Tennis elbow or Lateral Epicondylitis is a condition when the outer part of the elbow
becomes painful and tender, usually as a result of a specific strain or overuse of the muscles which are attached to the bone at this part of the elbow - the wrist extensors. They are the muscles which pull the hand backwards. All the extensor muscles of the hand attach to the elbow at the outer part (the lateral epicondyle). If they are strained or over used they become inflamed, therefore they become swollen, painful and tender to touch.
Both tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow typically result from repetitive arm movement. Over-using the muscles in your arm can lead to tiny tears in the tendons that attach the muscles in your forearms to the epicondyles. If you continue to do the activity without allowing the tears to heal, the tendons can become inflamed. This condition can be caused by excessive use of your arm in long sessions practicing your tennis stroke and in many other activities, including painting, raking, pitching, rowing, hammering and using a screwdriver.
If you’ve increased your activity in one of these areas and feel tenderness in the elbow or pain that radiates down the arm, take some time off. Stop doing whatever is causing the symptoms. Rest allows the microtears to heal. If the symptoms are sports-related, you might examine your technique and tennis equipment.
Today almost 50% of all tennis players will suffer from this disorder at some point. Interestingly though, the term tennis elbowis also used for the disorder experienced by golfers , baseball players, home fix-it enthusiasts and gardeners, although tennis players account for only 5% of all sufferers of this condition.
The onset of pain, on the outside (lateral) of the elbow, is usually gradual with tenderness felt on or below the joint's bony prominence. Movements such as gripping, lifting and carrying tend to be troublesome.
Recurring pain on the outside of the upper forearm just below the bend of the elbow. Pain caused by lifting or bending the arm or holding even light objects. On occasions, pain radiates down the arm toward the wrist. Due to inflamed muscles, tendons and ligaments, sufferers experience difficulty in extending forearm. Pain that typically lasts for 6 to 12 weeks can last for months or several years.
The damage that this condition incurs consists of tiny tears in a part of the tendon and in muscle coverings. After the initial injury heals, these areas often tear again, which leads to hemorrhaging and the formation of rough, granulated tissue and calcium deposits within the surrounding tissues. Collagen, a protein, leaks out from around the injured areas, causing inflammation. The resulting pressure can cut off the blood flow and pinch the radial nerve, one of the major nerves controlling muscles in the arm and hand.
Tendons, which attach muscles to bones, do not receive the same amount of oxygen and blood that muscles do, so they heal more slowly. In fact, some cases of this condition can last for years, though the inflammation usually subsides in 6 to 12 weeks.
Many medical textbooks treat tennis elbow as a form of tendonitis, which is often the case, but if the muscles and bones of the elbow joint are also involved, then the condition is called epicondylitis. However, if you feel pain directly on the back of your elbow joint, rather than down the outside of your arm, you may have bursitis, which is caused when lubricating sacs in the joint become inflamed. If you see swelling, which is almost never a symptom of tennis elbow you may want to investigate other possible conditions, such as arthritis, infection, gout or a tumor.
Conservative elbow treatment usually works. Applying ice helps reduce swelling. An anti-inflammatory medication, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, can also help. If symptoms don’t subside in two or three weeks, call your doctor.
Flexibility and strengthening exercises are effective and will eventually allow you to return to the activity.
The best way for tennis elbow cure is to stop doing anything that provides strain to the injured arm. Rest the arm until the pain disappears, then massage to relieve stress and tension in the muscles, and exercise to strengthen the area and prevent re-injury. To prevent movement of your arm, you can buy an elbow brace, elbow support or elbow strap from a sports shop or pharmaceutical supplier, which can be helpful because it reduces the amount you can use your elbow. For the tennis enthusiast, provide warm up activity to the arm for several minutes before practice or play.
For most mild to moderate cases of this condition, aspirin or ibuprofen will help address the inflammation and the pain while you are resting the injury, and then you can follow up with exercise and massage to speed healing.
For stubborn cases of tennis elbow your doctor may advise corticosteroid injections, which dramatically reduce inflammation, but they cannot be used long-term because of potentially damaging side effects.
If rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and a stretching routine fail to provide elbow cure, you may have to consider surgery. Consult your physician.
Even after you feel you have overcome a case of this condition continue to use your arm sparingly. Always warm up your arm for 5 to 10 minutes before starting any activity involving your elbow. And if you develop severe pain after use anyway, pack your arm in ice for 15 to 20 minutes and call your doctor.
To prevent tennis elbow and other tennis injuries:
Each year, more than 78,000 tennis-related injuries are treated in hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics, ambulatory surgery centers and hospital emergency rooms.
Always take time to warm up and stretch. Research studies have shown that cold muscles are more prone to injury. Warm up with jumping jacks, stationary cycling or running or walking in place for 3 to 5 minutes. Then slowly and gently stretch, holding each stretch for 30 seconds.
Try to avoid playing on hard surface courts with no "give," such as cement, asphalt, or synthetic courts. To prevent lower back injuries when playing tennis on hard surface courts, wear heel inserts to absorb the shock.
Wear tennis shoes with good support to prevent ankle injuries. For added support, wear two pairs of socks or specially padded tennis socks.
To prevent blisters on your hands, dry your racket handle frequently.
When serving or hitting an overhead, do not arch your back unnecessarily. Instead, bend your knees and raise your heels, so your upper body weight is evenly balanced.
Avoid landing on the ball of your foot, which could result in an Achilles tendon injury.
Plantar fasciitis can occur if your foot is overused. Rest is the best remedy; but wearing tennis shoes with medial arch support or a heel cup can sometimes alleviate the pain.
Be knowledgeable about first aid and be able to administer it for minor injuries, such as facial cuts, bruises, or minor tendinitis, strains, or sprains.
Be prepared for emergency situations and have a plan to reach medical personnel to treat injuries such as concussions, dislocations, elbow contusions, wrist or finger sprains, and fractures.
To prevent a relapse:
Discontinue or modify the action that is causing the strain on your elbow joint. If you must continue, be sure to warm up for 10 minutes or more before any activity involving your arm, and apply ice to it afterward. Take more frequent breaks. Try strapping a elbow strap, elbow brace, or elbow support around your forearm just below your elbow. If the support seems to help you lift objects such as heavy books, then continue with it. Be aware that such bands can cut off circulation and impede healing, so they are best used once tennis elbow has disappeared. At any rate, several weeks of break from your tennis play is much better than causing longterm injury to your arm.
Call Your Doctor If....
The pain persists for more than a few days; chronic inflammation of the tendons can lead to permanent disability. The elbow joint begins to swell; tennis elbow rarely causes swelling, so you may have another condition such as arthritis, gout, infection or even a tumor.
You can try the tennis elbow aids below to help your tennis elbow aches and pains: