Tennis Elbow or lateral epicondylitis is a painful condition that occurs when the tendons in your elbow are overloaded.
This is due to repetitive or continuous motions of the wrist and arm.
While reading the name, you might be thinking that athletes must be the ones to suffer from it.
However, anyone can develop a tennis elbow.
Individuals who are responsible for repetitive motions like those of plumbers, painters, carpenters, or butchers are more prone to suffer from it.
The inflammation occurs in the tendons of the joint muscles of the forearm to the outside of the elbow.
It is important to note that it affects between 1 to 3% of people in the United States, U.s.
Moreover, it usually occurs between the ages of 30 and 50.
Let’s learn more about it in detail.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
One of the most common signs and symptoms of tennis elbow is recurring or continuous pain on the outside of the upper forearm, just below the bend of your elbow.
You may also feel pain further down the arm, towards your wrist.
Moreover, you can also experience pain when you lift or bend your arm.
While performing basic functions or everyday motions like writing, or when gripping small objects, you may also feel pain.
Tennis elbow can also cause pain when you twist your forearm.
This is often noticeable when turning a door handle or extending your forearm fully.
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Causes of Tennis Elbow
The root cause of tennis elbow includes or stems from the repeating incorrect movements of your arm.
It affects your extensor carpi radialis brevis of the elbow and arm.
It often leads to small tears in the tendon attachment at the elbow.
In tennis, this means repeating the motion and force of hitting a ball with a racquet.
The incorrect technique or movement of your elbow can cause the power in the swing of the racquet to rotate through and around the wrist.
This creates a movement on the wrist instead of your elbow or shoulder.
Thus, it increases pressure in the tendon and causes irritation and inflammation.
In most cases, the exterior muscles of your arm become painful due to this tendon breakdown.
The exterior muscles are, however, responsible to straighten the wrist.
It is important to note that the tennis elbow is associated with the extension of your fingers and the wrist.
This kind of movement allows you to snap or flick the wrist like moving your wrist to swing the racquet.
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Other Causes of Tennis Elbow
Despite the name tennis elbow, it also refers to an injury to the particular tendon in your arm and is caused by overuse.
Moreover, it can also stem from daily activities like using scissors, cutting tough food, gardening, and sports activities that involve high amounts of throwing.
Additionally, it can also be due to swimming, and manual work that includes repetitive turning or lifting of writs like plumbing, typing, or bricklaying.
However, it is important to note that in some cases, there can be no apparent cause.
Diagnosis of Tennis Elbow
You can take an easy test at home to decide whether you have a tennis elbow or not.
For this exercise, stand behind a chair and place your hands on the top of the chair back.
With downward, facing palms, and straight elbows, try to lift the chair,
If this motion or action causes pain on the outside of your elbow, it is likely to be an indicator of tennis elbow.
When you visit your doctor they will order an X-ray or MRI scan can often help to rule out other more severe medical conditions.
These include arthritis or an elbow joint injury.
However, image is rarely necessary.
Your doctor will test a range of different motions with your arm before asking about the location and nature of the pain.
An MRI gives a more detailed image than an X-ray, as it also includes the soft tissues, muscles, and tendons in your arm.
This may be necessary if the outer elbow pain does not respond to conservative treatment after a year.
If your nerves are compressed, then your doctor may use Electromyography, or EMG to find it out.
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Your doctor will recommend different treatment methods after or after consulting a physician.
Let’s discuss them as follows:
Rest: Resting your arm is important.
Taking a break from activity allows the tears in your tendon attachment to heal.
However, if you play tennis, you can treat it with ice, anti-inflammatory drugs, soft tissue massages, stretching exercises, and ultrasound therapy.
Physical Therapy: If you play tennis, then your physical therapist will advise strengthening your shoulder, upper arm, and abdominal muscles.
This also helps to reduce the wrist extensors during shoulder and arm movements.
Ice Massage and Muscle Stimulating Techniques: These both techniques can help your muscles to heal.
Strapping or Taping the Forearm: Supporting the area can help realign the muscle fibers and relieve pressure in your arm.
Your physician can recommend using a splint for 2 to 3 weeks to take the elbow out of action.
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Other Treatment Options
Other treatment options are as follows:
Steroid Injections: If your symptoms are painful, and the condition is making the movement of your arm is difficult, then your physician can recommend a steroid injection.
