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Forgers Elbow

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So,

Two months ago, I needed a bunch of hooks for hanging some stuff up, Spades, rakes... that sort of thing. So I fired up my forge, cut a few 3/8" steel rods into lengths to make a dozen hooks and went after it. Two months later, I'm still in a lot of pain if I move my hammer arm the wrong way. Additionally, I'm looking at another month before I'll be able to use my arm in a hobby that I’ve grown to love and am chomping at the bit to get back into.

Now, I'm the type of person that enjoys figuring things out. It's what I do for a living. So naturally, I started analyzing everything surrounding my injury, so I could figure out how it happened, and in the future prevent it from happening again. It didn’t take long.

My conclusion is that several bad choices, on my part, led me to my current condition. One, I was in a hurry and decided to use a heavier hammer than I’m used to, so that I could work the metal faster. Two, when my arm started to get tired, instead of switching to a lighter hammer or taking a break, I pushed through. Three, while pushing through, my arm grew even more tired, and while concentrating on hitting the metal where I needed to, I forgot to keep my swings in form, resulting in a severally sprained/pulled muscle.

From what I understand, the proper form for swinging a hammer is as follows:
Elbow near your side, Shoulders back, with most of the swinging movement in the elbow, not the shoulder or wrist. This keeps your hammer, elbow and shoulder in a plane that runs perpendicular from a plane formed by your two shoulders. The muscles being used in this form primarily include your triceps for swinging the hammer to its target, and biceps for lifting the hammer up from where your rebound stops to the top of the arc of your swing.

I let my form go, by letting my elbow extend away from my body, which put strain on muscle groups that aren’t designed for extended activity, like forging. Instead of using my biceps and triceps, I was using my rotator cuff for powering the hammer down to its target, and my deltoid, in my shoulder, and my extensor muscles, in my forearm for lifting to the top of my arc. Both my rotator cuff and deltoid in my hammer arm were sore for a few days after, but my extensor muscle and associated tendons are what I pulled. Commonly this is known as tennis elbow.

I just wanted to tell my story so that someone can learn from it and not go through the same irritation.

FocalForge

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Posted · Report post

Since you are on the "months" level, you probably should talk to a doctor about if you have a more serious injury than a pull. I have pulled my rotator cuff while on swim team (common injury for swimmers) and the pain from a pull starts to subside in days and goes away in a few weeks. You may have a more serious injury than you think.

That said, your physician will also be able to help with therapy exercises done with free weights (soup cans are about right in many cases) or stretch bands to help build up muscle strength in the small muscles.

I was taught a series of these exercises as a preventive training method while on swim team in high school and college. I still preform these exercises regularly because they help.

Phil

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Posted · Report post

Oh, I thought that said "Folger's elbow" which I think I may have (and "Molson's elbow" which I know for sure I have).
Seriously though, my wife had surgery on one elbow two years ago to correct a torn tendon, scraped the bone and reattached it and then a LOT of PT but now it is fine.

Perhaps you could look into incorporating a flypress into your shop as a means to alleviate some stress. Also there is an Israeli smith named Uri Hoffi who has done a lot for smithing with an eye toward minimal impact on the body, he is on this site now & then.

In any event I would get a referal to see a physical therapist and see what their input might be. One in a while a bit of the afformentioned beverage therapy works wonders... :)

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Posted · Report post

Thanks for the advice Phil and Dan. I didn't put it in the original post, but I have consulted my physician about my arm. That's where I got the time frame for recovory. My post was, more or less, intended to inform new Blacksmiths that form is important because, untill you develope good muscle strength and memory, an injury is something that can come on quick and take a long time to heal.

FocalForge

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Posted · Report post

I am having elbow problems also, but it comes from splitting firewood and tossing the logs. It is technically tennis elbow. I am very lucky that shop work does not bother me at all. It's the radial motion that causes the pain (on the lateral sides of my elbows). Rest is the best treatment, then ice, compression and anti inflammatories.

