Tennis elbow is the inflammation of the tough tissues that connect the muscles of the lower arm to the bone. It is often the result of repetitive gripping activities that involve the thumb and the first two fingers such as, playing tennis. But despite its name, do you know that one can actually get a tennis elbow even if he has never played tennis or any racquet sport?
Tennis elbow is usually due to activities that require repetitive gripping. It develops over time and it can cause so much strain on the muscles and this puts stress on the tendons. Constant tugging and tearing also lead to microscopic injuries such as tears on the tissues.
This injury is mostly due to sports like tennis, racquetball, fencing, squash and weightlifting. It can also affect people who are engaged in hobbies or jobs that require repetitive movements or gripping such as typing, carpentry, raking, knitting and painting.
How to tell if you have tennis elbow
We asked the talented London physiotherapists at http://www.wholelifephysio.com for some help with this article, as they treat a range of conditions, including tennis elbow, but also back pain and other sports injuries.
If you perform any of the mentioned activities then you may be prone to developing tennis elbow. Take note of the following signs and symptoms. Tennis elbow is an injury on the joint but symptoms may radiate to the upper or lower arms.
• Pain along the bony knob along the outside of the elbow
• Tenderness especially when the arm, hand or wrist is moved
• Swelling along the outside of the elbow
Pain is so severe when there is tennis elbow. Pain becomes more severe when you try to lift something, make a fist or grip anything such as a tennis racquet, open a bottle or turn a doorknob, when you shake hands or when you raise your hand or straighten your wrist.
If you suspect that you have tennis elbow, consult your doctor immediately. Untreated tennis elbow and other similar conditions could lead to worse injuries which can severely limit your movement. If you leave a tennis elbow untreated you may find it difficult to perform even the simplest activities like turning a key, opening a doorknob and gripping objects.
Tissues surrounding the elbow could eventually tear and suffer more damage leading to more serious complications. The affected tendon is already weak and will become more vulnerable to rupture even during minor activities.
How a tennis elbow is diagnosed
Early diagnosis will improve recovery times and will reduce complications as well. Initially, your doctor will conduct a thorough examination of the affected area. He will ask you to flex your arm, wrist and then your elbow to see where it hurts. He will determine the area where there are soreness, inflammation and limited range in movement.
Imaging of the area may also be required to further assess your injury. Tests such as an X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging or MRI of the elbow will be able to help diagnose your condition and rule out other issues.
How do you treat a tennis elbow?
The most important part of treatment for a tennis elbow is giving the elbow a rest. Usually, this type of injury will heal on its own and may not need drastic medical or surgical treatments anymore. The following treatments may help reduce pain, swelling and tenderness over the area.
• Placing ice over the area – cold will reduce swelling and pain. Place ice in an ice pack and place it over the affected area for 20 to 30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours for 2 to 3 days or till the pain and swelling are gone. You may also use a cold towel or a gel pack instead of an ice pack.
• Using an elbow strap – an elbow strap, elbow brace or elbow sleeve is designed to hold the injured tendon and to avoid further strain. There are many elbow strap designs, materials used and features to choose from. Talk to your doctor about the ideal elbow strap to use.
• Using drugs or medications – taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications or NSAIDs can help reduce pain and swelling. NSAIDs are very effective for pain relief but may have severe side effects including bleeding and the development of ulcers and may even delay healing. Talk to your doctor about the use of NSAIDs for tennis elbow.
Steroid injections or painkillers may also reduce pain and swelling along the joint but only temporarily.
• Exercise – range of motion exercises should be done to reduce stiffness and to improve flexibility. You must consult a physical therapist or a specialist to create an exercise regimen that will work according to the severity of your condition.