Tennis Elbow: Exercises, Treatment and Prevention

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Tennis elbow, also known as Lateral epicondylitis, is a condition that causes pain in the outer side of your elbow. It would surprise you to know that, despite its name, 95% of the people who suffer from this condition are non-tennis players.

Nevertheless, tennis elbow is often caused by strain or overuse, which results in damaged tendons around the elbow area. In many individuals, these symptoms get alleviated simply by ceasing to do the actions that cause them.

How what happens when you have tennis-elbow?

For most individuals with this condition, pain will typically manifest itself only when they use their wrists or forearms, especially when doing twisting movements such as opening a jar or turning a doorknob.

Nonetheless, this pain might be constant for some individuals and could occur even while they are resting. This may affect their sleeping patterns. The pain usually travels down from your elbow towards the wrist area and can make simple things such as holding cutlery or straightening your arm extremely difficult.

The causes of tennis elbow

The source of the pain in this condition is located where tendons from your forearm muscles are attached to the elbow bone. The pain is thought to result from the inflammation and thickening of these tendons and their subsequent degeneration.

Who is susceptible to this tennis elbow?

Tennis-elbow will most likely affect individuals between 40 and 60 years of age. It affects both sexes without bias.

Additionally, this condition is likely to occur to you if you do not have strong forearm muscles. For instance, it may occur if you decide to play a lot of tennis suddenly while on holiday, or perform some other taxing activity that your forearms are not used to.

Even if you are used to demanding work that taxes your forearms, you can still injure your tendons by overdoing that task. Individuals whose work relies on gripping and twisting actions such as plasterers and carpenters are also very prone to getting this condition.

Diagnosing tennis-elbow

Your physician can diagnose this condition simply by examining your arms and taking you through the symptoms. This will be affirmed by the pain you feel as they examine your outer elbow. Your doctor could also ask you to move your wrist in various directions, so they can see whether this causes pain.

Tests are not always necessary to diagnose this condition as it is usually straightforward. In the event that the physician feels that your elbow is not improving, they may refer you to a specialist such as a physiotherapist.

Treatment options for tennis elbow

  1. Pain Relief

    The first step towards treatment is alleviating the symptom, usually through applying an ice pack to your elbow. Painkillers such as paracetamol can also be of assistance.

    Additionally, anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen is often utilized to mitigate the symptoms of the injured elbow. Other anti-inflammatories come in the form of gels or creams that can be rubbed over the elbow.

  2. Physiotherapy

    This is the go-to tennis-elbow treatment. The benefit of physiotherapy is that it not only alleviates the painful symptoms but also ensures that the condition does not make a comeback in the future. This is due to the corrective procedures utilized in physiotherapy.

  3. Splints and Support

    This could involve wearing a bandage or a special elbow armband. These supports will offer your elbow protection until the symptoms subside.

  4. Steroid Injections

    A steroid injection is often used in cases where the pain is severe and the individual wants to ease the pain so that they can resume normal arm functions.

    Nevertheless, research has revealed that steroid injections are only beneficial for short-term purposes, as the pain tends to come back after the effects of the injection wear off.

    Thus, you will need to build up your muscles gradually after getting the shot to reduce the chances of the condition making a comeback. Steroid injections can still be applied once the pain recurs though it is not advisable to get more than three shots in one elbow.

  5. Autologous Blood Injection

    This involves drawing blood from your system and injecting it into the damaged tendons area. It is believed that blood helps heal these tendons. This procedure could see you get a local anesthetic in addition to having to wear a splint after the treatment. You might also require several treatment sessions in addition to physiotherapy.

  6. Surgery

    If the complications from your condition persist and resist any sort of treatment, your physician may prescribe surgery. Surgery involves removing the damaged parts to completely alleviate the symptoms. Nevertheless, only a few individuals will need surgery to alleviate their tennis-elbow.

How to cure tennis elbow

If you stop using your arm or avoid engaging in any activities that cause the symptoms, your tennis-elbow should cease troubling you after a while. Thus, painkillers and rest are what most people need to treat these symptoms.

The first thing you should do when treating this condition is to reduce the inflammation. You can do this by either applying ice packs or cooling bandages. Once the inflammation begins to subside, start doing gentle exercises that will help build and strengthen the forearm muscles.

Exercises you can do to prevent tennis elbow

    1. Wrist Flexor

      Wrist flexors are a muscle group that work conversely to the wrist extensors. These small group of muscles connect to the elbow and can be vulnerable to overuse, which can result in inflammation and pain. If you own a small dumbbell – about 2 lbs. – or a tin of similar proportions, you can use them to carry out the following wrist flexion exercise:

      1. Sit down while holding the dumbbell palm up. Make sure that your elbow rests on your knee

      2. With your palm still facing up, flex your wrist towards you

      3. Slowly uncurl until your wrist returns to the starting position

      4. Do ten repetitions for each side

      5. Ensure that the rest of your arm is stationary so that only the wrist is moving

    2. Towel Twist

      This exercise requires only the regular hand towel, it helps to work both wrist flexors and extensors:

      1. While sitting down, hold the towel with both hands

      2. Ensure your shoulders are back and relaxed

      3. Lightly twist the towel in wringing motion so that the wrists are moving in opposite directions

      4. Do ten repetitions for each direction then switch to the other direction

    3. Fist Clench

      Remember that weak grip strength can often increase your susceptibility to a bad elbow. Thus, you will need to enhance your grip strength so that strenuous activities do not cause a tennis-elbow. Here, you will also need a towel to work your long flexor tendons:

      1. Take a seat near a table and rest your forearm on the table

      2. Hold a rolled-up towel in your palm

      3. Squeeze the towel gently for about ten seconds

      4. Release, and then repeat ten more times

      5. Do the same for the other arm

These exercises, when done regularly, will help prevent the elbow from recurring. However, only attempt them after the inflammation has subsided, to prevent the injury from getting further aggravated.

To schedule an appointment, call Focus Physiotherapy today at 289-201-2451 or contact us here.

By |July 2nd, 2018|Exercises|Comments Off on Tennis Elbow: Exercises, Treatment and Prevention

About the Author:

Anthony Grande
Anthony Grande has been a Registered Physiotherapist since 1996. His desire to help people recover from their injuries pushed him to provide better care and get involved in professional and government organizations, where he gained the opportunity to be part of roundtables with Ministers and their staff. He specializes in medical acupuncture, sports injury recovery, and stroke and traumatic brain injury rehabilitation. Anthony devotes his personal time to his family, animal welfare, and social entrepreneurship.