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Posted · Report post


From what I understand, the proper form for swinging a hammer is as follows:
Elbow near your side, Shoulders back, with most of the swinging movement in the elbow, not the shoulder or wrist. This keeps your hammer, elbow and shoulder in a plane that runs perpendicular from a plane formed by your two shoulders. The muscles being used in this form primarily include your triceps for swinging the hammer to its target, and biceps for lifting the hammer up from where your rebound stops to the top of the arc of your swing.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and respectfully disagree.

I concur the wrist, elbow and shoulder should be roughly co-planer. I concur one should not lift one's shoulder when hammering.

More than just one muscle group should, however, be used for forging.

I'm not saying there was no bad form or no over-exertion. I am saying good form uses the whole body, the right grip on the tool, and the right tool.



I hope your healing goes well enough to impress your physician. I hope you do not have further injury.

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From what I understand, the proper form for swinging a hammer is as follows:
Elbow near your side, Shoulders back, with most of the swinging movement in the elbow, not the shoulder or wrist. This keeps your hammer, elbow and shoulder in a plane that runs perpendicular from a plane formed by your two shoulders. The muscles being used in this form primarily include your triceps for swinging the hammer to its target, and biceps for lifting the hammer up from where your rebound stops to the top of the arc of your swing.


I have to disagree with how your swinging a hammer. The elbow should not do much work at all. If you swing your arm from your shoulder the same way you do when walking, I think you stress yourself less than if you work from your elbow.

ron

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I'm not a doctor but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night... :lol: If it hurts on that little muscle hump that retracts your hand upwards (I think those are the extensors) then a tennis elbow wrap with velcro and the small silicone pad support will probably help. A few years ago, I strained my arm doing some other work but it bothered me while hammering. I bought a wrap at the drugstore and the problem healed itself in a few weeks. You just have to be disciplined in wearing it until completely healed so it's not reinjured.

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Posted · Report post

If you stop a piston in mid stroke ;something WILL GIVE!
Go through the full range of motion;! arm to full extension. KEEP YOUR THUMB OFF THE TOP OF THE HAMMER HANDLE!
US Army medic w/degree in Sports MED.
NOT A DOC, BUT I KNOW THIS!

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Last time I had "tennis" elbow, it kept me out of the shop for more than six months. A strap wrapped on my arm and some excercises prescribed by my doctor eventually brought releif. Something else agravates my elbows, vibration from power tools such as chain saws and 4 1/2 inch grinders. I try to minimize use of these. I have never had Molson elbow or Rolling Rock elbow or anything of that type.

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Just remembered, the condition my wife had in her right elbow is called a "trapped tendon".
Very painful over a long period until finally surgery was ordered and a long road of recovery but good as new now. :)

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Trapped tendon happens, takes a while to get rid of, lots of light weight therapy did it for me. BTW there is a 'smith shop in Bozeman, MT with the name Sore Elbow Forge.

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My elbow suddenly went bad on me a couple of years ago. After several months of all the home remedies and 2 injections for tendonitis they finally did an MRI and discovered that the tendon in question was torn loose over 50%. After a very painful surgery and another 90 days out of the shop I was finally back at the anvil. Wearing the padded strap and being very careful.

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I'm 75 and have been forging for 47 years. My right shoulder has bothered me a little and I don't have quite the extension and range of motion on the right that I do with the left shoulder. My elbows have been OK. I have been doing Cheng Man Ching's Yang short form of Tai Chi for about 25 years. I think this has helped me to relax at the anvil and breathe deeply. I recently had some Feldenkrais lessons in the use of my right shoulder. These are small movements that one doesn't usually do with a joint or a related group of joints. It has a rejuvenating effect.

http://www.turleyforge.com Granddaddy of Blacksmith Schools

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http://www.tennis-elbow-treatments.com/pages/tennis_elbow_exercise.php

These exercises help

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I was taught those exercises (except the rubber band one) to help with my wrists after nearly breaking both falling on slippery concrete. Having some muscle tone in the wrist helped me a lot after that. The x-rays did not show anything, but I had pain for close to a year after, these exercises made the difference as the pain all but went away after a few weeks of doing them. I started with soup cans for weights.

Phil

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Well, my elbow is nearly healed... however, my forge is put away because I'm building a bed for my daughter, and it was in the way. So, it will be about a month or so before I get it put back together

Oh well.

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