Tennis Elbow

What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow is the inflammation or micro tearing of the tendons that combine the forearm muscles on the outside of the elbow. It is also called lateral epicondylitis. When the tendons and the forearm muscles sustain damage due to repetition of the same motion over and over again, it causes the outside of the elbow to become tender and painful. Any kind of repetitive motion such as using tools or painting can cause the symptoms.

Athletes get the symptoms more often, but people participating in recreational activities requiring repetitive use of forearm muscles can also feel pain. So, repeating certain arm movements may worsen the pain. The dull ache usually turns to constant pain. In several cases, the elbow may feel excessive pain to touch.

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Ultrasound Therapy for Tennis Elbow - Physiotherapy Treatments - PhysioTattva

Tennis elbow is the inflammation or micro tearing of the tendons that combine the forearm muscles on the outside of the elbow. It is also called lateral epicondylitis.

Symptoms of Tennis Elbow:

The condition causes tenderness and pain on the outside of the elbow. Pain in the forearm and the back of the hand are common. The pain in people with this condition ranges from a minor nagging discomfort when using the elbow to severe pain when the elbow stays still. Using the arm for twisting and repetitive movements, such as extending or gripping the wrist, worsens the pain. The pain is more prominent.

  • When gripping small-sized objects, such as a pencil
  • On the outside of the elbow that moves down the forearm when bending or lifting the arm.
  • When twisting the forearm for opening a jar or turning open the doorknob.
  • Pain and stiffness can be experienced when extending the arm fully.

The condition can last for about six months or a couple of years, but most people recover within a year.

Causes of Tennis Elbow:

Overuse of the forearm due to a repeated or strenuous activity causes pain. Knocking or banging the elbow may also show symptoms. Due to strained forearm muscles, inflammation develops near the lateral epicondyle or on the outside of the elbow. An unusual activity such as decoration or gardening involving repeated use of the forearm muscles can also lead to the development of pain. The following activities can also stress the forearm muscles due to bending and twisting.

  • Playing sports using racquets, such as badminton, tennis, or squash.
  • Using decoration tools or due to bricklaying or plumbing
  • Using hand tools like a screwdriver, gardening shears, and scissors
  • Activities involving repetitive and fine movements of the wrist and hands, such as sewing or typing.
  • All other activities require bending of the elbow, like playing the violin.
  • Shoulder tightness and neck problems
  • Tightness of the forearm muscles

Playing with a racquet increases the chance of developing the condition, especially for beginners.

When to see a Physiotherapist for Tennis Elbow:

When the pain does not reduce within two weeks, a physical therapist needs to diagnose the condition appropriately to rule out the other causes, such as cervical or neural. The therapist assesses the condition thoroughly to determine the muscle functions and joints and recommends suitable measures to improve blood flow to the tendons. Initially, the therapist recommends ice massage, using wearables like braces, straps, and tape for massage, muscle stimulation, and ultrasound.  The therapeutic exercises are:

  • Wrist turn
  • Wrist lift or palm up
  • Wrist turn with weight
  • Wrist flex
  • Elbow bend

Risks of Tennis Elbow:

The risks of tennis elbow are:

  • Ruptured tendon due to repeated steroid injections
  • Recurrence of the injury due to overuse
  • Failure to improve surgical or non-surgical treatment due to entrapped nerve in the forearm.

While the condition can affect people of varied age groups, it is common in adults aged thirty and fifty. People with occupations requiring repetitive wrist arm motion are more at risk such as painters, butchers, plumbers, carpenters, and cooks.

How to prevent Tennis Elbow:

The steps to prevent the condition are:

  • Avoid repetitive task
  1. For people engaged in particular sports that require hitting or high-impact movements, cross-training regimen can prevent the condition. Beginners or people who have not played for a while need to start slow.
  • Taking breaks
  1. When the arms become sore, the body may require a break. Playing sports may involve constant arm movements, resulting in pain. So, taking breaks between the matches is essential.
  • Forearm exercises
  1. Exercises, such as wrist flexion and extension exercises that target the forearm muscles help people stay strong.
  • Regular exercises
  1. The risk of injury and pain increases when the forearm muscles stay idle. Regular exercises can keep the muscles strong and allow them to bear stress. Stretching the muscles up and down, push-ups, arm rotation, and bending or stretching the arm can prevent the pain from worsening quickly.
  2. Checking the sports equipment and using a strap when playing and preventing pain and symptoms.

Treatments of Tennis Elbow:

The condition may not require treatment but taking OTC pain relievers may ease the pain. When symptoms relate to playing sports, physiotherapy may be essential. The therapists suggest suitable techniques of holding racquets and the steps to consider avoiding stressing the injured tissue. Stretching and strengthening exercises involving the forearm muscles are beneficial. Eccentric exercises like lowering the wrist gradually may also help.

Related Conditions:

Lateral epicondylitis is caused due to damage in the forearm muscles and overuse in sports. While racquet games are known to aggravate the condition, several other sports or physical activities that may cause the symptoms to worsen. Consulting a professional physical therapist is the best choice.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can tennis elbow heal without treatment?
It may get better without treatment, but self-limiting conditions need to be imposed and exercising caution during sports can cure it within two years.
2. Does the condition hurt all the time?
A nagging ache on the outside of the elbow may exist from a few weeks to months until it turns into constant pain.
3. How to sleep with pain?
People with severe pain can sleep on their backs to avoid pain and put less strain on the elbow.

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