Tennis elbow is a specific form of tendonitis called lateral epicondylitis. Tendonitis is the inflammation of the tendons. Tendons are the long strands of rigid tissue that connect muscles to bone.
Tennis elbow is inflammation that occurs in the tendon that connects your lower arm to your skeleton. This inflammation causes pain not only in or near the tendon but also in the joint area.
It affects over 6 million Americans. Nearly half of all tennis players experience it within their sports careers. Athletes of all backgrounds, from golfers to baseball players, deal with its symptoms.
Even at rest, tennis elbow can cause issues that affect daily life. Any activity that requires lower arm movement, including typing at a desk or writing, can further irritate the condition.
How does it happen?
Tendonitis is the result of over-stressed tendons. It occurs with joints that have been jarred too often or too intensely. Overuse of the forearm muscles, which have a limited capacity for work, can also put stress on joints and tendons.
Activities that require you to hold a tight grip and make powerful movements are the most common culprits. Making repetitive movements while gripping tightly increases the rigidity of the tendon. A tendon without elasticity can easily be pushed to its limits, causing damage to the tendons and joints in your elbows simultaneously.
Activities that cause tennis elbow include sports such as:
As well as other professions that include:
- Mechanical Work
- Custodial Work
In the sport of tennis, tennis elbow occurs most often when players:
- Backhand the ball with too much force
- Fail to flex the wrist when making powerful movements
- Don’t support powerful strokes with flexed muscles
What does it feel like?
Tennis elbow causes a dull pain toward the outside of the elbow. The pain may radiate throughout the lower arm. Sufferers feel weakness that increases when performing activities that need wrist support. Movements such as lifting, pulling, and twisting can increase pain significantly.
Be careful when performing actions like using tools and carrying large or heavy objects. Movements as subtle as brushing your teeth can cause increased discomfort.
How can I treat it?
See a physical therapist
Physical therapy is a natural and effective treatment for tennis elbow. Therapists use carefully selected stretches and exercises that challenge your wrist, tendon, and elbow to build strength. It reduces pain and increase your ability to take part in normal activity.
Get lots of rest
The best treatment for tennis elbow is plenty of down time. Keeping stress off of tendons and joints increases the body’s ability to recover. Time in bed will cut recovery time and increase comfort.
Apply ice to the affected area
Getting ice onto the most painful areas of your tennis elbow will not only dull the pain but will also help the inflammation subside. Cooled inflammation is more receptive to healing.
Take anti-inflammatory medicine
Ibuprofen and Naproxen are powerful pain relievers that simultaneously help reduce swelling and inflammation. Beware of any health problems that may cause a reaction with these medicines. You may need to talk to your doctor about whether anti-inflammatory relief is the best approach for you.
If you start to feel weakness or pain radiating from your outer elbow, stop stressful actions immediately. See your physical therapist for an examination to determine whether you are affected by tennis elbow. If you are, begin treatment as soon as possible.