What is Tennis Elbow? Common Side Effects and Treatments
October 20th, 2020
What is Tennis Elbow? Common Side Effects and Treatments
You don’t have to be a tennis player to develop a bad case of tennis elbow. Keep reading to learn more about this condition and how it’s treated.
We all expect a few aches and pains from time to time, especially as we get older. When you’re feeling something that goes beyond a short-term ache, though, it’s a signal to pay attention.
One such injury, called tennis elbow, is especially common. While it’s usually not severe, it can be a serious damper on your comfort and your ability to do your job.
What Is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow is the common term for an injury called lateral epicondylitis. It’s an inflammation in the tendons along the outside of your elbow. In other words, it affects the tendons that attach to the bony tip of your elbow, not the crook of your arm.
Tennis elbow happens when those tendons are overworked. This is how it gets its name: the motion of swinging a tennis racket exercises those tendons. If you overexert them, they can become inflamed or develop tiny but painful tears.
As common as this injury is for tennis players, they aren’t the only ones who are affected. Any time you’re overusing your elbow in ways that use those tendons, you could develop tennis elbow.
This injury is especially frequent among painters, carpenters, plumbers, and butchers. Those jobs require similar repetitive motions to playing tennis.
Signs You May Have Tennis Elbow
Pain is the primary symptom of tennis elbow. You’ll feel pain near the bony point of your elbow because this is where the tendons join to your bone. The pain could also extend along your forearm and into your wrist.
In most cases, you’ll have the pain in one elbow: the one you’ve overused. If you’ve been using both elbows in a particular job or hobby, though, it’s possible to get tennis elbow in both arms.
If you have tennis elbow, you’re also likely to have more pain when you do anything that works those tendons. Something as simple as turning a doorknob or carrying a glass of water could make your pain worse.
If you suspect that you have tennis elbow, it’s best to visit a doctor. They’ll be able to evaluate your injury and discover the best way to treat it or determine if the symptoms point to other possibilities.
Common Treatments for Tennis Elbow
If you have tennis elbow, what can you expect from your treatment? Fortunately, most cases are easy to treat.
Your body has an incredible ability to heal itself, but only if you give it time to do so. If you continue using your tendons while you have tennis elbow, you could get more tearing and make your injury more severe.
Avoid the activity that irritated your elbow in the first place. Use your non-injured elbow for daily necessities.
For some people, it’s easier to avoid using their elbow if they put it in a sling or an elbow strap. You could make your own sling at home, no doctor’s visit is necessary.
Ice the Area
Ice reduces inflammation and pain when you have an injury. It’s a helpful way to stay comfortable while you’re giving your elbow time to heal.
Don’t apply ice to your skin directly. Put the icepack or bag of ice inside a cloth so it doesn’t injure your skin.
Ice your elbow for 20-30 minutes and wait several hours before icing it again. This will reduce the inflammation without putting you at risk for an injury from the ice itself.
Another helpful way to reduce your pain and inflammation is with over-the-counter pain relievers. Look for NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen.
As with ice, remember that you still need to rest your elbow while using these medications. If the medicine takes away the pain, that doesn’t mean your elbow is safe to use again. Wait until your pain is gone without taking NSAIDs.
The treatments above are helpful home remedies for managing your pain. However, many people find that as their tennis elbow heals, they have stiffness and limited range of motion.
This is why upper extremity therapy is so crucial if you have tennis elbow. A knowledgeable occupational therapist will be able to guide you through exercises to restore your strength and flexibility.
With this type of therapy, though, it’s critical to start your regimen at the right time and to perform your tennis elbow exercises correctly. For these reasons, consult with an experienced occupational therapist first.
We’ll be able to set up a therapy schedule that best suits your needs. We’ll also be able to guide you through certain exercises and potentially give you exercises to do at home. Don’t try this on your own before consulting with a therapist because it could lead to further injury.
Surgery in Rare Cases
Most cases of tennis elbow are mild enough to treat with rest, pain management, and occupational therapy. In rare cases of severe tearing, though, you might need surgery.
In tennis elbow surgery, a surgeon will repair your tendon and may remove damaged areas of the tendon. As with any surgery, this will require recovery time as well as occupational therapy to regain your elbow flexibility.
Doctors typically recommend surgery if your tennis elbow doesn’t respond to other treatments. If it hasn’t healed within six months or longer, surgery could be your best option.
Getting on Track With Treating Your Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow can affect every part of your life by causing daily pain and making it difficult to do normal tasks. If you’re suffering, though, you don’t need to wait it out. The treatments above can help your tennis elbow heal while also giving you back your quality of life.
If you have or suspect tennis elbow, call our occupational therapy office today to schedule your appointment.