You don’t have to play tennis to get tennis elbow
One of the most common causes of elbow and forearm pain is lateral epicondylitis. It gets it’s other name, tennis elbow, because a lot of tennis players suffer from this condition. The main causes are repetitive actions of the forearm muscles that strain their attachments around the elbow. Sometimes simple activities such as repetitive use of tools or gardening can cause tennis elbow. I really sympathize since I had a case of this myself several years ago. It was difficult to pick up a coffee cup, play golf, and sleep at times.
Mine got better and yours can too!
Another similar condition is Golfer’s elbow. This occurs on the inner aspect of the elbow. It is a similar condition from repetitive strain often created in the golf swing. Sometime a change in your swing will start an episode.
Whichever condition you have, tennis elbow is frustrating. It can make simple activities such as lifting a glass or buttoning your pants a chore. Micro tears in the attachments of the forearm muscles cause inflammation of the elbow. If these tears are not allowed to heal, degenerative tissue forms around the elbow.
You can’t stretch tennis elbow enough!
When I can get involved early I try to teach some simple solutions. The most important thing to do for tennis elbow is stop the aggravating activity. Age old doctor wisdom! Then start stretching the forearm muscles regularly:
- Hold your elbow locked out straight
- Pull the back of your hand down to the ground
- Hold for 30 seconds (if it feels tight in your forearm you are doing it right!)
- Then pull the fingers of the hand up and hold for 30 seconds to stretch the other side of the forearm
- Repeat this on both elbows for good measure
- You really can’t stretch enough
Using an anti-inflammatory pill or cream may also help. A tennis elbow strap can be worn during activities that are painful. Most patients come in wearing the strap over the painful area of the elbow. However, the best place to wear the strap is about 3 inches down the forearm from the painful area. This will move the muscle forces away from the damaged area. Make sure to release the strap when you stretch.
A cortisone shot can quickly relieve the pain, but stretching must be a part of the long term solution. Newer injections with platelet gels are being studied as options for tennis elbow.
Procedures for tennis elbow
When these simple things have not worked with your tennis elbow then a procedure may be necessary to remove the degenerative tissue. Most of these are outpatient procedures. With a little rest and rehabilitation you can be back to your game quickly. Newer treatments can use a probe to remove the diseased tissue with minimal incisions and recovery.
Remember to stretch your forearms frequently before and after activities.
If you have any questions or good stories about tennis elbow let me know!