Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis involves the swelling of the tendons that connect the forearm to the exterior of the elbow. Remember that anybody can end up with tennis elbow, irrespective of the fitness level or performance in sports.
Tennis elbow is one of the common overuse injuries where an individual strains the tendons close to the elbow joint not just from racquet sports but also from the following:
- Carpentry and plumbing
- Using a computer mouse
- Dicing and chopping food
Once the individual experiences a pattern of symptoms, it is best to seek treatment to reduce the pain as well as minimize the risk for invasive treatment.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of this overuse injury do not occur as an abrupt episode of acute pain, but in a gradual manner. The individual will initially notice pain or burning sensation around the outside of the elbow that can radiate down to the wrist after engaging in a strenuous physical activity. Take note that this pain is often followed by discomfort that persists and disrupts with daily life as the condition progresses. In most cases, the individual has experienced minor symptoms for several weeks or months before the pain progresses.
The symptoms include arm and wrist weakness as well as difficulty in holding objects using the fist. Even shaking hands with others can cause pain or impossible to perform due to the muscle and tendon damage. The dominant hand is usually affected but not always. The doctor will request for tests such as MRI to check if the pain is due to tennis elbow or impingement of a nerve such as herniated disk.
Treatment for tennis elbow
The vital part of managing tennis elbow is adequate rest. Any activity will only aggravate the condition and will not allow the body to heal. In case avoiding these activities is impossible, the doctor might recommend a forearm brace to provide the muscles and tendons support.
The application of an ice pack and over-the-counter NSAIDs can provide relief to the symptoms. If you want to learn more about cold therapy, click here. As for severe cases of tennis elbow, invasive treatment is required including the administration of steroid injections into the weakened muscles around the elbow. The last resort is the surgical removal of the affected muscle and reconnection of the tendons to the elbow.
It is important to note that observing the proper way on doing things is vital in preventing tennis elbow. Straining the soft tissues does not only occur from overuse but also from moving in an awkward manner while performing daily tasks or playing sports.
As for tennis elbow due to playing tennis, the condition can be prevented by learning the proper movement techniques. In the workplace, it is important to set up the office in an ergonomic manner to avoid straining the arms, neck and back while working.