What Is Tennis Elbow and How Can It Be Treated?
There’s nothing worse than mystery pain, and tennis elbow can be a pretty puzzling condition for most patients. Because of the name itself—tennis elbow—many patients don’t first think of this diagnosis when their elbows are tender or inflamed.
Affecting around 1-3% of the population, this common condition can affect anyone who uses their arms in a repetitive motion. And though 90% of patients recover within a year, most cases can be frustrating and painful before diagnosis and treatment.
If you’re wondering about the cause of your recent elbow pain, tennis elbow may be the culprit. Let’s take a look at the basics of this condition, your options for at-home treatment, and a few common ways a Utah pain clinic can help.
What Is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is a painful but common overuse injury. It can occur with repetitive overloading of the tendons in your elbows. This overloading can lead to inflammation and tissue degradation.
As stated above, this condition may have gotten its name because it often affects athletes, but tennis elbow can happen to anyone who performs repeated motions with their wrists or arms. It can also occur as a result of gripping an object, such as a musical instrument or a mouse, for too long. Everyone from construction workers to weight lifters to office workers may experience this issue.
You are more likely to get tennis elbow on your dominant side. However, you may experience it in both arms, depending on the work or hobbies that lead to repetitive motions.
How Do You Know If You Have Tennis Elbow?
In most cases, pain from tennis elbow will build slowly over time as you repeat an activity with your arms or wrists.
You may start to notice tenderness or pain build at the elbow, often on the bony knob on the back of your elbow. This is where your damaged tendons connect your muscles to your bones. Often, the pain will radiate into your lower or upper arm as well.
Although this condition affects the tendons in your elbow, you’re more likely to notice increased pain when you’re working with your hands. Clasping or lifting objects might make your pain worse, and you might also notice increased pain as you move your wrist or bend your arm.
In some cases, your arm may feel stiff, and your grip may start to weaken as your condition grows worse. Some people also experience swelling at the elbow as well.
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you should reach out to your doctor to rule out conditions like a broken bone, a pulled muscle, or arthritis. Imaging tests like X-rays and MRIs can be an easy way to ensure that your injury isn’t the result of a condition with similar symptoms. Once you know the problem, working with an experienced pain specialist can help.
Note that tennis elbow should not be confused with golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis). This is a similar condition that involves the opposite tendons on the inner part of your elbow.
How Can You Treat Tennis Elbow at Home?
The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do on your own to treat tennis elbow.
Get Some Rest
Because this condition is the result of repetitive stress to your tendons, your first priority should be to rest the affected arm. As much as possible, take a break from the activities that caused your injury, allowing your tendon time to start the healing process.
If you can’t rest your arm completely, take breaks from your activity as often as you can.
Revisit Your Activity
In some cases, tennis elbow happens when you’re making the wrong repetitive motions. Weight lifters, for example, may experience this condition if they use the wrong form with their bicep curls. If you can, work with a specialist to ensure that you’re using the right sports gear, work tools, or form.
Manage Your Pain
To manage your pain in a natural way, start with cold packs or ice to reduce inflammation. As always, be careful with ice therapy: don’t put ice directly on the skin, and only treat the injured area for 15 minutes or less.
In addition, over-the-counter pain relievers can help. NSAIDs like ibuprofen can not only help with your pain, but they can also help address inflammation as well. However, if you find that you need these medications for more than two weeks without seeing improvement, talk to a specialist in pain care about better remedies.
Brace Your Elbow
In some cases, supportive gear can help you keep your elbow in a more comfortable position as you heal. Arm braces and wrist splints, for example, can help keep you from bending your arm in painful ways during the night, and they can also help remind you to keep resting your arm. There are even braces specific to tennis elbow that can help relieve discomfort to your tendons.
What Can a Pain Specialist Do About Tennis Elbow?
There are several ways Utah pain specialists can address your tennis elbow.
Physical therapy, for example, can strengthen and stretch the muscles in your arms, which can help to improve blood flow to your tendons. It will also help you reduce stiffness by working on your flexibility and range of motion. As an added bonus, a physical therapist can often help you understand how to adapt your motion to prevent future pain.
As you work on improving your strength, noninvasive therapies like Acousana therapy can help address mild to severe tennis elbow. This type of treatment can promote increased blood flow and enhanced circulation, both of which can trigger your tendons’ self-repair process. This, in turn, can help to reduce your current pain and inflammation while allowing you to heal faster than you could with rest alone.
Visit Our Pain Clinic in Utah
If you’re struggling with this frustrating repetitive stress injury, knowing the basics of treatment can help. Tennis elbow can be a painful condition, but most conservative therapies will prompt it to disappear without invasive treatments—as long as you work with the right team.
When it comes to pain management, Utah patients can trust One Wellness. Our Woods Cross clinic specializes in Acousana therapy, which can help trigger your body’s natural healing process fast. Contact us today for more information or to schedule your appointment.
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