Back on the boat
Local fisherman finds healing through non-invasive treatment, saving months of recovery time.
Samuel Porter of Arlington doesn’t remember many years of his life that didn’t include fishing. At the young age of three, his friend introduced him to the sport. Now 49 years later, the two men remain friends and have grown their skills in fishing.
The pair mainly fished for trout in the Everett area growing up, or as far as their parents would drive them. As they got older they ventured further out to surrounding towns and lakes, and, at the age of 13, Porter discovered bass fishing – and found his love. Forty years later, it remains his primary focus and passion today.
“I was quickly obsessed with the new-found, tough-fighting fish,” said Porter. “I am 53 years old now – I have fished well over 100 lakes in Washington state alone and in 2018 embarked on a personal challenge to catch a keeper-sized bass in all 39 of Washington’s counties.”
Bass fishing has taken Porter on a remarkable journey – not only visiting lakes across the state, but he has participated in competitive bass fishing tournaments and found repeated success. He has even developed his own YouTube channel with more than 1,000 subscribers, providing tips and tricks to common questions and issues related to fishing.
In one of his videos, Porter shares his recent experience receiving treatment from Skagit Regional Health Sports Medicine provider Jared Anderson, MD for a condition nicknamed “angler’s elbow.” Similar to tennis elbow, symptoms are the result of overuse of the muscles in his arm and shoulder that are used for movements related to fishing.
“Unlike trout fishing, bass fishing can be very physically demanding depending on the length of your outings,” said Porter. “I bass fish in excess of 2,500 hours per year on average. A bass fisherman can make repetitive casts anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand casts over the course of a single trip! Needless to say, these repetitive movements add up over the years and without proper stretching and/or conditioning, they begin to limit how long you are able to fish due to inflammation, pain and range of motion issues.”
Porter began to feel the symptoms of angler’s elbow in his mid-twenties. For years he treated it at home with ice, ibuprofen and elbow braces. He was able to get by with that up until a few years ago. He knows this is a common ailment among fishermen so he took to his YouTube channel to not only share his experience fighting this condition, but highly recommending Dr. Anderson and the treatment he received as the answer to every injured fisherman’s worry – losing fishing time to recover from injury or surgery.
“I was terrified I would need surgery because the recovery time can be anywhere from four to 20 months!” said Porter. “I didn’t want to risk that much potential downtime from bass fishing. Inevitably, the pain won the argument and I sought treatment for my right elbow.”
Dr. Anderson, at Skagit Regional Health – Smokey Point, met with Porter and quickly identified Porter’s pain as an overuse injury.
“With many overuse injuries, there are adhesions that form between the muscle groups as a response to the repetitive breakdown and healing which occurs when there is abnormal stresses across a muscle,” Dr. Anderson said.
In Porter’s case, the pain was a response from the surrounding muscles to the overuse of the muscles used for his repetitive casting during bass fishing.
“When I first sat down with Dr. Anderson, I was impressed with the detail he went into about how not just my elbow, but my entire arm and upper body work together when casting,” said Porter. “It really made sense and helped me understand the treatment process better.”
There are non-surgical methods to treat this condition, which is good news for avid fishermen like Porter. Dr. Anderson explained there are many ways to massage and dig at tissue, which is important to loosen the adhesions between muscle groups. However, he believed that Porter could benefit from a different kind of non-invasive treatment involving lifting the muscles apart – a procedure called “cupping.”
Finding success with cupping requires more than just knowing which muscles hurt.
“Cupping is only part of the treatment,” said Dr. Anderson. “We have to look to see why the muscles (in this case in the forearms) are getting damaged. Typically, the forearm muscles are tightening up or compensating for a deficit in other muscles. Finding the underlying culprit is essential to have cupping give lasting relief.”
Porter, already hesitant about seeking treatment, was skeptical at first. He had heard of cupping before and had a pre-conceived notion of it being an unproven, ancient, almost mystical treatment. After Dr. Anderson explained the procedure, he quickly learned that it was worth a try.
Porter received a series of cupping treatments on his right arm. After his first treatment, he didn’t feel results, but he remembered that the cupping treatment plus the stretches and conditioning exercises he was prescribed were meant to work together and he had to trust the process. After sticking with his care plan, he found success.
“My right elbow feels back to easily 95 percent pain free – that is astounding considering I couldn’t even lift my own cellphone to my face!” said Porter.
Dr. Anderson is pleased to help active people regain their ability to enjoy their sport.
“To me, sports medicine is a puzzle: Taking an athlete who is good at their sport, helping to improve their muscle balance, decrease the compensations and build efficiency in order to improve performance, decrease injuries and improve longevity in the sport,” said Dr. Anderson. As a provider, he said his joy is found in those moments when a treatment clicks, the puzzle comes together and the patient is able to get back to what they love doing.
For Porter, the feeling is mutual. Dr. Anderson has relieved his fears and hesitations with seeking treatment and helped give him a new perspective on managing his health.
“(Dr. Anderson) is very straightforward and very informative,” said Porter. “His approach and willingness to utilize all of the tools at his disposal to not just treat an ailment, but devise a personal plan that I can implement in my daily life to continue to improve and thrive in my favorite sport is priceless.”
Porter won a local bass fishing tournament on Lake Samish earlier this year. His right elbow held up well, however, his left elbow presented an all-too-familiar pain. This time he didn’t waste any time and soon after the tournament he visited Dr. Anderson to begin another series of cupping treatments.
“I am currently two treatments in on the left side with two more treatments to go, but I am already functioning better and I am extremely confident that the results will last for the remainder of my bass fishing years,” said Porter. “I am currently battling for Angler of the Year in both of the local clubs I joined this year and none of it would be possible without the treatments and guidance of Dr. Anderson - I love that dude! He is welcome on my boat any time!”
Restoring his fishing career is huge for Porter – but, beyond that, it has also changed his perception of healthcare and how taking care of himself ensures that he will be able to do what he loves for years to come.
“I feel empowered instead of scared, enlightened instead of concerned. I feel like I have been allowed to participate in my own healthcare, and trained to utilize and implement the treatments and procedures that are the best fit for my specific needs,” said Porter. “It has been a truly refreshing and exciting experience overall.”
If you teach a man to fish you may feed him for a lifetime, but teaching a fisherman how to manage his health will ensure he can stay on the boat.