Tennis elbow, as the name denotes, can be an injury caused by playing tennis; it can also come from various activities that make you utilize your arms. To avoid ambiguity, it is a condition and not an anatomical part referred to when playing the sport of tennis. So even though you are not Maria or Roger, you can have tennis elbow.
The condition is excruciating, since the outer part of the elbow becomes painful and tender. The pain can affect the forearm and wrist as well. Prevention and treatment have been developed over the years to combat this not so unusual condition.
Signs and Symptoms
Before treatment could be applied, you should first know the signs and symptoms of tennis elbow, which include:
- A weak grip
- A painful grip during certain activities, like shaking hands or turning a doorknob.
- Pain on the outer part of the elbow (lateral epicondyle)
- Pain on the wrist when moved and extended, like lifting with the palm down.
- Pain on the elbow when touched or bumped
- Pain that radiates from the outer elbow into your forearm and wrist
- Morning stiffness
- Point tenderness over the lateral epicondyle
The pain can vary depending on your condition. It often gets worse over a period of weeks or months, and sometimes you may experience pain even when your arm is still.
Tennis elbow is often treated with self-care methods first before resorting to more medically extensive approaches. The initial treatment should involve the acronym P.R.I.C.E., which stands for protection, rest, ice, compression, elevation.
Simply follow the instructions to relieve yourself of tennis elbow:
- Protection. Protect your elbow from further injury by avoiding joint movements, especially those involving extraneous activities. If a particular activity causes symptoms, you should stop until improvement is evident. Never force your arms when you already have tennis elbow, you might aggravate the condition to a degree that no self-care method could salvage.
- Rest. Give your elbow a rest. Though it does not mean complete withdrawal from any activity, you may want to avoid activities that may exacerbate the condition. You may wear a forearm splint at night to reduce morning symptoms.
- Ice. Use ice or cold materials to limit the swelling after an injury. Methods such as using a cold pack or cold compression sleeve, or having an ice massage or slush bath can improve the swelling. Try to apply ice as soon as an injury occurs.
- Compression. Use an elastic bandage or wrap to compress the injured area. This prevents swelling and stabilizes the arm.
- Elevation. Raise your elbow at heart level, or better yet even higher than that, and maintain it there. This helps prevent and limit swelling.
In conjunction with the five-step self-care approach, you might want to use acetaminophen (Tylenol) or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve). These are effective ways to alleviate tennis elbow in the short run, but are not recommended long-term solution because of potential gastrointestinal problems.
When To Seek Medical Advice
When self-care steps do not seem to work, you may want to see a doctor immediately. When you have encountered these symptoms you probably need to seek immediate medical assistance:
- Your elbow is hot and inflamed, and you have a fever
- Your elbow looks deformed
- You cannot bend your elbow
- You suspect a broken bone
If the self-care steps or the basic treatments are not working, your doctor may provide other options such as:
- Analysis of Arm Use. Your doctor may ask you to seek an expert to analyze the way you do certain jobs that could have an adverse affect to your arms. If you play tennis or other sports or activities in that mold, the expert may evaluate the techniques employed to determine the best steps to reduce stress on the injured tissue. This may mean a change in tennis stance or taking ergonomic steps at work to compensate for the symptoms.
Any movement that would seem to hamper normal functions of the arm should be discontinued to prevent the condition from deteriorating. You should keep your wrist rigid in extraneous instances, for it allows you to use the larger muscles of the upper arms, which are better in handling stressful loads.
- Exercises. Your doctor or physical therapist may require you to perform exercise techniques that would gradually stretch and strengthen your muscles, especially those in your forearms. You may also be required to wear straps or braces to reduce stress on the injured tissue.
- Corticosteroids. If your pain is severe and persistent, your doctor may inject corticosteroid medication to reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation. Injectable corticosteroids rarely cause serious side effects. Nevertheless, this type of treatment is not an absolute cure that would provide long-term benefits, unlike physical therapy exercises and a simple rest.
Your doctor may also suggest topical corticosteroid for pain relief. This type of treatment is absorbed through the skin during phonophoresis, or the use of ultrasound to increase the absorption of drugs through the skin.
- Surgery. Sometimes even if you have been faithful to your rehabilitation program, the pain still lingers. During these instances, your doctor may suggest surgery as the last resort. Surgery is often recommended only if arm movement is restricted and other treatments have been tried for at least a year.
Though only about one in 10 people with tennis elbow requires surgery, you may be one of the lucky recipients of anatomical knife cutting.
The surgery, however, does not require the patient to be confined. It involves either trimming the inflamed tendon or surgically releasing and reattaching the tendon to ease the pain.
Over the years there have been studies and experimental treatments developed for tennis elbow. Some of these possible treatments include low-energy shock wave, botulinus toxin, acupuncture, orthotic devices like braces or straps, and tropical nitric oxide.
Tennis elbow can put a dent on your everyday activities, which is why treating it as soon as possible, whether through self-care steps or medical means, would be enormous to your way of life. Be sure to research on the condition before doing anything that would involve any part of your anatomy. You are no Guinea pig, especially to someone as medically brilliant as you.