Tennis Elbow, commonly referred to as a pain in the lateral elbow or Lateral Epicondylitis, is a medical condition caused by repetitive application of stress on the two lateral elbows, which results in inflammation of the tendons or micro/ acute tears to the wrist extensor muscles below the elbow.
Tennis elbow isn’t uncommon today. More and more occupational activities involve repetitive use of the wrist and elbow, such as painting, plumbing, carpentry, and weight lifting that can cause elbow injuries.
The risk of developing tennis elbow is higher in people between the ages of 35-60 years. Also, the injury is not peculiar to tennis players, as the name implies.
A study in the United States showed that people from other occupations reported about 95% of reported cases. However, the negative impact caused by this injury is the same irrespective of the causative factors.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
Most symptoms of tennis elbow take a few weeks to months to notice, and symptoms vary from one person to another. The most common symptom of the tennis elbow is an ache on the elbow, which might extend down to your forearm and wrist. Other signs of tennis elbow include:
- Pain in your wrist or difficulty in moving your arms
- Swollen and tender areas around the elbow
- Inability to perform a simple task such as turning a knob
- Weakness in the wrist while extending your hand for a shake
Causes of Tennis Elbow
Engaging in any activity that revolves around repetitive twisting of the wrist and constant bending of the elbow over time causes strains, inflammation, and acute tears of the tendons attached to the forearm muscles. Examples of such activities include:
- Sport. Engaging in racquet activities such as tennis, badminton, squash, or throw sports such as javelin, discus and shot-put involve a lot of repetitive motions and techniques. Incorrect techniques lead to increased inflammation of the extensor muscles.
- Regular use of hand tools such as gardener, sheers, and scissors
- Activities such as playing the violin which involves frequent movement and bending of the wrist and elbows.
- Manual work such as plumbing, typing, weight lifting
- On rare occasions, there are no specific causes for tennis elbow
Diagnosis for Tennis Elbow
An easy method of diagnosis involves a simple arm test which you can perform by yourself at home. The test requires that you place your hands on an object with your elbows straightened and try to lift the item. If this exercise causes pain outside your elbow, tennis elbow can be considered a possible cause of the pain.
Another precise approach is to visit the hospital for your doctor to perform a thorough exam. Image tests such as MRI or an X-ray might be necessary to get a detailed image of the tissues in your arms and rule out other causes of the pain, such as arthritis or a broken bone.
Treatment for Tennis Elbow
Several treatment options are available after consulting with a physician. Treatment options often recommended vary, depending on the severity of the damage.
Types of treatment often recommended include:
Administration of steroids is one of the typical conventional methods used for treating tennis elbow. However, the result is inconsistent as a standard dosage is yet to exist.
Steroid administration helps to relieve excruciating pains and ease painful movement of the elbow. After treatment, the patient should avoid activities that will put strains on the elbow.
For a couple of weeks, suspend the repetitive and aggressive activities that lead to the injury.
Tendons can be made more flexible by performing exercises that strengthen the forearm muscles.
It often helps to wear braces to restrain from strenuous activities and prevent further injury to the tendon.
Icing the elbow
Icing the elbow helps to reduce pain and swelling.
Surgery is considered a last resort when other treatment options fail. The method involves removing the damaged section of the tendon and muscles and replacing them with healthy tissues extracted from another part of your body.
Activities that require the wrist and elbow to be constantly moving can require specific measures – such as warming up before any type of exercise to increase the flexibility of the tendons.
If you used to engage in racquet activities such as tennis, it is essential to check your equipment to see if they are a proper fit. A loose-strung racquet may reduce the stress applied to your forearm.
If you engage in activities requiring frequent arm motions, you are susceptible to tennis elbow. If you notice any pain in your elbow when you bend your arm, make sure you visit your healthcare provider. Tennis elbow is curable with proper treatment and requires less time to recover.