Tennis elbow involves pain and inflammation of the tendons which attach the forearm muscles to the outer part of the elbow. This develops when the individual misuses the forearm muscles while engaging in certain activities such as weightlifting or racket sports. Certain occupations such as carpenters, butchers, painters or plumbers are more likely to end up with tennis elbow. Most of these cases can be treated effectively without surgery.
Measures to provide relief to tennis elbow
- The individual must take a break from any activity that triggered the development of tennis elbow for several weeks.
- You can provide the individual suffering from tennis elbow with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or aspirin to help reduce the pain and swelling.
- An ice pack can be used to reduce the discomfort. It must be applied 15-20 minutes for 3-4 times throughout the day once the injury is suspected.
- The affected elbow should be covered using a tensor bandage or put on a compression brace. Both work by reducing the swelling in the affected elbow.
- The individual should include gentle exercises for the forearm once the swelling and pain subsides. When stretching the affected forearm, the individual should stretch out the arm in front and gently pull down the hand using the other hand until a slight stretch is felt. Hold for about 5-10 seconds and then relax. This must be repeated for up to 6 times.
- The affected arm must be stretched. After about 2-3 weeks or when the pain is absent, the individual should engage in strengthening exercises. The individual can take a seat while grasping a light-weight dumbbell or medium-sized can of soup in the hand of the involved arm. The forearm must be placed on the knee so that the wrist is right over the knee. The individual should allow the hand to drop to the ground. Steadily raise the hand and hold for about 2 seconds and slowly lower the hand. This can be repeated 10 times at 3-5 times in a day.
Important considerations to bear in mind
The individual should not stretch out the forearm more than its comfortable range. Once the individual experiences increasing pain while performing the strengthening exercises, he/she must perform them without using any weight first.
In case the symptoms persist after 6-12 months with home treatment, a doctor should be consulted. Such cases might require surgery to restore the damaged muscle tissues or to reattach it to the bone.
The individual should always keep the affected arm higher than the level of the heart as often as possible. In case the individual could not completely avoid any of the activities that triggered the condition, the doctor might recommend a forearm strap or brace to minimize the stress on the injured area.
Tennis elbow can be prevented from recurring with proper warm up. The arms should be warmed up before the start of any activity and always utilize proper techniques. In addition, a protective brace can be used to help.