What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow is a type of tendinitis, a swelling of the tendons; that causes pain in the elbow and arm. Tennis elbow can be caused by any repetitive gripping activities, especially if they use the thumb and first two fingers. The muscles become strained and the constant tugging can eventually cause microscopic tears in the tissue. Most people with elbow pain are experiencing tennis elbow; it is most common in people about 40 years of age.
Common Causes of Tennis Elbow
Common causes of tennis elbow include recreational activities such as tennis, racquetball, weight lifting, squash, and fencing. Tennis elbow can also affect people who work or have hobbies that use repetitive arm movements or gripping such as typing, painting, carpentry, knitting, and raking.
Tennis Elbow: Symptoms
The symptoms of tennis elbow are typically described as pain and tenderness in the bony knob on the outside of your elbow; this knob is where the injured tendons connect to the bone. Sometimes the pain may also radiate into the upper or lower arm and activities that require use of your hands may cause pain. Common activities that cause pain when a person has tennis elbow include lifting, making a fist or gripping an object, opening doors, shaking hands, raising your hand, or straightening your wrist.
If you are experiencing symptoms of tennis elbow, schedule an appointment with your medical doctor so he or she can perform a thorough exam.
How is Tennis Elbow Treated?
In many cases tennis elbow will heal on its own if you give the offending activities a rest. In the mean time, these treatments may be helpful:
- Using an elbow strap
- Icing the elbow for 20 to 30 minutes every three to four hours for two to three days or until the pain is gone
- Seeking treatment from a physical therapist to stretch and strengthen the muscles. You may be assigned range of motion exercises to perform several times per day.
- Your doctor may prescribe an anti-inflammatory or steroid medication to take in the short term.
If you have a severe case of tennis elbow, these moderate treatments may not be enough. About 50 percent of people end up requiring surgery where the damaged section of tendon is usually removed and the remaining tendon is repaired. Surgery is effective in 85 percent to 95 percent of cases.
How to Prevent Tennis Elbow
The trick to preventing tennis elbow is to avoid overuse of the joint and to stop if you feel any elbow pain during an activity. Be careful to use the right equipment when doing an activity like tennis; a racket that is too heavy for you or whose grip is too big for your hand may cause issues. Also, be careful to use the correct technique while doing your activity. Stretching and warming up before the activity and icing afterward are also good tools to help ward off tennis elbow.
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