A Definitive Guide to Treating Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is a painful condition that occurs when the tendons in the elbow region are swollen. Tendons are tough tissue that helps connect the lower arm muscles to the bone. Many people have the notion that Tennis elbow is only common among people who play tennis. But that is far from the truth as the condition can affect basically anyone who engages in any form of repetitive load carrying activities. Most people in Singapore who have lateral elbow pain likely have this condition. Bear in mind that tennis elbow can happen to anyone regardless of their age, but people above the age of forty have a higher chance of getting it.

In this article, we are going to be looking at everything from the causes and symptoms of the condition to the most effective surgical and non-surgical ways to treat it.

What Causes Tennis Elbow?

As you can likely tell, tennis elbow doesn’t happen overnight. Rather, it develops gradually. People that engage in repetitive gripping activities like swinging have a higher risk of suffering from this condition. The problem with repetitive gripping activities is that they put a serious strain on the tendons. If this continues, the tendon may tear.

Below are some athletic activities that might result in tennis elbow:

  • Fencing
  • Tennis
  • Weight lifting
  • Racquet sports
  • Knitting

Below are some hobbies that may also cause it:

  • Typing
  • Carpentry
  • Painting
  • Raking
  • Shopping

Signs and Symptoms of Tennis Elbow

The main symptoms of tennis elbow are excruciating pain and tenderness in the elbow region. The pain is usually intense in the area where the bones are connected to the injured tendons. Note that the pain may radiate to the lower or upper hand.

You are likely going to experience the most pain when you do any of the following-

  • Raise your hands
  • Grip any object
  • Shake hands
  • Straighten your wrist
  • Carry a load

Even if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is recommended that you consult an orthopaedic specialist for examination and diagnosis. Bear in mind that there is another condition that is somewhat similar to tennis elbow but occurs on the inside of the elbow and it is known as golfer’s elbow.

Diagnosis and Examination

Tennis elbow is usually diagnosed through physical examination.

During physical examination, your physician will ask you to move your wrist, fingers, and elbow in various ways. He or she may also apply pressure to the affected area.

Most times, your physical examination and medical history provide the information your physician needs to make a diagnosis.

Treatment for Tennis Elbow

Here are some simple ways in which you can speed up the healing process.

1. Elbow Strap

Using an elbow strap will help reduce the strain on your injured tendons.

2. Exercise

Stretching exercises can help increase the flexibility of your elbow and reduce stiffness and pain. You may have to do these exercises 3 to 5 times daily to get the most out of them.

3. Taking Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) and Medications

NSAIDs medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen can help reduce pain and swellings. Use these drugs sparingly, as they can cause side effects like stomach ulcers and bleeding.

4. Physical Therapy

A physical therapist can teach you effective exercises that will help strengthen your muscles. They may also treat the condition with heat pads and ultrasound.

5. Injection

Your doctor may suggest a cortisone or platelet rich plasma  injection to treat the condition.

6. Radial Shockwave Therapy

This procedure involves using a machine to generate radial shockwaves so as to stimulate the tissue and provide a healing response. You may require several weekly sessions to achieve full recovery.

Home and lifestyle remedies

Below are some self-care measures your doctor may recommend if your condition isn’t too severe.

1. Ice

Place ice or a pack of ice on the affected area for 15 minutes 3 to 4 times daily.

2. Rest

Don’t engage in strenuous activities that can intensify your elbow pain. Try to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.

3. Pain relievers 

If suggested by your doctor, you can take pain relievers like naproxen and Ibuprofen.

 

When is Surgery Required?
If symptoms persist after 6 to 12 months of non-surgical treatment, your doctor may recommend that you have surgery to treat the affected tissues. A 1 – 2 month period of rest is needed and physical therapy is recommended for recovery of full function of your elbow.