Even if you don't play tennis, you can still develop tennis elbow. In fact, only about 5% of cases are attributed to the sport, which means it is a very real threat to adults of all ages. With more than 200,000 cases per year in the United States, there is a good chance that you will experience tennis elbow at some point. Understanding the injury is the best way to protect yourself.
What is Tennis Elbow?
Referred to by doctors as lateral epicondylitis, tennis elbow tendonitis is a common injury that can usually be healed with simple at-home treatments. However severe tennis elbow can lead to more serious complications, making fast and effective treatment a priority. Despite its name, only a small number of cases are caused by a tennis-related injury.
Tennis elbow results from a series of small tears down the length your arm muscles. These tears become infected, leading to the symptoms of tennis elbow.
Tennis Elbow Location
In cases of tennis elbow, the muscle affected is the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB). This muscle runs down the length of your forearm and connects to the elbow. If left untreated, tennis elbow can spread to nearby soft tissue.
What Causes Tennis Elbow?
Since the damage associated with this condition develops over time, it can be difficult to pinpoint the precise causes of tennis elbow. However, discovering the cause is the first step toward an effective treatment.
How do you get tennis elbow? Muscle tearing can be caused by a wide variety of physical activities. Some of the more common tennis elbow causes include:
- Tennis and other racket sports
- Improperly performed exercises
Chronic tennis elbow is the result of these or similar activities performed over long periods of time. If you experience a dull, persistent ache in your outer forearm, consider whether your daily activities are to blame.
Tennis Elbow Symptoms
What are the symptoms of tennis elbow? Pain is the most obvious, but it can vary widely in intensity. Mild symptoms of tennis elbow may develop into severe pain over weeks or months.
Keep an eye out for these signs of tennis elbow, and seek treatment as early as possible.
- Tenderness on the outer forearm
- Stiffness in the joint, especially in the morning
- Elbow pain when gripping an object
What Does Tennis Elbow Look Like?
This is a common question among those looking to self-diagnose, however the fact is that tennis elbow does not come with easily identifiable visual symptoms. If you are not sure about the source of your tennis elbow symptoms and causes, consult a doctor.
What Does Tennis Elbow Feel Like?
Tennis elbow pain location is the main indicator of the disease—tennis elbow affects the outer forearm. To get a better idea of the nature of your condition, try gripping your fist tightly. If you experience excessive pain near your shoulder, tennis elbow is likely the cause.
Tennis Elbow Diagnosis
Treatment for tennis elbow always begins with a positive diagnosis of the condition. If you aren’t sure about the type of injury you are facing, talk to a doctor. Your doctor will perform a physical exam, during which you will perform simple wrist stretches to check for pain. An MRI scan may be required to obtain a diagnosis.
Tennis Elbow Treatment
Knowing how to treat tennis elbow is a matter of taking advantage of many different available options. The good news is that the cure for tennis elbow is likely be within arm’s reach, right in your own home.
Cold therapy reduces swelling and numbs pain to give you immediate relief from tennis elbow symptoms. ( See Product )
One of the most basic pieces of equipment for treating tennis elbow is a quality ice pack. Cold therapy helps muscles heal by improving circulation, which allows your body to fight inflammation more effectively. For even greater relief, try contrast therapy. Simple wraps made of antibacterial tape are also a fast way to provide compression to the injury and promote healing
After on-the-spot treatments, continue to the long-term solutions listed below. With consistent care, finding your own tennis elbow cure is just a matter of time.
Tennis Elbow Pain Relief
Treatment for tennis elbow pain often involves several different medications, from easily accessible over-the-counter options to doctor-prescribed solutions. Find out how to treat tennis elbow pain by starting with the right choice for you.
Pain relievers like Advil and Motrin IB can relieve discomfort. While they won’t do much to reduce inflammation, they will make the days and weeks of recovery much more tolerable.
For more serious cases, corticosteroids can be delivered directly to the muscle through a doctor’s injection. This is one of the best short-term tennis elbow remedies, but is not an effective solution for chronic cases, as the injections may wear away at the muscle over time.
Tennis Elbow Surgery
Surgery for tennis elbow is most effective for chronic cases, after other treatment options are exhausted. The procedure involves trimming the tendon that attaches to the elbow, and in some cases removing and reattaching the tendon to the bone. While it can ultimately cure tennis elbow, requires an extended recovery time.
Alternative Tennis Elbow Relief
Nontraditional treatments may not have the approval of every doctor, but some patients have reported success. Tennis elbow acupuncture is one of the more popular methods explored.
Acupuncture for tennis elbow involves inserting many thin needles into the muscles around the body at specific points. The procedure relieves pain and is gaining popularity in the United States.
Products that Help Reduce Tennis Elbow
Tennis Elbow Recovery Time
Tennis elbow recovery can vary widely. Mild injuries can clear up a couple weeks, with full functionality restored completely. However chronic cases, especially those that require surgery, can take much longer.
Recovery from tennis elbow surgery can last for several months and include a rigorous routine of physical therapy and medication. Physical therapy usually begins six weeks after surgery and will continue until pain has disappeared and the arm has regained functionality.
How to Prevent Tennis Elbow
The best cure for tennis elbow is prevention. Tennis elbow prevention is a matter of maintaining a healthy body and strong muscles. If you make regular, repetitive use of your elbow for a sport, hobbies, or work, taking extra precautions is a good idea.
Try the elbow exercises listed above to build your muscle strength. Remember your physical limitations during rigorous activity, and if you feel an increasing ache in your elbow, take a five-minute break. Also consider wearing an elbow brace as a preventative measure.
How to Get Rid of Tennis Elbow
Now that you know how to help tennis elbow, be proactive, put all the information together, and build a comprehensive plan for lifelong joint health. While the results may not be immediate, consistent and quality care will reduce your symptoms over the course of a few days.
If you are still at a loss as to what to do for tennis elbow, your doctor can point you in the right direction.