Do you constantly overload your arm feel a strain on your wrist? It might be tennis elbow.
Tennis Elbow or lateral epicondylitis is a painful condition that occurs when tendons in your elbow are overloaded.
This is usually due to repetitive motions of the wrist and arm.
You might be thinking that this condition persists in athletes. However, anyone can have it.
Individuals whose job features the types of motions that can lead to this condition are plumbers, playing tennis, painters, carpenters, and butchers.
The pain of the tennis elbow primarily occurs where the tendons of your forearm muscles attach themselves to a bony bump on the outside of your elbow.
Moreover, this pain can even spread to your forearm and wrist.
Rest and OTC, over-the-counter pain relievers can often help relieve tennis elbow.
However, if you are not sure if you have this condition or what may be causing it, then keep on reading to learn more about it.
Causes of Tennis Elbow
The tendon is the part of a muscle in your body that attaches itself to the bones.
Forearm tendons attach the forearm muscles to the outer bones of the elbow. When there is damage to the extensor carpi radialis brevis ECRB muscle, it can often cause tennis elbow.
The ECRB helps you to raise or extend the wrist.
Tennis elbow includes repetitive stress weakens the ECRB muscle, weakness in the muscles of the forearm, causing extremely tiny tears in the muscle’s tendon at the point where it attaches to the outside of your elbow.
These tears can cause inflammation and pain in your arm, and can even extend to the forearm and wrist.
Moreover, repetitive twisting of the wrist can also trigger the tennis elbow.
These activities may include tennis, and other racquet sports, swimming, golfing, turning a key, or frequently using tools like a screwdriver, hammer, or computer.
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Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
You may experience some of the following symptoms if you have tennis elbow:
Elbow pain that is mild, however, gradually gets worse, pain extending from the outside of the elbow down to your forearm and a weak grip.
Moreover, increase in pain when shaking hands or squeezing an object and pain when lifting something, using tools, or opening jars.
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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Diagnosing Tennis Elbow
Whether you have a tennis elbow, you can perform a simple test at home to diagnose it.
For this, you will have to stand by the 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 action causes pain on the outside of your elbow, then it is likely to be an indicator of tennis elbow.
When you visit your doctor, they will most likely perform an X-ray or MRI scan to rule out more severe conditions like arthritis or an elbow joint injury.
However, in most cases, it is not necessary. Your doctor will test a different range of motions with the arm before asking about the location and nature of the pain.
This will provide enough information for tennis elbow diagnosis in normal circumstances.
Moreover, an MRI gives a more detailed image than an X-ray as it includes the soft tissues, muscles, and tendons inside the arm.
If the outer elbow pain does not go away, you may need conservative treatment after a year.
Electromyography or EMG may be used to find out if the nerves are compressed.
Several treatment methods are helpful and you can effectively use them at home or after consulting a physician.
These are as follows:
Rest: Resting your arm is important. A break in daily activities helps and allows your tears in the tendon attachment to heal.
Tennis players treat more serious cases of ice, anti-inflammatory drugs, soft tissue massages, stretching exercises, and ultrasound therapy.
Physical Therapy: Physical therapists usually advise that racquet sports player strengthen their shoulder, upper arm, and abdominal muscles.
This can, moreover, help to reduce the wrist extensors during shoulders and arm movements.
Ice Massages and Muscle Stimulating Techniques: Both these treatments can help to heal the muscles.
Strapping or Taping the Forearm: Supporting the area of pain can help realign the muscle fibers and relieve pressure on the area.
Your physician may recommend using a splint for 2 to 3 weeks to take the elbow out of action.
Steroid Injections: If the symptoms of your tennis elbow are painful and are making the movement of your arm difficult then your physician can recommend a steroid injection or sports medicine.
After this injection, it is important that you rest the arm and avoid putting too much strain on it.
Other Conservative Treatments
Further options for the treatment of tennis elbow is the injection of botulinum toxin or botox.
Another treatment option is extracorporeal shock wave therapy, ESWT.
ESWT is a technique to trigger the healing process by sending sound waves to your elbow.
Heat therapy, low-level laser therapy, occupational therapy, and trigger point therapy are other options.
Many doctors and physicians use the PRP, platelet-rich plasma therapy.
This treatment contains proteins that encourage healing. This injection is prepared from your own blood.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, AAOS, this treatment is promising but still under investigation.
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When non-surgical treatments are unable to relieve the symptoms of tennis elbow, then your doctor will remove the damaged part of the tendon.
This is usually recommended after 6 to 12 months of non-surgical treatment options.
Between 80 to 95% of patients recover without surgery, thus, surgery is often rare.
To prevent damage to the tendons, it is often useful to wear an arm brace or a wrist splint when using the arm.
You can take it off while resting or sleeping.
A physician or physiotherapist can advise you on the best type of brace or splint.
Exercises for Tennis Elbow
Stretches and progressive strengthening exercises involve using the use of weights or elastic bands.
They can increase pain-free grip strength and forearm strength in your whole arm.
According to an article by the Canadian Family Physician, a number of different exercises using dumbells can help condition your muscles, especially if you have tennis elbow.
Exercise is crucial for the tennis elbow for regaining muscle strength and reduce pain.
Despite the painful sensations you may experience, it is possible to ease into an exercise routine through stretching.
The most crucial part of managing this condition is that you persist with the daily regimen of stretches and lifts.
It is important to start with lower weights and increase the difficulty of the motions until it is only possible to complete ten lifts.
The following are few examples to improve tennis elbow symptoms:
The Tyler Twist
For this exercise find a long, thin object you can grip comfortably with both your hands. It is preferable to use a flexible item that provides small resistance while you twist it.
In some cases, a rolled-up towel can also work. Most often individuals practicing the Tyler Twist use an exercise tool called FlexBar.
Follow the instructions:
- hold the object vertically in front of your chest,
- grip it with both hands, facing the same way. Both wrists should be extended or bent back,
- move the wrist with tennis elbow into flexion, or bent-forward position around the object,
- by keeping the wrist in flexion, rotate the object onto a horizontal position as if you are holding the handlebars of a bicycle. Hold your arms straight out in front of your body,
- then move your unaffected wrist in flexion, joining the affected one,
- perform at least 3 sets of 15 repetitions a day until your symptoms improve.
The wrist extensors are a group of muscles that are responsible for bending the wrist just like a hand signal stop.
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.
Follow the guidelines to do this exercise:
- sit in a chair and holt the dumbbell in your hand with your palm facing down, resting your elbow on the knee,
- keeping your palm facing down, extend your wrist by curling it towards your body,
- however, if this is challenging for you, do the movement without weights,
- then return to the starting position and repeat 10 times on each side,
- try to isolate the movement to the wrist, thus keeping the rest of your arm still
Other exercises you can try at home are fist clench, supination with a dumbbell, and wrist flexion.
There are different ways to help prevent tennis elbow.
These are to make sure you are using the right equipment and proper technique for each task or sport.
Make sure to perform the exercises that help to maintain your strength and flexibility, ice your elbow following intense physical pain, and rest your elbow if it is painful to bend it.
When you take these steps and avoid putting strain on the tendons of your elbow, you can lower the chances of developing this condition or even prevent it from coming back.
The Final Outlook
Anyone can develop a tennis elbow and signs and symptoms can worsen if you do not treat it effectively. Stretching before exercises, using light weights, holding, or using the tools with the right technique are a few preventive measures you can take to prevent it.