What is tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is a form of tendinitis. Symptoms are usually elbow and arm pain. Repetitive motions often lead to lateral epicondylitis such as movement during tennis, weight lifting, painting, typing, knitting and woodwork. The pain typically worsens when lifting, gripping, twisting and straightening the wrist. Conventional medical approaches for treating lateral epicondylitis include physical therapy, non-steroidal antiinflammatory medications (NSAIDs), icing, bracing, local steroid injections and surgery.
What are the symptoms?
For most people with tennis elbow, the pain only occurs when they use their forearm and wrist, particularly for twisting movements such as turning a door handle or opening a jar. However, for some people the pain is constant; it occurs at rest and can affect their sleep. The pain may travel down your arm from your elbow towards your wrist. You may find it difficult to hold items such as a knife or fork, a cup or a pen, or to straighten your arm fully. Some people also notice a stiffness in the affected arm. Golfer’s elbow is the name given to a similar condition that produces pain around the inner side of your elbow.
What causes tennis elbow?
The site of the pain in tennis elbow is where some tendons from your forearm muscles attach to the bone around your elbow. The pain is thought to be caused by swelling or thickening of the tendon, and eventually degeneration.
This damage is usually caused by overuse of your forearm muscles in repeated actions such as wringing clothes or manual work (particularly with twisting movements such as using a screwdriver). Playing tennis or other racquet sports can also cause tendon injuries. However, despite being called tennis elbow, racquet sports are only thought to be the cause in about 5 in 100 cases. In most people, tennis elbow affects the arm that you write with (your dominant arm).
Who gets tennis elbow?
About 1 to 3 people in 100 have tennis elbow. It mainly affects people between the ages of 40 and 50. Women and men are affected equally. Tennis elbow is more likely to occur if you have unfit forearm muscles. For example, if you suddenly play a lot of tennis whilst on holiday, or you do a DIY project or some gardening when you are not used to strong forearm actions. However, even if you are used to heavy work, you can overdo it and injure a tendon. People whose work involves repeated twisting and gripping actions, such as carpenters, painters, plasterers, construction workers and housekeepers are prone to getting tennis elbow.
What are the treatment options for tennis elbow?
Modifying activities that bring on your symptoms
You will be able to recognize which movements tend to bring on your pain and you should try to avoid these as much as possible. Typically, pain is made worse by lifting, gripping and twisting movements of the affected arm. Resting from activities that bring on pain can help the tendon injury to heal. In some people, just modifying their activities and cutting out repetitive movements of the arm or hand can be enough to improve tennis elbow.
You may need to discuss with your doctor and/or your employer if you feel that your job may be contributing to your tennis elbow. There may be different tasks that you can do at work while your tennis elbow is healing. It is also advisable for everyone to take regular breaks when they are working.
Pain relief For Tennis Elbow
Ice can sometimes be a good pain relief if you have tennis elbow. Try using an ice pack (such as a pack of frozen peas wrapped in a towel) on the tender area twice a day for ten minutes.
Painkillers such as paracetamol, with or without codeine added, may be helpful.
Also, anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen are commonly used to ease pain in tennis elbow. Some anti-inflammatory painkillers also come as creams or gels which you can rub over your painful elbow. These tend to produce fewer side-effects than those taken by mouth. There are various brands which you can buy, or obtain on prescription.
The evidence suggests, however, that these painkillers do not improve the condition in the long term. They also have a risk of side-effects.
Physical Therapy For Tennis Elbow
Physical Therapy has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of tennis elbow. Physical Therapist may be able to use techniques such as massage, laser therapy and ultrasound therapy as well as exercises to treat your tennis elbow.
Studies have shown that physical therapy may not be as good as a steroid injection at relieving pain in the short term (that is, within the first six weeks). But, it may be superior to steroid injections in the long term.
Acupuncture For Tennis Elbow
Acupuncture combined with massage is effective for the treatment of tennis elbow, lateral epicondylitis. Recent research was conducted on ninety athletes at the Science and Experiment Center of Guangzhou Physical Education Institute. Conventional medical approaches for treating lateral epicondylitis include physical therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), icing, bracing, local steroid injections and surgery. Based on the results, the researchers conclude that acupuncture and massage are effective in treating lateral epicondylitis for athletes and that combining the therapies increases positive patient outcomes.
PRP Treatment For Tennis Elbow
A tremendous effort has been underway to define whether or not PRP or Platelet Rich Plasma has a role in the treatment of tennis elbow. PRP therapy involves an injection of a portion of your own blood back into the painful tissues. The thought is that the regenerative chemicals and cells in the blood will enable the tendons of the elbow to heal themselves. The scientific literature is mixed, but many agree that PRP is a reasonable option in patients who have failed to improve with rest, ice, moist heat, therapy, and even acupuncture. The recovery from a PRP injection is generally brief, and it is viewed as a worthy treatment to attempt when all else fails and you are told that surgery is your only other option.
Steroid Injection For Tennis Elbow
If the above measures do not work, or if you have severe pain and difficulty using your arm, an injection of a steroid in combination with dry needling into the painful area of your elbow may ease the pain.
A number of studies have shown that steroid injections may be helpful in easing pain in the short term. In one study, short-term (six weeks) success rates were greater for steroid injections than for physical therapy or a wait-and-see policy. The short-term benefit may be sufficient to warrant an injection, for example, for a student about to sit important examinations. Remember that, even if a steroid injection has eased your pain, you still need to rest your arm and avoid any activities that may have brought on your pain previously. Build up your activities over some weeks to try to reduce the chance of your tennis elbow coming back. A steroid injection may sometimes be repeated after some weeks if pain recurs. However, it is usual to have no more than three injections at the same site.
How Precision Care Medical & Sports Performance can help you treat a tennis elbow?
Our team of medical providers consisting of Sports Medicine Doctor NYC and Sports Physical Therapy and Licensed Acupuncturist at Precision Care Medical & Sports Performance focus is on finding the best non-operative treatment solutions to resolve patients’ pain and injuries. If you’d like to learn more about our services, we invite you to contact us to schedule an appointment. We participate with most health insurance plans including Medicare, Medicaid, No-Fault(Car Accidents), Workers Compensation(work related injuries). We offer same or next day appointments and Complimentary Injury Screens. Book your appointment today (718)648-1234
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