Tendinitis / Tennis Elbow Surgery

After dealing with tendinitis in my bowing arm for the past several years I decided to have surgery for it. Over the last 12 months I had two cortisone injections – which work amazingly well. Seriously, they are a miracle drug. The next day I had no pain was back in the gym weightlifting. Hmmm, perhaps that’s why I needed surgery now…. But anyway….

Cortisone works well but there are differing thoughts on its effect of tissue degeneration in the arm. Surgery has a very high success rate and my doctor said the tendon will actually heal stronger than it was. It is a simple surgery although I was put under general anesthesia for it. Some doctors use a local or nerve block but I was advised and elected to go under. As far as I’m concerned, the less I feel or know what’s happening as a scalpel touches my tendon and bone, the better! You can google lateral epicondylitis for more information.

I had my surgery on Friday, September 2, 2011. Saturday it was rather painful. After taking the bandaging off to change the dressing I was amazed at how clean (not in a dirty way but in a – no stitches or staples way) the incision site was. Today things seem to be improving very rapidly and physical therapy is prescribed to begin this week!

If any of you are dealing with this issue, so far I’d recommend just do the surgery.

Now…. what caused it? I don’t think my bowing did – my technique quite good and relaxed. However, between the classical practicing, electric bass playing in my rock band, weight lifting (a major hobby of mine), and deciding to take up tennis this summer, and perhaps a bit of aging thrown in there, my tendon just had enough.

Have questions? Post a comment and I’ll reply.


  • Wow, I certainly would have agonized over this decision for quite some time. I’m glad mine went away without surgery.
    On the positive side, you’ve got a great topic for regular blog posts — something I feel like I’m always reaching for 🙂

  • I don’t think it was completely caused by bowing but rather a combination of such an active lifestyle – bowing, electric bass,guitar playing, tennis, weightlifting, etc. It is definitely blog material!!!

  • I’m a novice upright bass student who at age 62 after five years of plucking electric and upright — during which I developed left forearm tendonitis from wrestling with the fingerboard — began lessons to learn to read and to bow. Recently I had a breakthrough on bowing and note awareness that allowed me to incorporate into my daily routine a riff I play across all four strings. Unfortunately, after several weeks of this I developed right forearm tendonitis that seems to track exactly with the bowing. I plan to see the orthopod and get PT (which resolved the previous condition) but wonder if you have any advice about how to figure out what I’m doing wrong (or correctly) that is figuring in this situation, which has arisen since my most recent session with my teacher, who I’ll also be asking. Thanks!

  • Thanks for writing! Issues with the left hand are often easier to diagnoses than the bow hand. So, let’s check a few things…
    1. Is your bass setup well with action / string height that isn’t too high?
    2. What kind of strings are you using? Right away I’d recommend Pirastro Obligato as they are very easy on the left hand.
    3. You may have just over done it a bit. It sounds like you went from ‘0 – 60’ with your left hind.
    4. As your building up your left hand, take plenty of breaks. With your exercise riff your playing, play it once then rest / stretch. Repeat a few times then stop. At this point it may be a good idea to dow just bowing exercises.
    5. Check out my left hand page here: http://mostlybass.com/for-students/left-hand/ BUT when you do the ‘crawling exercise’, I’d recommend doing it ONCE per day. It may not sound like a lot but we need to build strength without damaging the tendons.
    6. Get a lesson with an experienced teacher! Or a skype lesson with someone 😉

    Best wishes!

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