Tennis Elbow - An Overview

Symptoms and Treatment for Tennis Elbow


Tennis elbow, or "lateral epicondylitis," is the most common condition for people who experience elbow pain. Although the name may make you think it most often affects tennis players, manual labourers experience tennis elbow the most due to repetitive arm movements.


Tennis elbow is caused by putting extra pressure on the wrist and arm muscles, often in repetitive motions like swinging a racquet, hammering, or other manual work. It can start as a slight pain in the elbow and become much worse if not treated to relieve pain.


This article will outline what tennis elbow is, how to diagnose tennis elbow, what causes tennis elbow, the symptoms of developing tennis elbow, how to treat tennis elbow and how to avoid recurring tennis elbow.

What is tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)?

Tennis elbow is pain or swelling on the outer part of your elbow joint that often radiates to your forearm muscle and wrist.


It can also include feelings of soreness or stiffness in the elbow joint.


Your elbow helps your arm extend and is made up of three main muscles in addition to tendons and ligaments that protect the bones and help control your hands and fingers.

Lateral elbow pain (outside)

Tennis elbow occurs when the tissue in your elbow becomes inflamed from frequent motions that often strain the muscles in the elbow, forearm and wrist.


Doctors believe that the tennis elbow persists because of repetitive movements. In addition, the motion exacerbates tears in the tendon that haven't healed, leading to more degeneration, pain, and tenderness of the elbow, which is why rest or changing movement is essential in treatment.

What are the symptoms of tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow symptoms can vary from patient to patient, but most patients share a few signs.


Tennis elbow symptoms:


  • Pain, aching, or soreness in the elbow bone or joint 

  • Arm pain or stiffness in the forearm

  • Swelling around the elbow joint

  • Difficulty gripping objects like a cup or doorknob

  • Pain that radiates from the elbow to the forearm 


Read more here about tennis elbow symptoms.

What causes tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow is caused by repeated movements that put a strain or stress on your wrist and forearm. Hitting a racquet repeatedly is an example of this kind of movement.


Often, tennis elbow develops in athletes with poor form or using equipment that is too large or too heavy, causing them to overextend their wrist and forearm. Golfers and baseball players also experience tennis elbow from repeated hitting of the club or baseball bat.


While the name indicates it is an athlete’s condition, it’s far more common among people who work with their hands and put tremendous strain on their wrist and forearms day in and day out.


This strain inflames the ligaments and tissues in the elbow and forearm, causing the elbow to swell. If you don’t take a break or ice your elbow and forearm after hours of work each day, it can develop into a chronic condition and require more regular treatment.


Some activities that can cause tennis elbow:


  • Hammering

  • Painting

  • Typing

  • Playing an instrument that requires a lot of wrist movement like the violin

  • Plumbing work

  • Carpentry

  • Gardening

  • Bad athletic form (tennis, baseball, golf)


For more in-depth information and details about the condition, read more here: Tennis Elbow Causes

How to treat tennis elbow?

There are several things you can do to help relieve pain caused by tennis elbow or help reduce the frequency of the condition.


Below are several ways to treat or prevent tennis elbow.

Tennis Elbow Treatment


Rest

If possible, take a break from the activity or movement that is causing problems. Change the way you do the action or stop doing it altogether to give your elbow and forearm a rest from all the pressure. Physio or physical therapy can help find alternative movements to avoid putting strain on your elbow and forearm. 

Ice or Heat

Icing your elbow and forearm after experiencing pain is the best way to reduce inflammation and help ensure your pain doesn’t become chronic. The ice massage helps reduce swelling and provides a recovery period for the stressed tendons and ligaments. It’s recommended you ice a few times a day for at least 10 minutes at a time. If you experience chronic elbow pain, heat is recommended after work to help muscles relax and heal.

Elbow joint strap

If you are experiencing elbow pain, a strap or band can be a helpful tool. There are straps and bands made specifically for people suffering from tennis elbow that hold your muscles in place and help them heal. Often, labourers wear a strap while working to help reduce pressure on their elbow. Read more about straps and braces you can use to support your elbow and forearm. 

Exercises for tennis elbow

Stretching your elbow, forearm, wrist, and hand has been found to help reduce pain and reduce instances of tennis elbow.


There are a series of stretches like rolling wrists, stretching palms, bicep curls, and more that can help keep your muscles strong without aggravating your elbow pain. Depending on the severity of your condition, doctors may recommend seeing a physical therapist who can provide specific stretches based on your needs.

- Forearm muscles stiffness

Although it's recommended that you rest your elbow, you should not stop all activity. Stopping all activity can cause your healthy muscle to stiffen and potentially exacerbate the condition. Instead, read more about stretches and progressive strengthening exercises you can do to improve elbow strength and reduce pain.

Injections or surgery

In more severe cases, doctors may recommend steroid injections to help reduce inflammation of a sprained tendon. If this does not work or the pain persists or gets worse over time, elbow surgery or other surgical treatment may be necessary. To diagnose your pain, doctors will complete a physical exam and often take an X-ray or MRI scan to look at your bones for damage, arthritis, or other nerve problems that could be causing the pain. Make sure to see a doctor if your elbow pain does not go away or gets worse.


These are just some of the treatments to help alleviate tennis elbow. Read more about treatments for tennis elbow here.

Conclusion

This article provided details about tennis elbow – what causes it, the symptoms of the condition, and how you can treat it to relieve pain and frequency of the condition.

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FAQ's

What is the best way to fix tennis elbow?

The best way to treat tennis elbow can vary depending on how long you have had it.


Suppose you have recently developed a tennis elbow. In that case, a period of rest from any activity which would aggravate your symptoms (such as improper stroke technique when playing tennis) will provide relief. In addition, anti-inflammatory medication can help relieve pain and swelling and assist with sleep if the pain on the outside of the elbow and upper arm keeps you awake at night.


If you are suffering from long term tennis elbow, then physiotherapy (physical therapy) may help reduce pain and restore movement to your elbow. Fix My Elbow is physiotherapy delivered over the internet.


If the problem is due to an injury that has not healed correctly, such as a fracture, you should seek immediate medical attention.

What is the pain of tennis elbow like?

Tennis elbow is more common on the outer side of your forearm, just below your elbow. The pain can be stabbing when you move your wrist, at times so severe that holding objects or shaking hands is difficult or impossible.


Types of movements that may increase your symptoms include: combing hair, brushing teeth, pulling levers and opening screw-top jars.


If you think you may have tennis elbow, you should seek out medical attention immediately. If the injury is recent, then rest will afford relief. However, long term treatment with physiotherapy can reduce pain and restore movement to your elbow. Fix My Elbow is physiotherapy delivered over the internet for tennis elbow repair.

Will tennis elbow go away on its own?

Tennis elbow can become a long term problem if you don't treat it appropriately. If you have had an injury that has not healed or do not give your body enough time to rest and recover, the pain may last longer than expected.


If you think you may have tennis elbow, you should seek out medical attention immediately. Fix My Elbow is physiotherapy delivered over the internet, specifically designed to help patients suffering from tennis or golfers elbow.

Does tennis elbow ever go away?

If you are suffering from an injury that has not healed correctly, you may find that the pain lasts longer than expected. If the problem is due to an untreated fracture, then you should seek medical attention immediately.


Tennis elbow can become a long term problem if you don't treat it appropriately. Fix My Elbow is physiotherapy delivered over the internet, designed for patients suffering from tennis or golfers elbow.