easier to be safe than sorry.
Although I do pay a premium for the non-acidic Vitamin C powder that I take.
It's not Ascorbic Acid – (the cheapest form of Vitamin C) – But, rather Calcium Ascorbate, which has a Ph of 7.0, which is the same as water. The brand I buy is from NutraBiotic, (no afiliation) - See the picture where I'm holding the bottle above.
(There is some concern that if you're taking a lot of Vit C that it can be hard on the stomach and kidneys if it's in the highly-acidic Ascorbic Acid form.)
One other thing to keep in mind is that C is very heat-sensitive, so a lot of it is destroyed during cooking, during pasteurization (perhaps less) and food processing.
Another excellent reason to eat more raw, unprocessed foods. (You might still want to cook your meat, though!)
Vitamin D And Tendon-To-Bone Healing
How is Vitamin D important to your Tennis Elbow healing? D is helpful for:
- Tendon-to-bone healing – Which is often an issue with Tennis Elbow,
- And muscle strengthening
“Vitamin D plays a significant role in the tendon-to-bone healing process by increasing the bone mineral density and strengthening the skeletal muscles.”
This study has to do with the Rotator Cuff tendons of the shoulder, and how they need to heal and form strong attachments to the bone after surgery…
But the same principle may apply to Tennis or Golfer's Elbow, because we're dealing with a similar 'tendon attachment' at our elbows.
The Tennis Elbow “spot” is where your wrist extensor tendons connect (at their 'origin' end) to your elbow at your Lateral Epicondyle.
Now, you may be thinking that you get enough sun in the sunnier months – and besides, “I get Vitamin D from drinking milk and eating meat and eggs!”
I would caution you to check that assumption. I'm seeing more and more references to the idea that a large percentage of the population is potentially Vitamin D deficient.
“Vitamin D deficiency affects approximately 1 billion people worldwide. Many people who suffer from this deficiency lead lifestyles that keep them indoors or they live in a region where sunlight is sparse (such as northwestern Europe).”
Vitamin D And The Immunomodulation Of Rotator Cuff Injury
And, as far as diet goes, it's true that they often fortify milk with Vitamin D and it's naturally present in meat and eggs – but here's the thing.
The D produced by our own bodies in response to UVB radiation (typically from the sun) may be superior to that which we ingest, whether in food or supplements.
“The major source of vitamin D for children and adults is exposure to natural sunlight.”
Vitamin D: The “Sunshine” Vitamin
“Vitamin D produced in the skin may last at least twice as long in the blood compared with ingested vitamin D.”
Human Plasma Transport Of Vitamin D After Its Endogenous Synthesis
So, if it's true that the D we produce ourselves in response to the sun is better that what we take in capsules or eat…
And if we need to get enough sun on enough of our exposed skin during or close to peak sunlight hours in order to get that key UVB (Ultraviolet B radiation) exposure...
How is that going to happen if most of our body is covered when we're outside – Or we use high SPF sunblock (20+) when we're not fully clothed outside?
“Wearing a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 reduces vitamin D synthesis in the skin by more than 95%.”
Vitamin D: The “Sunshine” Vitamin
Conclusion: You're not going to get much Vitamin D production if you're blocking most of the UV light all the time out of fear of getting overexposed!
Vitamin D And Orthopedic Injuries In General
Now, admittedly, the following quote on D deficiency in Orthopedic patients is from a very small study:
“Out of 1132 patients included in our study, [64.7% males / 36.3% females] Vitamin D deficiency... was present in 1034 patients (91.3%)... and only 98 patients (8.7%) had sufficient levels of vitamin D.”
Prevalence of Vitamin D Deficiency in Orthopaedic patients
But it suggests a cause and effect relationship that I've suspected for years:
That inadequate Vitamin D could be a significant factor in all kinds of muscle and tendon / Orthopedic injuries, like Tennis elbow.
Helping to possibly explain why these chronic tendon injuries seem to be reaching “epidemic” levels and why so many sufferers struggle so long to heal.
And it's purely subjective and anecdotal, but I once noticed a pattern of feeling less musculoskeletal aches and pains during the spring, summer, and fall followed by more aches and pains (and slower recoveries from my strength-training workouts) year after year, which I simply chalked up to “winter” at first…
That variation diminished dramatically when I decided to try supplementing with Vitamin D3 drops.
(I also started eating a lot more Salmon, which, being among the fatty, cold water fish, is high in D.)
That variation hasn't completely disappeared, however; I still feel better physically and recover from exercise faster in the summer…
And I chalk THAT up as evidence supporting the theory that endogenous D (synthesized by our bodies in the presence of UVB light) is superior to dietary D.
So, don't fear the sun too much! Be wise, be careful. Figure out what the right amount is for you and don't get burned – but whatever you do, get some every day if you can, before you cover up or slather on the SPF 40!
