Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is a painful condition that occurs when the tendons in your elbow are overloaded, usually by repetitive motion of the wrist and arm.
Despite its name, athletes are not the only ones developing tennis elbows. The people whose jobs include the features of motions that can be tennis elbows include plumber, painter, carpenter, and butcher.
Tennis elbow pain occurs primarily where the tendons of your arm muscles are attached to a bone joint outside your elbow. The pain can also spread to your hands and wrists.
Rest and over-the-counter pain relievers often help relieve tennis elbows. If conservative treatment does not help or if the symptoms go away, your doctor may recommend surgery.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
Symptoms of a tennis elbow include pain and tenderness in the ligaments on the outside of your elbow. This is the masonry where the injured tendons are attached to the bone. The pain can also radiate to the upper or lower arm. Although the damage is in the elbow, you can get injured while working with your hands.
Tennis elbow can be the most painful when you:
- Pick something up
- Grab a fist or an object, such as a tennis racket
- Open a door or shake hands
- Extend your arms or straighten your wrists
The tennis elbow is similar to another condition called the golfer’s elbow, which affects the tendons inside the elbow.
To diagnose your tennis elbow, your doctor will do a thorough examination. They will want to see where your hands, wrists, and elbows are turning. You may also need imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to diagnose tennis elbows or to rule out other problems.
Treatment of Tennis Elbow
The good news about the treatment is that the tennis elbow usually heals on its own. All you have to do is break your elbow and do what you can to speed up the healing process. Types of treatment that help:
- Icing elbows to reduce pain and swelling. Experts recommend doing this for 2 to 3 days or every 3 to 4 hours for 20 to 30 minutes until the pain subsides.
- Using elbow straps to protect the injured tendon from further strain:
- Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin to help with pain and swelling. However, these drugs can cause side effects such as bleeding and ulcers. You should only use them occasionally, unless your doctor says otherwise, as they may delay healing. Your doctor may recommend that you do this three to five times a day.
- Taking physical therapy to strengthen and stretch muscles:
- Giving steroids or painkiller injections to temporarily reduce some swelling and pain around the joint. Studies have shown that steroid injections do not help in the long run.