Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a medical condition that can make life unbearable. The pain and stiffness make it difficult to move, work, or enjoy active leisure time. There are other conditions that cause elbow pain. Some of these ailments can be confused with the symptoms of tennis elbow because they are so similar. However, each condition needs different treatments. How can you tell if tennis elbow is the cause of your problem?
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
Epicondylitis is swelling of the elbow tendon. First, repetitive arm or hand motions stress the muscles that support the elbow. Then the constant strain pulls on the muscles around the tendon. These muscles help move the arm and fingers. Next, small tears in the muscle fibers can occur. If the problem is not treated, these tears weaken the muscles that connect the arm to the bone. Pain is felt under the bony knob that sits on the outside of the elbow. This is because tennis elbow pain comes from the tendon that runs through the elbow. Those with this condition feel sensations running through the upper arm. Sometimes the pain can be felt in the shoulder. Because tennis elbow happens in a part of the arm that affects many other muscles, it sometimes seems like the pain is coming from other areas. Therefore, it's important to get medical attention to pinpoint the real source of your symptoms of tennis elbow. The symptoms of tennis elbow make everyday life difficult. Those with the condition have trouble with simple tasks like:
- Picking up things like teacups.
- Making a fist around an object.
- Opening doors.
- Shaking hands.
- Raising the injured arm above shoulder height.
You don’t have to play tennis to get tennis elbow. Any activity that uses the thumb and forefinger can cause this disease. Typing, painting, and knitting are some ways to develop tennis elbow. Therefore, it's important to look at your daily habits when deciding how to treat your elbow pain.
Other Conditions Mistaken for Tennis Elbow
There are some medical conditions that feel like the symptoms of tennis elbow.However, doctors use different treatments to correct these illnesses.
- Medial epicondylitis, or golfer's elbow, causes pain in the same area as tennis elbow. However, there are different muscles responsible for the strain that comes from golfer's elbow. Patients feel the pain on the inside of the elbow. Some might feel it in the forearm and wrist.
- Osteochondritis is a joint disease. It can be caused by damage from an accident or another medical condition. The bone that lies beneath a joint can die from lack of blood flow. Then the bone becomes brittle or breaks. Tendons stretch and can sustain damage when not properly supported by strong bones.
- Arthritis can wear down the protective cartilage around the elbow. Without that cushion, the arm bones can rub against the tendon. As a result, sufferers can feel irritation and pain similar to the symptoms of tennis elbow. Also, arthritis can limit the range of motion, like epicondylitis.
Additional Conditions to Consider
- Bursitis happens when tiny fluid-filled sacks, called bursae, become swollen or irritated. These sacks act as cushions between bones and the soft tissue that surrounds them. Without this extra cushion, sufferers can feel pain like that caused by the symptoms of tennis elbow. Accidents, bacterial infections, or putting pressure on the joint for too long can cause elbow bursitis. Bacterial infections can lead to septic elbow bursitis. If not treated correctly, the infection can spread throughout the body and cause serious illness.
- Nerve entrapment syndromes, or pinched nerves, causes sensations like the symptoms of tennis elbow. Bones, muscles, or swollen tendons press on the nerves. Because of this, shorten the range of motion is limited. Also, the entire arm and hand can be weakened. Cell phone elbow is an example of a nerve entrapment syndrome.
- Bicep ruptures usually affect those who carry large amounts of weight on a regular basis. Weightlifters are the most likely people to develop this condition. Forcing the bicep to handle too much weight causes it to tear. The pain feels like the symptoms of tennis elbow, but the damage is more severe. Other signs of bicep rupture include bruising, deformed muscles, and loss of arm strength.
These conditions can lead to long-term damage if treated incorrectly. Only a medical professional can give you a proper diagnosis. Therefore, you should see your primary physician as soon as you notice the symptoms of tennis elbow. Once your doctor confirms that tennis elbow is the cause of your pain, you can start looking for effective ways to reduce your discomfort. Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory pain medicine. These drugs lessen the swelling that causes tendons to rub against nerve endings. Drug therapies don’t make all the pain go away. However, there are other ways to reduce pain without using pain medication.
Relieving Symptoms Without Pain Medications
These techniques will help reduce the symptoms of tennis elbow without increasing your medication dosage.
- Physical therapy exercises target the muscles that surround and support the elbow. As these muscles get stronger, you will feel less pain.
- Use a tennis elbow support device. An elbow strap placed just above the elbow will temporarily relieve the symptoms of tennis elbow. Elbow braces are useful for times when you can’t or don’t want to, avoid activities that might trigger irritation.
- Keep the blood flowing to the affected area to speed up the healing process. Do a few stretches every few hours to loosen tight muscles. Ask your doctor or physical therapist to recommend some exercises you can do on your own to reduce the symptoms of tennis elbow.
- Rest the joint as much as possible until healing is complete. Ice packs and cold compresses are a quick way to find relief when you can’t take pain medication.
Equipment That Can Be Use
- A twist bar is a small handheld tool used in exercises that alleviate the symptoms of tennis elbow. Use one while completing the exercises your therapist gives you. As a result, you will experience faster healing and more relief from your therapy.
- Try topical analgesics. Pain relieving ingredients infuse these creams and absorb through the skin. Combined with massage, topical analgesics are a fantastic way to reduce the symptoms of tennis elbow.
- Use a compression sleeve when you do things that aggravate your injury. The gentle pressure will push the fluid out of overfilled joints. As a result, you will see less of the swelling that causes painful side effects. Use your elbow strap with the compression sleeve for extra comfort and pain relief.
These methods will relieve pain. They do not, however, address the problems that cause the symptoms of tennis elbow. In some rare cases, epicondylitis may need surgery to repair injured limbs. Therefore, you should always follow your doctor’s advice for the best treatment results.
Living Your Best Life with Tennis Elbow Pain
The symptoms of tennis elbow can disrupt your life. Despite the name, you don’t have to be a tennis player to suffer from the symptoms of tennis elbow. You can defeat the pain without heavy pain medications or extreme treatments. In conclusion, advice from your doctor, a few home remedies, and consistent exercise will help you correct epicondylitis and live pain-free.