What Is Tennis Elbow, Symptoms and Treatment

Do you experience pain emanating from your elbow to your forearm? Do you often wonder “what is tennis elbow?” and “is it causing my arm pain?” Take a 60-second quiz to determine if you have tennis elbow or golfer's elbow. Tennis elbow occurs when the tendons and muscles in your forearm are strained and become inflamed due to a repetitive or strenuous activity. The result is an injury to the tendons and pain.  Recent studies have shown that up to 1 out of every 100 people suffers from complications of tennis elbow. Though tennis elbow can occur at any age, the average age of onset is 40 years old. Fortunately, the damage that happens to cause tennis elbow can be healed

What causes Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, typically develops over time. If you suffer from tennis elbow, you’ll experience pain from the elbow down to your wrist on the outside of your arm. Surprisingly, racquet sports only account for around 5 in every 100 cases of tennis elbow.  It affects anyone who performs repetitive motions with their arm. This type of activity puts stress on the tendons and strains the muscles, which results in micro tears in the tissue. Some physical activities have a direct correlation to tennis elbow.
  • Fencing
  • Tennis
  • Racquetball
  • Weightlifting
  • Crossfit
  • Rowing
  • Fishing
  • Pool and billiards
  • Swimming
Certain hobbies and jobs can cause tennis elbow as well.  Some examples are:
  • Knitting
  • Typing
  • Painting
  • Gardening
  • Carpentry
  • Plumbers
  • Construction work
  • Bricklayers

What are the Symptoms of Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow results in tenderness and pain in the bony knob on the outside of your elbow. It can begin as a dull ache and progress to intense pain that radiates into the lower or upper arm. The pain is more intense when you are attempting to do things with your hands, like open a door, shaking hands, raising your hand or straightening your wrist or attempting to lift an object. Swelling, redness, burning, and stiffness are all common symptoms of tennis elbow. It can also restrict the range of motion in your arm causing pain before, during or after exercising. The most pain occurs when taking part in the activity that initiated the injury. To diagnose tennis elbow, your physician will conduct simple tests, like flexing your arm, elbow, and wrist, in their office to help diagnose the source of your pain. They may conduct additional tests, such as x-ray's or MRI (magnetic resonance imagining) before suggesting the best course of treatment.

What are the Best Treatments for Tennis Elbow?

In most cases, tennis elbow will heal on its own. The best course of treatment is to rest your elbow to allow it to heal. Other treatments are:
  • Icing helps to reduce swelling and pain. It is recommended to ice 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours for 2-3 days or until the pain subsides.
  • Taking an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory). These pain relievers,  like ibuprofen or aspirin, help with swelling and pain. There are potential side effects with NSAIDs however, such as bleeding ulcers. it is equally important to consult with your doctor and unless they advises otherwise, you should only use them occasionally
  • Wearing an elbow brace or strap will help protect your injured tendons for further strain or stress.
  • Range of motion exercises helps to increase flexibility and reduce stiffness. It is recommended to perform them at least 3-5 times a day.
  • Steroid injections may be recommended, however, studies suggest that they do not help long term and are a temporary way to ease swelling and pain around the joint.
  • Using a twist bar is commonly used in physical therapy. This gentle tennis elbow exercises can strengthen the tendons at the elbow and muscles of the forearm to prevent reoccurrence and provide long-term pain relief.
In regard to more severe cases of tennis elbow that do not respond to treatments after two to four months, you may need surgery. This surgery removes the damaged tendon and the remaining tendon is repaired. The success rate of these surgeries is typically 85% - 905 of the cases.

How to Prevent Tennis Elbow

In conclusion, the best prevention of tennis elbow is to listen to your body and avoid overuse. Above All, if you have pain during an activity, take a break. Double check that the equipment that you are using for activities are the correct ones. A common cause of tennis elbow is using a golf club or tennis racket that has a grip that is too large or is too heavy. Make sure to warm up and stretch before any activity that involves your elbow or arm and to ice after that activity.
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