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how to treat tennis elbow

Tennis elbow (also known as lateral epicondylitis) is a type of strain injury that causes swelling in the tendons due to overusing of forearm muscles around the elbow joint. Several sportsmen and athletes between the age group of 30 to 50 years suffer from this painful condition. Tennis elbow causes pain while extending or straightening the arm.

Anatomy

Radius, ulna, and humerus (upper arm bone) are the bones that form your elbow joint. At the bottom of the humerus, there are bony bumps also known as epicondyles. The bony bump on the outer side of the elbow is known as the lateral epicondyle.

How is tennis elbow diagnosed?

Various medical professionals do a physical exam to diagnose tennis elbow. They will ask you whether you are a sportsman and which sports you play. They perform several tests and ask you to move your wrist, fingers, and elbow in different ways. Depending on the level of pain, they suggest imaging tests, MRI, and an X-ray. Countless doctors apply some pressure to the affected area during physical exams.

Common Causes of Tennis Elbow:

Knocking, overusing and banging of elbow can be the primary causes of tennis elbow. In most of the cases, a strain in the tendons and muscles in the forearm due to a strenuous activity can cause tennis elbow. While playing, there are plentiful maneuvers and repetitive wrist motions that can result in tennis elbow.

While hitting a backhand in tennis, the forearm muscles experience some stress and while hitting the ball, the stress repeatedly contracts. When you grip the racquet in a tight manner, the stress goes into the tendons, further, connecting the forearm muscle to the elbow. As a result of the consistent tugging, the tissue gets microscopic tears.

In some cases, a direct blow to the elbow results in swelling of the tendons.

Tennis elbow can stem from a wide range of activities including:

  • Swimming
  • Gardening
  • Sporting activities that require throwing
  • Bricklaying
  • Plumbing
  • Work that involves excessive lifting or turning of the wrist

Professions and Hobbies that require Repetitive Arm Movements:

Dentists

Raking

Butchers

Musicians

Computer Operators

In addition, Carpentry, knitting, painting, and typing are the activities in which vigorous use of the forearm muscle is required.

Symptoms of Tennis Elbow:

Recurring pain on the outer area of the upper forearm is a common symptom. While lifting, bending, and twisting the arm, grabbing the objects, and writing, if you have severe pain just towards the wrist.

You may face difficulty in holding a cup, turning a doorknob, and shaking hands. When pain extends towards the wrist and forearm from the outer area of the elbow. When a mild elbow pain while shaking an object or opening a jar gets worse.

If you experience stiffness and mild discomfort on the outside of the upper forearm or in the back of your hand while holding a thing for long. Another common symptom of tennis elbow is the soreness of the forearm muscles.

How To Prevent Tennis Elbow:

In order to prevent tennis elbow from recurring or developing, you can take some measures. First of all, you need to avoid exercises that place stress on your tendons. Do a proper warm up and stretching before playing sports that require repetitive arm movements.

Don’t use your elbow and wrist more than the rest of your arm. You can get some coaching advice for the techniques that can help to prevent tennis elbow. You can boost the grip size of racquets to avoid putting a strain on tendons. While using your arm, you can wear a tennis elbow splint. Perform activities that enhance the strength of your forearm muscles.

Treatment:

There are self-care measures, over-the-counter medications, and therapy that can help. Most of the doctors recommend the victims for surgery in severe cases.

Therapy:

The physical therapists can make you aware of exercises that stretch and fortify the muscles of your forearm. Eccentric exercises can strengthen the extensor muscles in the forearm. You can reduce stress on the injured tissue with a forearm strap or brace.

