Relieving Chronic Pain from Tennis Elbow
What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow, also called lateral epicondylitis, is a painful condition that happens when the tendons in your elbow are overworked, usually from doing the same wrist and arm movements over and over again. Even though it’s called “tennis elbow,” it doesn’t just happen to tennis players or athletes. People like plumbers, painters, carpenters, and butchers do the kinds of things that can lead to this condition. Tennis elbow hurts most where your forearm muscle tendons attach to a bony bump on the outside of your elbow, and you might also feel pain in your forearm and wrist. In orthopedics, this require an upper extremity expert, but you may be able to relive some pain before seeing a specialist.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow can cause pain on the outside of your elbow that can spread to your forearm and wrist. Because of pain and weakness, it may be hard to:
- Shake hands or grip an object
- Turn a doorknob
- Hold a cup of coffee
What are the Causes of Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow is a muscle strain and overuse injury. The muscles in your forearm that you use to straighten and raise your hand and wrist are to blame. Because of the repeated motions and stress on the tissue, the tendons that connect the muscles in your forearm to the bony bump on the outside of your elbow may develop a series of small tears.
As the name suggests, tennis elbow can be caused by playing tennis, especially when the backhand stroke is used over and over again with bad form. But tennis elbow can also be caused by many other common arm movements, such as:
- Using plumbing tools
- Driving screws
- Cutting up cooking ingredients, particularly meat
- Repetitive computer mouse use
Risk Factors of Tennis Elbow
Factors that may increase your risk of tennis elbow include:
- Age – While tennis elbow can affect people of all ages, it is most common in adults between the ages of 30 and 50
- Occupation – People who have jobs that require repetitive motions of the wrist and arm are at a higher risk of tennis elbow
- Certain sports – Participation in racket sports increases the risk of tennis elbow, especially if someone has poor form when striking the ball
How Can I Relieve my Tennis Elbow?
If you have an issue with your elbow that keeps coming back, you should see a doctor so you can find out what’s wrong and start getting better. If you do have tennis elbow, they can help you figure out the best way to treat it, which could be anything from painkillers to surgery. Here are some home tips to help yourself deal with pain, heal faster, and try to avoid the issue from coming back:
Rest Your Elbow
This condition is caused by overuse. Rest your elbow as much as you can and if you hurt your elbow while playing tennis or another racquet sport, try a different sport that is easier on your elbow until you feel better. Work can be more difficult since you can’t always just stop doing it like you can with a hobby. Ask your boss if you can do anything else while your elbow heals.
Tennis elbow can be very painful. Here are some ways to help relieve the pain:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers – Ibuprofen is an NSAID, which stands for a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. It can help with mild to moderate pain and can also reduce swelling. Talk to your doctor about taking it, especially if you need to take it for weeks
- Ice- Cold packs can also reduce swelling and pain. Put one on for about 15 minutes at a time several times a day
Braces, Splints, Gear, and More
Some of these may help with your recovery:
- Braces – Putting a supportive brace on your forearm may also help take some pressure off the tendons in your elbow. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about whether or not you need a forearm brace and what kind is best for you
- Splints – You could talk to your doctor about sleeping with a wrist splint so your muscles and tendons can rest
- Sports gear – If you got tennis elbow from playing tennis, a stiffer racquet with looser strings might help once you’re ready to play light tennis again. Some more tips:
- Talk to a tennis pro about how to improve your swing so you don’t hurt your elbow again. You can use the same idea for other racquet sports as well
- Make sure your tennis balls are new and dry. Tennis balls that are wet or “dead” can hurt your elbow
- Lastly, before you play racquet sports, make sure your arms are warm and stretched out. This applies to any sport you may play
- Work tools – If the equipment you use on the job is a factor, you may need to try different tools or methods. A few more helpful hints:
- Hold tools with a looser grip; take some of the tension out of your hand, if you can.
- Use hammers with padding to help absorb shock.
- Get some training in different methods of doing your job.
- Use power tools instead of hand tools if possible.
After Completing Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is one of the best ways to treat tennis elbow that won’t go away. It can help get more blood to the tendons, which will also speed up the healing process. A therapist may also show you how to change the way you play tennis or do other things that hurt your elbow. Even when your therapy is over, keep the momentum going. Once your elbow no longer hurts and your backhand is better than ever, you should keep your muscles strong and flexible by continuing some at-home exercises and stretches.
Are you struggling with tennis elbow symptoms? Here at South Florida Orthopedic Group, our orthopedic specialists and physical therapists are here to help you get the relief you need to get back to your hobbies and work life. If you are in the Ft. Lauderdale area call us at (954) 597-5933, or call us at (954) 737-5673 to get in touch with our Margate location.