Are you struggling with tennis elbow? This is an incredibly common condition, particularly as we get older, and despite its name, it has nothing to do with the sport! The condition develops after regular and repetitive use of your forearm muscles, causing the outer side of your elbow to become inflamed and sore.
Not only can this be an incredibly painful condition, but it can also be very debilitating, preventing you from carrying out your day-to-day life with ease. For some people, tennis elbow can begin as a minor inconvenience, but if you find that your symptoms are getting worse, we have taken a closer look at some tips to ease your discomfort and improve your flexibility.
What causes tennis elbow?
In order to understand how you can reduce the symptoms of tennis elbow, it is first important to understand what causes it. Our elbows are incredibly complex parts of our bodies, made up of multiple bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
When we move our arms, these all work together to give us the movement and strength we need to play sports, move objects, garden, paint, sew, and do any other activity that requires our hands. However, repeatedly making these same movements and using the same muscles continuously places extreme pressure and strain on your body, resulting in the area becoming inflamed. This can then make it incredibly painful as well as restrict your movement.
For many people, tennis elbow will begin very mildly, with a slight pain and burning sensation on the outer side of the elbow. However, over time, this pain and inflammation will continue to worsen and restrict you further; it can also cause your strength to weaken, making it harder to carry out normal everyday tasks.
How is tennis elbow diagnosed?
At times, we have all probably felt some form of discomfort in our elbows. However, if that is a consistent pain and you are noticing that your movement is also being restricted, then you should speak with your doctor.
In order to diagnose tennis elbow, your orthopedic specialist will ask you about your symptoms and lifestyle before examining your elbow and arm. They will likely also ask you for additional imagery tests so they can see how the ligaments and tissue look inside the elbow. This will usually be in the form of an X-ray, CT scan, MRI Scan, or ultrasound.
Using all this information, they will then be able to diagnose the severity of your tennis elbow and also recommend options to improve the condition.
How to improve your tennis elbow symptoms
If you find that your tennis elbow is getting worse, it can be an incredibly frustrating time. Thankfully, there are certain things that you can do to help ease the discomfort and reduce the inflammation in your joints.
If you have only just started to notice the discomfort of your tennis elbow, then one of the best things that you can do is to rest your arm. The condition is caused by continuous and repetitive movements, so stopping those and resting for as long as possible can help to reduce the swelling and ease the pain.
Of course, this can be difficult if the pain is caused by work or essential tasks. In these instances, if you are unable to rest, then try to alternate arms where possible, and use your shoulder and upper arm muscles to reduce the strain. You should also try not to reach too far, keeping your motion in the middle of its range by not straightening or bending the arm too much.
2) Take pain relief
If you find that the pain from your tennis elbow is becoming too much, then you can try to ease that discomfort by taking pain medication. Standard over-the-counter medication will often be enough to take the edge away and allow you to get on with your day.
However, if your tennis elbow is severe, then these medications might not be enough to ease the pain sufficiently. In this instance, your doctor might recommend some stronger painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs.
3) Ice your elbow
As with any injury, icing your elbow can be a great way to reduce the pain and inflammation that you are experiencing. Holding a cold pack to your elbow can help to reduce the swelling and improve your flexibility. The coldness of the ice pack will also help to ease the pain, allowing you to get back to the tasks you love.
In severe cases, having physical therapy can help to provide long-term relief from the pain and inflammation of tennis elbow. A physical therapist will work with you to stretch and strengthen your muscles, identifying the areas that are most in need and helping you to reduce the stress on the tissues and ligaments around the joint.
These exercises will vary depending on the individual and the causes of the tennis elbow, and they may also recommend wearing a brace or a strap to support you.
5) Surgical treatment
While the vast majority of individuals with tennis elbow will not require any surgical treatment, in extreme circumstances, your doctor might recommend undertaking additional treatment. This could be injections such as platelet-rich plasma, which help to reduce the pain and ease the inflammation.
They might also recommend ultrasonic tenotomy, but if these symptoms do not ease after six months, then they may recommend going for surgery. This will remove any of the damaged tissue, helping to improve your range of movement and ease the pain.
How to prevent tennis elbow
Prevention is essential in helping you to reduce the risk of developing tennis elbow. The best method of prevention is to ensure you are resting regularly in between sessions and also make sure that you are following the recommended techniques and practices when carrying out exercise or activities.
You should also ensure that you are warmed up beforehand, stretching your muscles before undertaking any activities that require repetitive arm movements. If you are finding that sport or manual work is causing your tennis elbow, then consider utilizing lighter tools to avoid placing too much strain on your muscles.
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