Although the name would suggest it’s caused by tennis, you might still get lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) even if you don’t play.
Tennis elbow is a condition caused by inflammation and swelling; tennis elbow symptoms include pain in the arm and elbow.
You can usually reverse and treat tennis elbow, but you could be in for years of pain and difficulties if you don’t act proactively. Therefore, it’s important to learn the risk factors and symptoms to prevent complications down the line.
Read on for the all-you-need-to-know guide to tennis elbow.
Tennis Elbow Symptoms
The symptoms of tennis elbow develop gradually over time; this is why it’s easy to ignore until symptoms become severe.
The first symptom is pain or burning in the elbow, lower arm, and back of the hand. This can start off feeling like a minor strain injury and progress to become more severe.
When the condition has developed further, it causes external tenderness and weak grip strength.
The pain will always be present when moving the elbow; if the condition is severe, the pain may also be there when the arm is still.
Tennis Elbow Causes
Tennis elbow is a form of repetitive strain injury, but it’s not confined to tennis. Any vigorous, repetitive movements of the arm can contribute to the condition.
Common reasons for developing tennis elbow include:
Each of these activities uses the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ERCB) muscle. When the ERCB is overused, it can become weak and lead to pain and inflammation in the tendons.
Anyone can develop tennis elbow, but age is a significant risk factor; you’re far more likely to get tennis elbow if you are between 30-50.
Tennis Elbow Diagnosis
Because the symptoms of tennis elbow are very specific, it makes diagnosis reasonably easy.
A doctor’s main concern will be ordering tests to rule out anything else first. Therefore, they will ask for a complete medical history and may order blood tests, x-rays, MRI scans, and EMG scans.
Once the doctor has ascertained that there is no underlying illness causing your pain, they’ll be able to diagnose tennis elbow.
Tennis Elbow Treatment
Because tennis elbow is a repetitive strain injury, the best thing to do is rest. In most cases, the symptoms will resolve on their own if you have patience. The good news is that there are a lot of ways you can help manage symptoms and improve your condition at home.
1. Early Prevention
As soon as you experience any symptoms of tennis elbow, you should stop what you’re doing, rest your arm, and visit a doctor. The doctor can advise you on the best course of action.
Acting early could prevent permanent damage down the line. Once you’ve finished at the doctor’s office, visit a chemist and see if they have any additional recommendations.
2. Cold Compresses
Ice packs and compresses are great for two reasons. First, they are effective pain management; they’ll provide you some immediate relief from your symptoms. But the main reason ice is a good idea is that it helps prevent any swelling from increasing and worsening.
You should get an ice pack or bag of frozen peas in a cloth and put it on your elbow for 20 minutes at a time. You can repeat this every 2-3 hours, but don’t put ice directly on your skin or leave it on while sleeping.
The next thing to consider is medications for pain management. NSAID medications like Tylenol or Motrin have anti-inflammatory properties that will ease symptoms and reduce swelling.
The doctor may also recommend steroid injections to alleviate swelling; these can be repeated every few months.
However, you should take caution while using painkillers. If your pain is managed well, you might think that you can go back to regular movements; if you aren’t careful, this could worsen your condition.
4. Physical Therapy
Although rest is best, there are some exercises you can do to strengthen the tendons and muscles in the elbow. Fist clenches, supinations, wrist extensions, and wrist flexions can all help.
You should always consult a physical therapist before doing this in case it makes your condition worse.
5. Arm Supports
A physician may recommend using braces, splints, or straps to hold your arm in the correct position and take the pressure off.
Wrist braces help decrease the pressure on the wrist extensor muscles and stop you from overusing the wrist. Elbow straps have a similar purpose but focus on the lateral elbow.
These steps and braces are available in every chemist, but some are more effective than others; make sure to ask for a recommendation from a healthcare professional.
6. Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy
PRP therapy is a non-surgical treatment for tendon injuries and joint pain. It is a safe option but needs to be done by a specialist tennis elbow doctor. PRP therapy speeds up the body’s natural healing process.
The doctor will take blood from your arm and process it until the platelets separate from the blood sample. Then, the platelets will be injected into the site of your injury.
Once injected, the platelets break down and release growth factors; your arm will heal naturally and quickly. PRP therapy is an effective treatment chosen by many athletes and tennis stars.
Don’t Let Tennis Elbow Symptoms Slow You Down
That’s everything you need to know about tennis elbow symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and the different treatment options. If you experience elbow pain, you know what to do.
When it comes to tennis elbow, early treatment and prevention are critical. However, if you’ve been battling with symptoms for a while and aren’t feeling better, it might be time to consider PRP therapy.
If you want to be injury-free, contact us today, and we can get you booked in for a consultation.