Tennis elbow, also called lateral epicondylitis, is a medical condition characterized by a localized pain on the outer side of the elbow. It is caused by the inflammation of the tendons connected to the elbow’s outer bony prominence (lateral epicondyle). The inflammation is often triggered by repetitive movements, twisting and straining of the lower arm. Common symptoms of tennis elbow include pain that does not go away with pain reliever and a marked weakness and numbness of the lower arm.
Contrary to its name, tennis elbow can occur to anyone. People exposed to activities that involve repetitive movements of the lower arm are however at a greater risk of developing tennis elbow. These activities may include tedious construction work, strenuous sports, and even painting for a long period of time. Doctors usually diagnose patients for tennis elbow using different physical tests. The diagnosis is verified from the results of nerve tests, x-ray, CT scan, and MRI.
Tennis elbow is not considered by health professionals as a serious medical condition. If left untreated, it can cause restrictions to motion, a nagging pain, and weakness and numbness in your lower arm. Fortunately, there are a number of effective ways that you can try. Here are the top 5 things you can do to help with tennis elbow.
1. Apply Compression
For muscle strains, sprains, and other similar injuries, application of compress within the first 72 hours is an effective way of reducing swelling in an area. Athletic trainer’s tape, bandage or even just a piece of clothing can be used to tie around the injured area. The compression must neither be too tight or too loose in order to promote good blood circulation and reduce inflammation. Application of ice or a cold bottle of water for 10 to 15 minutes as early as possible is also a good way to lessen the extent of an injury.
2. Get Enough Rest
Similar to other muscle injuries, rest is always beneficial for a quick recovery. If you haven’t fully healed from a tennis elbow yet, avoid doing heavy tasks such as carrying loads and playing contact sports that will just aggravate your injury.
3. Undergo Therapy
A professional physical therapist should be able to design a rehabilitation program that you can follow to alleviate the pain and increase the muscle strength and flexibility of your lower arm. These include warm-ups, strength conditioning, and stretching exercises that will provide long-term relief from chronic tennis elbow.
4. Wear Braces
Tennis elbow braces and support can be purchased from sporting good outlets and drugstores even without a doctor’s prescription. Tennis elbow braces limit the range of your arms’ motion, distribute the stress directed to the tendons and aid in a quick and complete recovery of injured muscle tissues. You can find more information about some of the best tennis elbow braces here.
5. Take Medications or Consider SurgeryIf there are no signs of progress after 2 months of rehabilitation, corticosteroids are usually injected into the injured tendons to relieve the pain. Ultrasound therapy is also a non-invasive procedure of treating the inflamed tendon. If in any case, any therapy or medication does not work after 6 to 12 months, surgery will be the last option. The operation involves the removal of the damaged part of the tendon, or the reattachment of the tendon to the outer bone, or both.