What is tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow is basically an inflammation of the tendons around the elbow area usually caused by twisting and over-strenuous use of the forearm and the muscles around the elbow joint. It can be extremely painful, even when doing simple things like shaking hands, washing dishes, using a mobile phone, or turning a door handle.
The scientific name for the injury is lateral epicondylitis which means inflammation to the outside of the elbow bone. It usually occurs in adults, with approximately 5 in 1000 adults developing the condition in the UK each year.
Tennis elbow usually affects the elbow of the dominant hand (i.e. the hand you use the most). So if you’re right-handed, it will usually be your right elbow that causes you pain once your symptoms develop.
Typical symptoms of tennis elbow are:
Pain, tenderness and inflammation on the outside of the elbow, and
Pain on the inside of the elbow – also known as Golfer’s Elbow
These symptoms will usually last for up to about 3 months. However, in severe cases, the pain can continue for several years. You may also experience swelling around the elbow area (due to the tendons being inflamed), as well as stiffness.
People with tennis elbow can develop the condition through activities they perform frequently in their jobs, such as: using a power drill or a screw driver, ironing and repeatedly turning the dials on industrial washing machines in a laundry room, or performing IT tasks like data entry at a computer keyboard all day.
For tennis players, the condition is usually a direct result of repetitively hitting countless tennis balls over many years – possibly from childhood. However, tennis elbow is not just caused by playing tennis. Any activity which involves excessive and repeated use of the muscles that straighten the wrist can put an unnatural strain on the tendons, injuring them, and leading to tennis elbow. The tendons suffer tiny tears as a result of this over-straining, and, because the tendons are not given enough time to heal properly, they tear again and rough tissue forms.
As well as racquet sports, other sport and leisure activities which can lead to tennis elbow include swimming, bowling and volleyball.
If you are experiencing the aforementioned symptoms, then make an appointment with your GP. He or she will discuss your symptoms with you and examine your affected arm, perhaps gently bending your hand and pressing on the elbow to see if this is painful.
Although tennis elbow can not be highlighted through X-ray, this procedure may be used in order to rule out other possible joint conditions.
Effect on your life
Tennis elbow can make the following activities painful:
Bending your arm
Extending your forearm fully
Playing a musical instrument
Writing, gardening, painting and decorating…
Where possible, try to avoid these activities, as, in order to heal over time, you will need to give your elbow plenty of rest and support. Anything that puts stress and strain on the tendons is inadvisable because, by their nature, tendons are notoriously slow to heal.
If resting and supporting your elbow joint fails to reduce your symptoms, then steroid injections (combined with an anaesthetic to reduce pain) may be administered in order to decrease inflammation. These may be carried out over a period or weeks and consist of no more than three injections. Many people with tennis elbow have found this treatment to be hugely beneficial.
To ease pain, anti-inflammatory creams and gels may be prescribed by your GP. Also, physiotherapy can also be beneficial.
In rare cases, surgery may be required to reduce symptoms.
Note: For tennis players, tennis elbow may have developed as a result of an equipment-related issue, such as using a tennis racquet that is too big or playing with tennis strings strung too tautly.
To ease your symptoms, try applying a cold compress to the elbow for short interspersed periods of say, 10 minutes every two hours. This should help reduce the pain. A bag of frozen peas will suffice. But do not hold the bag directly against the skin – wrap it in a towel first.
If you play racquet sports regularly and are experiencing symptoms of tennis elbow, seek professional advice as it may be that you simply need to change your technique for your condition to improve.
How Chemist Online can help
To help relieve the pain of tennis elbow, we have available to buy through this website Ibuprofen 400mg Tablets and Paracetamol Soluble Tablets which provide fast, effective relief from joint pain.
Advice & Support
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
14 Bedford Row
London WC1R 4ED
Tel. 020 7306 6666
Arthritis Research Campaign
St Mary's Court
St Mary's Gate
Tel. 0870 850 5000
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