Conservative Treatments: Further options are injections of botulinum toxin, or botox and extra-corporeal shock wave therapy, ESWT.
ESWT is a technique that helps to trigger the healing process by sending sound waves to the elbow.
Heat therapy, low-level laser therapy, occupational therapy, and trigger point therapy are other options.
However, a new treatment option is an injection of platelet-rich plasma, PRP which contains proteins that encourage healing.
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, AAOS, this treatment is a promising one but still under investigation.
Surgery: You may need surgery to remove the damaged part of the tendon and relieve the pain.
Your doctor will recommend this if nonsurgical treatment does not resolve symptoms in 6 to 12 months.
Between 80 to 95% of the patients recover without surgery.
Moreover, to prevent further damage, it is often useful to wear an arm brace or a wrist splint while using your arm.
You can take it off while resting or sleeping, Your physician or physiotherapist will advise about the best type of brace or splint.
Stretching and progressive strengthening exercises involve the use of weights or elastic bands can be helpful.
It can thus help to increase the pain-free grip strength and forearm strength.
According to an article by the Canadian Family Physician a number of exercises like using dumbbells that can help muscle conditioning if you have tennis elbow.
Exercising during a case of tennis elbow is crucial for regaining muscle strength and reducing pain.
Despite painful sensations, it is possible to ease into an exercise routine through initial stretching.
The most important of managing the tennis elbow is a continuous regime of stretches and lifts.
You can start with lower weights and increase the difficulty of the motions.
Do this until you can do 10 lifts of each exercise.
The following are a few exercises for tennis elbow:
If you have poor grip strength, then it can improve by grip strengthening.
You can do this by building muscles of the forearm that can help improve the ability to perform your daily activities.
For this exercise, you need a table and a towel.
This exercise will work on your long flexor tendons of the tingers and tumb.
While doing this exercise, sit at a table with your forearm resting on the table, and hold a rolled-up towel or small ball in your hand.
Squeeze the towel in your hand and hold for 10 seconds.
Release and repeat 10 times and switch and do the same process with the other arm.
Wrist extensors are a group of muscles that are responsible for bending your wrist.
These small muscles connect into the elbow and are often subject to overuse.
For this exercise, you will need a table and a 2-pound dumbbell.
This exercise will work on your wrist extensors.
While sitting in a hair, hold a 2-pound dumbbell in your hand with your palm facing down, resting your elbow comfortably on your knee.
Keep your palm facing down, extend your wrist by curling it towards your body.
If you find it too challenging, do this movement with no weight.
Try to isolate this movement to the wrist only, keeping the rest of your arm still.
Wrist flexors are a group of muscles that work opposite the wrist extensors.
These small muscles connect into the elbow and are also subject to overuse, thus leading to pain and inflammation.
For this exercise, you need a table and a 2-pound dumbbell.
This exercise will work on your wrist flexors.
Sit in a chair, while holding a 2-pound dumbbell in your hand with your palm facing up and elbow resting on your knee.
Keep your palm facing up, flex your wrist by curling it towards your body.
Return to the starting position and repeat at least 10 times on each side.
Moreover, it is important to isolate the movement to the writ only.
For this exercise, you need a hand towel and it will work on your wrist extensors and wrist flexors.
Sit in a chair holding a towel with both your hands, while your shoulders are in a relaxed position.
Twist the hand towel with both your hands in the opposite direction as if you are wringing out the water.
Repeat this step 10 times and then again 10 times in the other direction.
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It is important to pay attention to the movement techniques during exercise or exertion to prevent the tennis elbow.
It is often better to spread the load to the larger muscles of your body like to the shoulders and upper arm.
Moreover warming up before playing a sport that involves arm movements and stretching your arms is important.
Additionally, lighter sports equipment or requests with a large grip size can help reduce strain on the tendons.
Damp tennis balls and older balls load your arm with unnecessary force, thus avoid using them.
Increase the strength of your forearm muscles as it can help support arm movement and prevent this condition.
Tennis elbow is often present in individuals who do repeated movements of their arms and upper arm.
You can take measures at home by simply doing certain exercises that specifically target your wrist and arm muscles, thus strengthening these muscles can help reduce the pain.
However, in case of severe pain, visit your doctor and stick to the treatment plan to avoid complications.