Kaz Okochi and his "sushi elbow." (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

You heard of tennis elbow, right? How about sushi elbow?

Kaz Okochi, the Japan native who’s been slicing and shaping sushi for more than two decades now, thinks the skills required for his Kaz Sushi Bistro and Oh Fish! restaurants may be responsible for his tender elbow.

At first, Okochi thought his weekly squash sessions were the cause of his wounded right wing, so he put down the racquet this summer with the hope that his elbow would recover. It didn’t.

“I was working, and it still wasn’t going any better,” Okochi says. “It got worse even.”

So Okochi has taken to describing his injury, which started to cramp his style this spring, as “sushi elbow.”

“This movement, grabbing the rice and making the rice” uses these muscles, he says, showing me the hand and arm movements required to shape the perfect little rectangles of loosely formed sushi rice grains. Okochi’s doctor tells him he has tendonitis in his right elbow.

The chef and restaurateur has already gone through a cortisone treatment and has given some thought to a blood-infusion therapy that’s supposed to relieve the pain. He’s now planning a surgery date.

Can he still work?

“I can, but it hurts,” Okochi says. “It hurts the most when I shake hands.”

“I mean, I’m not dying with this right now, even though it’s painful at times,” the chef adds.

Once he has outpatient surgery, Okochi says he’ll have to spend three weeks in a brace and another three weeks part-time in a brace. One doctor told Okochi it would take about six months for a full recovery. Those weeks will not be easy for the chef to sacrifice. He says he still works the dinner shift five nights a week.

But the sushi master also has another motivation to fix his elbow:

“I want to play squash again.”

Further reading:

* Sushi standards and the American way