One of the most common health conditions experienced by people who tend to overuse their arms is tennis elbow. Technically speaking, it is a form of tendonitis, a condition characterized by the swelling of the tendons and causes some pain in the arm and elbow. Tendons are comprised of tough tissue bands connecting the lower arm muscles to the bone. You don’t have to be a regular visitor of the tennis court to get tennis elbow, despite its name.
Causes of tennis elbow
Generally speaking, tennis elbow is caused by engaging in repetitive gripping activities, particularly those that involve the use of your first two fingers and thumb. In fact, this condition is the main reason why most people complain of elbow pain. While the condition affects people regardless of their age, it is more common for those in their forties. The condition usually develops over a period of time due to engaging in repetitive motions that cause muscle strain and exert more stress on tendons. Eventually, constant tugging causes some microscopic tears in tissues.
The common causes of tennis elbow include tennis playing, squash, racquetball, weight lifting and fencing. In addition, the condition is more prevalent among people with hobbies or jobs that demand gripping or repetitive movements of the arm such as typing, carpentry, raking, painting and knitting. For an athlete, this condition can be a huge set back and can have even worse consequences when it attacks you while playing. In addition, it can drastically affect your effectiveness at work, especially if your profession requires constant use of the hands.
Symptoms and diagnosing tennis elbow
The most common symptoms of tennis elbow are tenderness and pain on the elbow especially at the point where injured bones of the elbow are connected to the bone. In addition, this pain can as well radiate into the lower and upper arm. Even though the actual damage is on the elbow, one is likely to hurt a lot when doing things that involve your hands. You can experience much more pain when gripping or making a fist on an object like a tennis racket or lifting something. In addition, tennis elbow is more painful when you are shaking hands, opening a door, straightening your wrist or raising your hand.
Ideally speaking, tennis elbow is very similar to golfer’s elbow, a condition that affects the tendons located on the inside parts of the elbow. A very thorough exam is needed for the condition to be diagnosed. Your doctor will ask that you flex your elbow, wrist or arm so that the area that is hurting can be identified. In some cases, imaging tests – like MRI or X-ray – will be necessary for the condition to be diagnosed or to rule out of other likely health conditions.
Treatment options for tennis elbow
More often than not, tennis elbow tends to heal completely on its own and might not require any medical intervention. The most important thing is that you take a break from the strenuous activities you have been engaging in and this will speed up the healing process. Nevertheless, there are still some other treatment options you can do to contain this problem such as:
Apply ice to the affected area: applying ice helps to reduce swelling and pain in the elbow and medical experts recommend that it be done regularly, so several times a day, until the pain has gone completely.
Take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: such medications that can help with tennis elbow include the likes of naproxen, aspirin and ibuprofen which are very good at minimizing the swelling and pain. These drugs, however, have certain side effects that you should know about before taking them, such as ulcers and bleeding. If you intend to use them, do so occasionally otherwise they might end up delaying the healing process.
Use an elbow strap: the injured tendons that cause tennis elbow can be protected from straining any further by the use of an elbow strap.
Motion exercises: The performance of different motion exercises is very important for increasing flexibility and reducing the stiffness of the elbow. Most doctors recommend that motion exercises are performed at least three times in a day.
Go for injections: If the pain in your elbow persists, it might be a good idea to consider having injections, particularly of painkillers and steroids. Injections help a lot in terms of easing the pain and swelling around the joint, albeit temporarily. However, they are not the most ideal treatment when seeking a long term solution.
Finally, getting physical therapy helps a lot with tennis elbow and it is among the best treatment options for this condition. Physical therapy helps to stretch and strengthen the elbow muscles.
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