Tendon injury, including overuse over time and acute injury, can be some of the most painful and annoying musculoskeletal conditions of them all. If you've ever dealt with a nagging tendon issue, you didn't need to hear that from me to believe it. A supplementary device that I find can be helpful in my patients is called a "chopat strap". I also find that many people have never heard of this device and so I wanted to outline this device and how it works in this weeks' post...
First of all, lets define what a chopat strap is. A chopat strap is a broad fabric strap that is used for symptom relief of a painful tendon condition. The most common conditions that this device is used for are patellar tendonitis and tennis/golfer's elbow (aka lateral/medial epicondylitis). A quick internet search of the term and you will also see many different commercial definitions and brands.
Chopat straps work, in theory, by providing a broader surface of the tendon for which to transfer force (which is the primary job of any tendon in the body - transfer force from the tendon to the bone and vice versa). The strap accomplishes this by providing compression to the tendon when the strap is applied around the limb.
As the physics aficionado will know, applying the same force throughout a larger area means the force through any one single location is less. With many painful tendon conditions, the focal area of pain tends to also be the portion of tendon that is asked to transfer the most force with a given activity. The strap helps to reduce the amount of force "pulling" on the painful tendon location.
Many painful tendon conditions occur right at the bone-tendon interface. Another way to conceptualize how these straps work is that by providing significant compression prior to the bone-tendon interface (as many of them are prescribed), they functionally change where the body "feels" the tendon attachment and offload the actual tendon-bone attachment (which, again, is often the painful location).
A final thought to consider with regard to how these straps work is with regard to how the body processes pain. Ever wonder why you rub or cover your elbow after you hit it on something? Likely, because you learned early on that it WORKS! Having a sensory stimulus to a given location (ex: rubbing your elbow) competes with the "pain" signal from bumping your elbow, and therefore dampens the pain response generated by the brain.
This is also why you bump your elbow and hand at the same time, you likely feel your elbow more intensely (assuming the traumatic forces were relatively equal). In this scenario, the "pain" signal from the elbow reaches the brain first and can dampen the signal from the hand. This theory of pain processing is known at the "gate theory" if you would like to perform a quick internet search to learn more. The chopat strap we are discussing is applied over the painful tendon/area and thus may also act as a constant "rubbing" to the painful location to help reduce pain.
Check out the videos below for a quick summary of these straps, how they work, and how to use them:
What I like about these straps is they can be an immediate and inexpensive aid to anyone with a painful tendon issue. Especially if the aggravating activity deals with your occupation and it is difficult to temporarily avoid.
Now, of course, these straps ARE NOT the cure all for tendon issues and I want to be very clear on that. As I've discussed in previous videos and blog posts, painful musculoskeletal conditions are almost always caused by asking a tissue within the body (bone, ligament, tendon, etc.) to do something that it was not prepared to do.
Using the strap by itself will not address the cause of your tendon pain in the first place, but it can improve the pain in the interim while you are going through the correct rehab program. When used appropriately, I believe these straps can be a helpful aid to the process.
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