I see a lot of references and am often asked about the “Anti-inflammatory” benefits of herbs like Turmeric, Ginger and Bromelain, (which is more of a supplement, being a processed extract from pineapples.)
But I strongly caution you to be wary of any and ALL claims when it comes to the proven or supposed “Anti-inflammatory” properties – whether of drugs or herbs.
It's not the taking of herbs that is the problem. They have nutritional and seasoning value and won't do you any harm in moderation.
It's the false paradigm selling you the idea that inflammation is your enemy and something that you must “treat and defeat!”
As I've been preaching for 15 years, when you have an injury, inflammation is the first stage of healing and you can't heal a cut, torn muscle or damaged tendon with the help of your body's natural and necessary inflammatory process.
So, use all the Turmeric and Ginger in your food you desire (and take Bromelain for it's protein digesting enzymes if you want)…
Just don't waste your money on supplements that have been supposedly:
“Formulated with Turmeric, Ginger, Bromelain, ect. ECT. to reduce inflammation”
Chondroitin, MSM and Glucosamine are three more money-sucking wastes.
And hold on if you're about to protest, because there may be evidence these supplements help with joint problems, like Arthritis!
There may very well be something to that, and if you have Arthritis, I would probably say “Hey, give it a shot!”
But this is about Tennis and Golfer's Elbow, and these are not joint conditions.
Golfer's and Tennis Elbow are tendon conditions and there doesn't seem to be any evidence that Chondroitin, MSM or Glucosamine Sulfate help with tendon injuries.
Too often we hear about something that works for something and we want to assume it also works for something similar.
I think if MSM, Chondroitin and Glucosamine helped even a little I would have heard about it from at least a few of my patients over the years having helped hundreds of Tennis Elbow sufferers.
No one has ever said they felt these supplements were helpful, even symptomatically.
My recommendation: Don't waste a penny on them, unless you also have Arthritis, or some other joint-specific condition.
The primary claim about the benefits of fish oil and Omega 3 fatty acid (oil) supplements for Tennis Elbow is the same as that for the herbs mentioned earlier:
"Anti-Inflammatory" properties. And, thus, the rational is flawed for the same reason!…
Because once again, inflammation (in the case of injured tendons, anyway) is part of the healing process and not the problems with Tennis or Golfer's Elbow.
Now, that's not to say there are no benefits to eating foods like Salmon or taking fish oil capsules (or taking vegetable-based Omega 3 supplements or consuming oils like flaxseed that are high in Omega 3s!)
These Omega 3 oils are essential fatty acids that your body can't synthesize or do without!
I've been eating flax oil every day for almost 30 years for that reason.
I actually started eating flax oil (after trying Cod Liver Oil first) in the hopes that it would help me with the tendon problem I was suffering from at the time.
I don't think it had any effect on it, but it did help me tremendously with a skin condition I used to have, however! (And I've been eating it ever since.)
So, go ahead and eat clean, healthy, low-mercury, cold-water fish, like Salmon, and/or take fish or flax oil for it's overall nutritional value…
Just don't eat / take it to “combat” or “reduce” inflammation in the tendons of your Golfer's or Tennis Elbow!
I'm occasionally asked if taking a Collagen Supplement might help ones Tennis Elbow heal faster.
The “logic” being that since the injured tendons involved in Tennis or Golfer's Elbow are composed of approx. 95% collagen, one should take collagen in supplement form or eat more foods high in collagen to nutritionally support the healing process.
This is the kind of faulty reasoning that's utterly ubiquitous in the gimmick-selling industry online.
It sounds plausible but completely falls apart upon closer inspection.
Yes, tendons are made of collagen, the most common form of protein produced by the human body…
(Tendons, ligaments, cartilage and spinal discs are all made of 90% + collagen.)
And you do need to consume adequate protein in order to ensure that your body has enough protein / Amino Acid building blocks to make new collagen protein to repair your injured tendons.
But it makes about as much sense to seek out and specifically consume collagen (to build more collagen) – as it does to eat brains to become smarter.
Actually, it's not quite that bad. Eating brains won't maker you smarter, but collagen IS protein and eating protein will give you the nutrients you need to build more protein in your body.
It's just that your body, in the process of digestion, metabolization and assimilation, breaks all complex proteins down into their constituent building blocks: Amino Acids.
THEN your body takes those Aminos and put them back together to form whatever type of complex protein your body needs to form new muscle cells, collagen fibrils, or whatever.
In other words, it's not a “short cut” to eat collagen – because that foreign protein is not immediately available and usable to your body as it is!
It's just going get digested, broken down and “reassembled” along with all the other proteins you're taking or eating, whether in the form of a steak a handful of nuts or a protein powder mixed up in a shake!
So why spend extra money on expensive collagen supplements?
(Especially considering what a common, cheap and easy to come by “nutrient” it is.)
Any questions or comments? Please ask or comment below!
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