How To Avoid And Treat Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow is an injury that occurs when the tendon on the outside of your elbow become inflamed or partially torn. Also known as lateral epicondylitis, this affects thousands of tennis players but it can actually happen to anyone who moves in similar ways. There are ways to avoid this injury as well as a number of different treatment options available if you are prone to this problem or are currently dealing with it.
An Overview of Tennis Elbow
The most common cause of tennis elbow is repetitive stress and overuse. This can be more common in people over 35 who play tennis or similar sports more than three times a week. If you aren’t very flexible or strong or are a beginner with bad technique your chances of suffering from tennis elbow are greater.
Plainly speaking, the inflammation involved in the injury occurs from the vibration that the ball hitting the racquet causes. These vibrations are felt in the arm and elbow and causes contractions in the forearm muscles. This leads to inflammation which can then lead to degeneration and partial tears. For this reason, the injury can affect any athlete who puts stress on their elbow(s), people who lift heavy objects often, or those who push or pull heavy loads.
The symptoms of tennis elbow are always the first indication of the condition. Those symptoms are:
These symptoms always start mildly and increase in severity over time. It’s important to be aware of your body and what you feel so you can catch the problem early and get preventative treatment before it gets worse.
Avoiding Tennis Elbow
If you aren’t experiencing symptoms currently, but know that your activities make you more prone to tennis elbow, there are things you can do to avoid the injury.
Treating Tennis Elbow
If you are already suffering from tennis elbow, there are treatments that can help you. Treatments can range from home remedies to medical treatment including surgery.
As soon as you feel the mild pain of tennis elbow you should start home treatments. You might be able to combat the injury just by resting if you catch the pain early enough. You’ll more than likely have to do other things for pain relief like an ice pack on the area a few times a day alternating with a warm cloth. You can also take over-the-counter pain relief medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, and similar medications. Topical pain relief treatments can also be used to help with the pain.
If you go in to see your doctor he or she might have you wear a wrist or elbow splint to support the tendon and joint if the injury isn’t severe. A counterforce brace is usually the better option instead of a standard splint since it distributes pressure off of the tendon and to the rest of the arm. It’s worn on your forearm under your elbow. These can also be found at drugstores if you aren’t prescribed one by your doctor.
Physical therapy may also be recommended to increase your range of motion and help manage the pain. A professional will help you get back into proper form while also showing you better ways to move to avoid reinjuring the area.
If the injury is worse or it doesn’t improve more extreme treatments might be necessary. One of those is a corticosteroid injection. This is a shot (sometimes repeated periodically) that is meant to relieve the pain for a period of time. While it works it can also harm the tendon in the long run. Ultrasound therapy can also help with pain relief. Rarely, surgery might be necessary to cut the tendon and remove any damaged tissue from the area. A torn tendon may sometimes be able to be repaired surgically
All that being said, one of the better options is to relieve pain through compression. Doing this actually compacts the injured tendon so that it can heal itself faster than it would without the compression treatment. The support that the compression gives the area lowers the vibration that the tendon feels from movement while also promoting better blood flow to the area.
When this happens, the oxygen and nutrients carried in your blood to the area can aid in healing the damaged tendon and surrounding tissue. It can also help with the inflammation as well. A compression sleeve can be worn while performing activities as well as during recovery after the injury. You’ll benefit from stabilization as well as the increased blood flow.
Tennis elbow is an aggravating injury but it is manageable and even avoidable. By performing exercises or warming up before playing your particular sport or working you can help strengthen the tendon to lower your risk of tennis elbow. There are also plenty of treatment options that you can use on your own before you need to see a doctor. It’s best to take action when you feel any strain in the elbow and treat mild pain with ice, heat, and rest so it doesn’t get worse. If you feel that nothing is working see your doctor as soon as possible so you can get the proper professional treatment early on.