Tennis Elbow – Causes and Treatments

Do you have pain in your elbow? Does it hurt more than usual? There is a strong chance that you are suffering from elbow tendonitis aka lateral epicondylitis, or tennis elbow. It’s a painful elbow condition usually occurring due to overuse.

Unsurprisingly, athletes suffer from this problem the most. Sports like tennis, badminton, cricket, and any other activity requiring you to use your elbow could put you at risk of suffering from elbow tendonitis.

Tennis Elbow/Elbow Tendonitis – What is it?

Tennis elbow is a condition that inflames the tendons joining your forearm muscles to your outer elbow. Repeating particular movements almost every day is a common reason behind this issue. It leads to tenderness and pain in the outer area of your elbow.

Fortunately, there are numerous treatments for elbow tendonitis. It is a significant reason why most athletes recover from this condition and return to their sport quickly. Sure, some cases are more severe and require more healing time, but they too make it back and return to training and competitions after adequate rest and care.

Most tennis elbow treatments require a team-based approach. Physical therapists, primary doctors, orthopedic specialists, and surgeons collaborate to ensure individuals suffering from this condition get the necessary attention to heal quickly.

Some researchers suggest that elbow tendonitis occurs because of damage to a particular forearm muscle. The ECRB (extensor carpi radialis brevus) muscle stabilizes our wrists when we straighten our elbows. Tennis groundstroke and other similar movements are often the cause of ECRB damage.

As mentioned earlier, it becomes weak due to overuse and leads to microscopic tears in your tendon, causing pain and inflammation.

The extensor carpi radialis brevus could also damage due to its position. Straightening and bending of our elbows cause our muscles to rub with bone bumps, causing our muscles to wear and tear over time.

Does Elbow Tendonitis Only Happen to Athletes?

Contrary to popular belief, elbow tendonitis happens to non-athletes too. Many people with this condition participate in recreational activities requiring vigorous and repetitive use of their forearm muscles.

Carpenters, plumbers, and painters are particularly common susceptible to developing elbow tendonitis. Butchers, cooks, and autoworkers also get tennis elbow more than others do. The weight lifting and repetition needed in these occupations could be a significant cause that causes this injury.

When to Get Your Elbow Checked

In most cases, patients go to the doctor two to four months after getting suffering from elbow pain. However, it would be best not to wait that long and discuss this matter with your physician as soon as possible.

Sports medicine specialists claim that enduring elbow pain does not do patients any favors. Instead, it worsens their conditions and could even cause tendon degeneration.

Doctors describe tennis elbow as having a tiny mucous ball trapped in the tendon. Of course, not every case of elbow pain is tendonitis, but you shouldn’t rule out the possibility and get a professional to closely analyze your condition and recommend the adequate treatments.

Does Elbow Tendonitis Always Require Surgery?

Surgery for tennis elbow depends upon the severity of your condition. Some people recover without going under the knife, while others may require surgery – however, doctors recommend minimally invasive procedures for some cases.

Fortunately, you can return to your favorite sport despite your case’s severity. Of course, your resting and recovery period will be longer than others, but you could speed up the process by following your doctor’s orders.

Treating Elbow Tendonitis – The First Steps

You doctor will most likely recommend the following treatments if you are facing elbow tendonitis for the first time:

  • Physical therapy to strengthen and stretch the forearm
  • Using an elbow tendonitis strap
  • Rest
  • Prescribing anti-inflammatory drugs

Unfortunately, conservative treatments do not work for some patients. However, there are other ways to stimulate a non-invasive recovery process. Your physician could ask you to get a musculoskeletal ultrasound image to get a closer look at your particular situation.

Some doctors may even skip the treatments mentioned above and order you to get the ultrasound images earlier.

The imaging lets enables your doctor to analyze your tendon’s precise characteristics and pinpoint where the degeneration is taking place. Platelet-rich plasma or corticosteroid injections could control the inflammation.

That said, these injections are not as reliable as other treatments. You may require surgery if injection therapy and conservative treatments do not work.

Can I Return to Sports After a Tennis Elbow Surgery?

Elbow tendonitis surgeries have an excellent success rate. Surgeons repair damaged areas by exposing the tendon. You will need to rest and recover for two to seven months, depending on your specific case.

The doctor will prescribe you some medicines and create a physical therapy schedule for the upcoming months. It would be best if you did not skip these sessions as they will speed up your recovery and could even help you resume athletic activities sooner than expected.

However, do not return to sports or any other activity unless your doctor gives you the thumbs up. Not abiding by the recommended resting period could aggravate your injury and cause infection. Some people even lose their strength and flexibility by ignoring their surgeon’s orders.

Do not rush your return to normal activities once your doctor clears you. Instead, start with slow and steady movements to regain your range of motion and strength. Track your progress and inform your doctor about it in follow-up visits to ensure they tell you if your recovery has been successful.

Other Conventional Ways to Treat Your Tennis Elbow

Approaching for medical help can be pretty expensive depending on the severity of your tennis elbow pain. If you are not quite ready to face them, then there are some decent home remedies that you can try out first.

These methods may not guarantee you overnight success. Success rate depends on how often you apply these methods for a certain period of time.

Ice

You can simply use some ice cubes to treat your tennis elbow as cold helps to ease the inflammation and swollen areas. Simply cover them with a thin cloth and apply it on your elbow where you feel the pain. For better support, place your elbow on a soft cushion.

Apply some pressure to the affected area for about 20 minutes. Please do not exceed over 20 minutes. Do this a few times a day when time permits for you. Just to take note never to place the ice cubes directly on your skin as it might cause some damage to your delicate tissues.

If you don’t want to use any ice cubes, you can simply use an ice pack where you can apply it directly on your skin.

Spiky Ball Massage

Use the spiky massage ball to roll over those veins and muscles groups below and top of your forearm.

Start from the wrist and all the way to the elbow. You can either use your hand to roll it or simply place the ball on a table or any flat stable surface area and roll your forearm over it.

Roll the spiky ball from side to side and forward to backward motion covering every inch as you move up towards your elbow. Do ensure to apply some level of pressure till you feel the nerves and tissues being massaged and your fingers moving automatically in a relaxed state.

Cover every inch using this pressure for about 20 to 30 seconds. You should experience some level of discomfort or pain in the beginning. That should be fine as it is good pain and you’ll get used to it as you progress.

When coming towards the elbow, place it above your elbow joint and below your triceps and continue rubbing the ball from side to side, up and down motions at different angles kneading your tight tendon muscles.

Doing this spiky ball massage will release some level of tightness in your extensor muscle groups of your forearms and increase blood flow too.

Do not be disheartened if you are not experiencing any improvements doing these home remedies. It will take a longer time to fully cure it as opposed to approaching your doctor. That is unless if you want a faster recovery.

Have patience will rule the world!

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