Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a painful condition that occurs from overuse of the muscles and tendons of the forearm, near the elbow joint.
Individuals who suffer from this condition are usually plumbers, painters, carpenters and butchers, whose jobs depend on repetitive movements of the arm.
The pain of tennis elbow may present itself while lifting or bending the arm, gripping small objects, or twisting the forearm as to turn a doorknob.
Treatment options for tennis elbow typically involve rest and taking over-the-counter pain relievers to relieve symptoms associated with tennis elbow. In more severe cases, surgery may be recommended.
A common symptom of tennis elbow is pain that shots from the outside of the elbow into the forearm and wrist. Pain and weakness may make it difficult to:
- Shake hands
- Lift the arm
- Squeeze objects
- Turn a doorknob
- Hold a coffee cup
- Open a jar
Tennis elbow is caused by overusing the muscles attached to the elbow and used to straighten the wrist. Repetitive movements and stress to the tissue can result in tiny tears and inflammation near the bony lump on the outside of the elbow.
As the name suggests, tennis elbow can be caused by playing tennis, which involves frequent arm motions. Other common arm motions that can cause tennis elbow include:
- The use of plumbing tools
- Using shears while gardening
- Playing the violin
- Playing racquet sports
- Driving screws into a wall
A few factors that may increase the risk of developing tennis elbow include the following:
- Age: Tennis elbow is more common in individuals between the ages of 30 and 50.
- Job profession: Tennis elbow is more common in individuals whose jobs involve constant arm motions such as plumbers, painters, and cooks.
- Involvement in certain sports: Tennis elbow can occur if an individual is involved in racket sports such as tennis, badminton or squash.
A possible complication that can arise from tennis elbow left untreated is chronic pain in the arm. This can make it difficult to lift or grip objects and in turn can result in improper healing.
Tennis elbow often gets better without the need for treatment.
In mild cases of tennis elbow, taking over the counter pain relievers and self-care measures such as icing the affected area, avoiding any activity that causes pain and doing stretching exercises can help an individual regain muscle function.
In more severe cases of tennis elbow, treatment options may include:
- Physical therapy: A type of therapy that involves massaging and manipulating the affected area to help relieve symptoms associated with tennis elbow and improve muscle function and coordination, especially the muscles of the forearm.
- Immobilization: Wearing a brace or splint to reduce stress on the injured tissue
- Surgery: Undergoing a surgical procedure to remove damaged tissue of the elbow joint
Although there is no sure way of preventing the occurrence of tennis elbow, a few recommendations that can help lessen stress on the arm include:
- Using proper equipment when participating in sports or on the job
- Avoiding tight gripping and overuse of the wrist
- Taking breaks after prolonged arm movements
- Doing stretching exercises to help build muscle strength and function