What is Tennis Elbow?
If you’re an active person who enjoys sports or working with your hands, and you’re facing chronic pain on the outside of your elbow, especially when you grip, you may be dealing with lateral epicondylitis (also known as tennis elbow). You need effective tennis elbow treatment to alleviate and prevent the pain and discomfort caused by tennis elbow.
The elbow joint is formed where the humerus (upper arm bone) meets the radius and ulna (the bones that make up the forearm). Several muscles and tendons converge on that spot, and interact closely to allow for the incredible range of motion and strength available in your wrist, hand and fingers. Through repetitive motion and strain, these tendons can become inflamed or experience microtears.
The most common result of this damage is a painful condition known commonly as tennis elbow. True tennis elbow is medically termed Lateral Epicondylitis, as it is an inflammation of the tendons attached to the lateral side of the epicondyle (a bony knob at the bottom of the humerus.) A related condition commonly called “golfer’s elbow” involves similar damage affecting the tendons on the underside of the forearm where they connect to the medial epicondyle.
- Progressively worsening pain on the outside of the elbow joint, at the very top of the forearm
- Swelling or redness around the elbow
- Weakening of the grip
Unlike a pulled muscle or torn tendon, tennis elbow is not generally the result of a specific injury. Therefore, the pain associated with the condition generally increases over time. At first, it may be mistaken for simple muscle soreness. Then, as it progresses, it may begin to hinder freedom of movement and lessen grip strength to the point that it begins to debilitate.
Allowed to continue without appropriate tennis elbow treatment, this pain can progress to the point that lifting a glass of water to your mouth or shaking hands can be unbearable.
- Repetitive stress on the tendons attached to the lateral epicondyle, which are responsible for raising your wrist and extending your fingers
- Poor technique in sports (ex: a poorly executed tennis backhand stroke)
- Most common in adults aged 30-50
Lateral epicondylitis is caused by the forming of tiny tears in the tendons connecting the forearm muscles to the humerus due to overuse or stress on a poorly conditioned tendon. As noted above, this fits well with the fact that many sufferers are athletes with poor form or those whose jobs require repetitive use of the tendons. They tend to strain the tendons over time rather than due to an injury event.
Those who fail to stretch the forearm muscles appropriately before, during, and after exercise periods can find themselves more prone to tennis elbow, requiring tennis elbow treatment.
Relieving the pain caused by lateral epicondylitis / tennis elbow requires that you:
- Reduce the inflammation
- Support the tendons and forearm muscles
You should note pain relief very quickly once you receive a form of tennis elbow treatment that addresses both of these items.
Doctors providing tennis elbow treatment will recommend the following options for accomplishing this:
- Rest – While the arm likely will not need to be immobile, a doctor will recommend stopping or severely limiting the activities that are causing pain.
- Ice – Use ice on the elbow several times a day to help reduce swelling.
- OTC Pain Relievers – Take Motrin, Advil, or other over-the-counter pain relievers that contain ibuprofen or naproxen to help lessen the inflammation and ease pain.
- Stretches – Stretch your forearms repeatedly before, during, and after exercise to keep the tendons limber.
- Strengthening – Strength training focused on balanced conditioning of the elbow joint and surrounding muscles will help stabilize and strengthen the structure of the joint.
- Elbow Strap – Purchase a tennis elbow strap or other joint stabilizing support that will apply medical grade pressure to the tendons and muscles of the forearm during activity, reducing strain and allowing the tendon to heal while easing pain.
- Cortisone – If none of the above helps, your doctor may prescribe regular injections of cortsone to control the pain, although this would be rarely used since corticosteroids tend to weaken tendons and can increase the chances of further complications.
- Surgery – As a last resort, your doctor may attempt surgery to repair the tendons.
PLEASE NOTE: While some or all of these options may be effective in temporarily easing the pain of plantar fasciitis, they can also be difficult, costly, uncomfortable, and even dangerous!