Tennis elbow is a painful condition in the elbow area, which occurs due to the damage of muscles that move hands and fingers. These muscles are located on the outer side of the forearm and are connected to the chord on the lower outer part of the upper arm bone called the lateral epicondyle. In this tendons degenerative and inflammatory changes can occur that cause tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis).
The causes of such tendons damages are most commonly consequence of chronic stimulation due to frequent and repeated arm movements associated with certain occupations or sports. The cause can also be a single trauma, such as carrying a heavy load. Thus, tennis elbow is usually seen as a professional disease of plumbers, painters, carpenters, gardeners, people who work on the computer, typists, some musicians, generallyall professions that require frequent use of the forearm muscles. It can also be seen on tennis players and it is considered that about 30% of tennis players at a certain time of their careers develop tennis elbow. It affects both men and women and in 75% of cases occurs in the dominant hand (right of the right-handed).
Symptoms of tennis elbow
• Pain on the outside of the forearm below the elbow joint, which sometimes spreads down the arm to the hand.
• The pain is caused by bending, lifting the arm or by holding even the smallest objects such as a cup of coffee.
• The pain usually begins gradually and later becomes stronger. Depending on the severity of the damage, the pain may be mild and occurs later after the activity; can last during the activity and become more intense; or it may be constant and tough, so that it prevents activity.
• Sensitivity to touch at the elbow area.
• Sometimes it is difficult to fully stretch your arm out.
• Tennis elbow rarely causes swelling of the joint, so in this case you should suspect another condition such as arthritis or gout.
Tennis elbow shouldn’t be confused with the so-called Golfer’s elbow. Golf elbow or medial epicondylitis is the condition in which there is damage to tendons and muscles that are located on the inside of the forearm and are responsible for bending the hand and fingers. Nob of its tendons is located on the inner side of the upper arm bone (medial epicondyle). This case is not very common, and in opposite to tennis elbow pain occurs on the inside of the elbow.
Tennis elbow – diagnosis and treatment
Diagnosis of these painful conditions is established by medical examination, as well as on the basic information about occupation and sport activities of the patient. Radiographic results of the elbow joint are usually normal.
Home treatment for tennis elbow
Rest your elbow – your elbow should be resting but you should not avoid all activities. Sometimes, wearing splints may help in reducing morning symptoms.
Ice – Ice or cold water compresses can help to reduce swelling after an injury. Try to apply ice as soon as possible.
Bandage- Use an elastic bandage to wrap and secure the injured area.
Keep your elbow above heart level – whenever possible, keep the elbow above the heart, to prevent or limit swelling.
Painkillers – They may help to relieve symptoms in the easier cases of the condition.
Taking a rest and medications can often help you to release the pain, but if conservative treatments do not help or if the symptoms prevent you from normal activities, your doctor may suggest a surgery.
Treatment should begin as soon as possible. As long as the pain is there it is very important for patient to take a break from work and sports activities. Ice packs and medicines should be used for combating pain and inflammation. You can wear the so-called orthosis, to secure the affected arm or leg. Orthosiskeeps the wrist in such a position that the affected tendons in the elbow arefree from tension and fingers and elbow are completely mobile. In severe cases, short-term injections of corticosteroids can be applied to the spot of inflammation.
When you reduce the pain, you should start with stretching exercises and strengthening the affected muscles, which should be continued after the pain ends with increased physical activity. For the control of inflammation in tennis elbow is also used physical therapy: electrotherapy, magnetic therapy, ultrasound, and a particularly effective – a sound shock wave therapy (ESWT). Treatment can last for weeks and sometimes months. If after prolonged treatment satisfactory results are not achieved, or if painful episodes repeat, it is time for surgical treatment that removes damaged tissue in the muscle-tendon structures.
If you want to prevent tennis elbow from recurring, it is necessary to “warm up” at least for 10 minutes with gentle stretching before starting any activity. It is also necessary to rest your hand, as often as possible. You should also regularly perform exercises that stretch and strengthen the muscles.