What lateral epicondylitis treatment can be explored for pain relief? Read on to find out and to discover more about tennis elbow.
In this article:
- What is Tennis Elbow?
- What Causes Tennis Elbow?
- Common Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
- Diagnosing Tennis Elbow
- Possible Tennis Elbow Treatment Options
- Tennis Elbow Exercises for Healing
- Preventing Tennis Elbow
Lateral Epicondylitis Treatment For Pain Relief
What is Tennis Elbow?
Experiencing extreme discomfort around the elbow and arm? Having difficulty gripping objects or making a fist without experiencing pain? Tendinitis of the elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis or tennis elbow, could be the cause.
Tennis elbow is the inflammation of the tendons of the elbow. These bands of tissue connect the lower arm muscles to the bone. Elbow tendinitis develops when very small tears appear in this tissue. This condition affects 1 to 3% of Americans. More men than women experience it, and those between 30 and 50 years old are most likely to develop symptoms. However, tennis elbow can potentially affect people in all age groups.
What Causes Tennis Elbow?
Despite its name, tennis elbow doesn’t just afflict tennis players. Tennis elbow can develop whenever any repetitive movement stresses the forearm muscles and elbow tendons. Over time, this repeated strain can lead to small tears in this tissue.
Participating in sports and other physical activities increase the chances of developing tennis elbow. In addition to tennis, racquetball, fencing, squash, and weightlifting are all common causes of tennis elbow. Certain hobbies and jobs that involve repetitive motions can also lead to tennis elbow, such as typing, painting, knitting, raking, carpentry and playing a musical instrument.
Common Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
The main symptom of tennis elbow is forearm pain and tenderness. This discomfort focuses around the bony part on the outside of the elbow where tendons and bone connect. This pain can also extend up and down the arm. Often the elbow also becomes visibly swollen and warm to the touch.
Keep in mind that the ability to bend and move the elbow joint is not limited by tennis elbow. This is because the inner part of the joint is not impacted. However, twisting or repetitively straining the tendons of the elbow can cause greater discomfort.
Tennis elbow symptoms can hinder simple activities such as opening a door, shaking hands, raising a hand, making a fist, or lifting. Forearm pain caused by tennis elbow is most noticeable at nighttime.
Diagnosing Tennis Elbow
A doctor can confirm whether or not a patient has tennis elbow by performing a thorough exam. The doctor may put pressure on the injured area or observe the patient moving their elbow, hand, and fingers. Sometimes this physical exam in combination with medical history is enough to diagnose tennis elbow. In other cases, the doctor may need to take x-rays or perform an MRI to confirm that nothing else is causing the symptoms. After this lateral epicondylitis test, the doctor may then discuss how to cure tennis elbow with the patient.
Possible Tennis Elbow Treatment Options
Tennis elbow heals by itself in most cases. Doctors typically recommend giving the elbow a break to promote healing. Mayo Clinic lists several methods for treating tennis elbow, including medical and holistic options. Several lateral epicondylitis treatment options exist that can help speed healing time, including:
- Resting the arm as much as possible. The muscles of the shoulder and upper arm should be favored when the arm is being used.
- Applying ice to the elbow to lower swelling and discomfort. Icing can be done for approximately half an hour every 3-4 hours for the first couple of days.
- Taking over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen. Such nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce swelling and alleviate pain.
- Getting a prescription injection of painkillers or steroids to lower joint swelling and forearm pain. This treatment is best used as a short-term solution to reduce initial discomfort.
- Wear an elbow strap or supportive brace to protect the elbow.
- Receive physical therapy treatment. Physical therapy can help stretch and strengthen the muscles of the forearm.
- Perform a daily routine of rehabilitation exercises.
Tennis Elbow Exercises for Healing
A good routine of tennis elbow relief exercises includes movements that help build forearm muscle strength. This can include wrist turns, wrist lifts, and elbow bends, as well as fist squeezes and towel twists. A doctor or physical therapist can suggest a tailored exercise routine.
Every case of tennis elbow heals differently. Waiting until recovery from tennis elbow is complete is one of the best ways to avoid making the injury worse. Tennis elbow is fully healed when the elbow is no longer swollen, gripping and holding weight aren’t painful, and full strength has returned.
While most cases of tennis elbow don’t need serious medical attention, some severe cases of tennis elbow do require additional treatment to heal. The treatments listed above typically help heal tennis elbow within two to four months. Surgery may be required if discomfort and tenderness continue after several months of treatment. This surgery involves removing damaged tendon sections and repairing the remaining tendons. Between 85 and 90 percent of tennis elbow surgeries are effective.
Preventing Tennis Elbow
Repeated stress and overuse of the elbow may result in tennis elbow. That’s why the best way to prevent tennis elbow from developing is to avoid overusing the elbow. However, if repetitive motions must be performed as part of a hobby or job, steps can be taken to lessen the chances of getting tennis elbow.
First, maintain a routine of exercises aimed at strengthening the lower arm muscles. Strong muscles can be more resistant to strains. Second, take breaks from performing any repetitive motions as often as possible. Third, use the correct size of equipment. A tennis racket that has a grip that is too large, a gold club that is too heavy, or a hammer with a small handle can all cause tennis elbow. Lastly, always warm up your muscles and thoroughly stretch before any athletic activity, and ice the elbow following exercise.
Tennis elbow can be uncomfortable. However, with the right treatment steps, most cases heal themselves–and the proper prevention can stop tennis elbow from coming back.
Keep on reading Dr. Seeds Blog to know more about lateral epicondylitis treatment, symptoms, and prevention.
Up Next: How To Treat Shin Splints
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