Non-surgical Treatments

Steroid Injections

Ultrasound

Rest

Exercise

Compression/bracing

NSAIDS

Exercises That Help To Prevent Tennis Elbow:

Several exercises play a pivotal role in preventing tennis elbow. Here are the names and steps to do these exercises:

1. Wrist Turn

The initial step is to bend your elbow at a 90 degree angle

The next step is extending the hand outwards with the palm facing up

Twist your wrist

For 5 seconds, keep in that position

Do the same nine times more

Complete two sets of 10 repetitions

2. Elbow bend

For this exercise, you need to stand straight

Lower your arm to one side

Bend the arm in an upward direction till it touches the shoulders

Keep in that position for 15-30 seconds

Repeat this exercise nine times

3. Wrist Extensor Flex

Raise the arm in front of your body

Bend the wrist in the upward direction with the palm facing down

Pull your fingers towards your body gently with other hand

Keep in this position for 15-30 seconds

Re-straighten the wrist

Repeat it two times

Complete two more sets of 3 repetitions

4. Wrist Extensor Stretch

Raise the arm in front of your body

Bend the wrist downwards with the palm facing up

Pull the stretching hand back towards the body with other hand

Keep in this position for 15 to 30 seconds

Straighten the wrist

Repeat the same twice

Finish two more sets of 3 repetitions

5. Wrist Lift, palm up

Wrist Lift, palm up

Grip a small dumbbell or a tin of food that is lightweight

Bend the elbow at a 90 degree angle

With the palm facing up extend the hand outwards

Bend the wrist upwards to the body

Keep in this position for 5 seconds before releasing slowly

Do the same nine times

6. Fist Squeeze

Place a rolled-up towel, tennis ball or sock in the palm

The next step is to grip the towel or ball with fingers and form a fist

For 10 seconds, squeeze it in a tight manner

Keep doing it nine times more

7. Wrist turn with weight

This wrist turn is quite similar to the wrist turn mentioned above. The only difference is you can grip a tin of food or small dumbbell  that is lightweight.

8. Fist clench

For Fist clench, towel and table are primarily required. This exercise is excellent for forearm muscles.

Roll and hold a towel in the right hand

Then place it on a table

For 10 seconds, squeeze the towel

Just Release and do the same for at least 10 times

Repeat all the steps with the left hand

9. Wrist Extension

Hold a hand weight in the right hand and sit in a chair

Use a table or your thigh to lean the forearm

Bend the wrist upwards by keeping the forearm in place

Lift the hand weight as much as you can

Lower the weight back down gradually

Do the same 5 times

10. Supination with a dumbbell

2 pound dumbbell and table are primarily required for this exercise.

Start it by sitting in a chair and make sure your forearm rests on a table.

The hand and wrist should be above the edge of the table

With a 2 pound dumbbell having its one side in palm, rotate the hand and wrist

Face up your palm towards the roof or ceiling

For 5 to 10 seconds, keep holding its end position

Rotate the hand back up to straighten the dumbbell

Rotate your wrist as well with the palm facing down

Keep in this position for a few seconds

Rotate your hand backward to point the weight to the ceiling

Keep doing the same for 10-15 times

11. Rest Your Elbow

It is advisable to rest your elbow but not for many days. Your arm muscle may become feeble and the joint may stiffen if you rest it in a complete manner for many days. With regular breaks, you can continue doing activities that put less strain on the damaged muscles. While performing activities, make sure that you are wearing a splint, strap or clasp around your forearm.

12. Wrist flexion

Hold a dumbbell in hand while sitting in a chair, keep the palm facing up and rest the elbow on your knee

The next step is to Flex and curl the wrist towards your body

Go back to starting position and do the same 10 times on each side

Isolate the movement towards the wrist and keep your entire arm still

13. Towel Twist:

Take a towel in both hands while sitting in a chair and relax the shoulders

Twist the towel in opposite direction with both hands

The next thing you need to do is wringing the water out

Twist the towel 10 times and repeat the same in other direction as well

Living with tennis elbow

Various people recover from tennis elbow once the treatment is done. To avert them from recurring, a brace or physical therapy can be effective.

When To Call A Doctor:

If there is a bulge or lump on arm

If the pain does not reduce

If there is swelling or reddishness on the affected area

If you can’t move your arm properly