Tips to Treat Tennis Elbow

We tell you how to recognize and treat this painful elbow injury.

178350899You don’t have to be a tennis player to suffer from the painful condition commonly called “tennis elbow.” In fact, most cases of tennis elbow occur in patients who’ve never swung a racket. This injury affects between one and three percent of the population; less than five percent of tennis elbow diagnoses are related directly to playing tennis. It’s not the sport specifically, but repetitive motion of the wrist and arm that injures the muscle and tendon around the outside of the elbow. Another common term for elbow injury, “golfer’s elbow” refers to the same type of muscle and tendon injury occurring on the inside of the elbow. Overuse injury can affect the back of the elbow as well.

Tennis elbow is characterized by pain that increases slowly around the outside of the elbow. In rare cases, the pain may come on suddenly. Affected patients find that this pain is worse when they shake hands or squeeze objects. Forceful wrist actions like lifting, using tools, or opening jars also cause increased pain.

Typically, these elbow injuries develop when overuse occurs over time and when the periods of repetitive motion are so frequent that the body doesn’t have enough time in between to rest and heal. Triggering activities are those that require repetitive arm, elbow, wrist, and hand movement, especial while gripping an object or tool. Professional plumbers, painters, carpenters, landscapers, mechanics and assembly-line workers, as well as some athletes, are particularly susceptible.

Many conditions can cause elbow pain, so it is important to consult a physician to get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. If your pain is diagnosed as tennis elbow, there is good news: this injury rarely requires surgery. Usually, your physician can successfully treat you with conservative, non-surgical treatments.

Rest is the first line of defense. If a period of rest does not resolve the pain, your physician may direct you to a physical therapist for a rehabilitation program designed to restore elbow flexibility and strength, or use forearm bracing to rest the tendons. Anti-inflammatory medications, topical cortisone gels and cortisone injections may reduce pain and swelling.

Ideally, you can avoid this injury completely by minimizing repetitive motions and giving your arm adequate time to rest after extended exertion. However, if you do suffer an elbow injury, the elbow sub-specialists at Summit Orthopedics are here to accurately diagnose your problem, and provide treatment focused on your full recovery.

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