Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is the most common diagnosis in people seeking medical attention for elbow pain. Because tendons heal slowly, the healing process can take several weeks, months, or years. However, with early diagnosis and treatment by a physical therapist, the time frame where pain is experienced can be shortened.
Causes of Tennis Elbow
People call this condition tennis elbow because it places strain on the muscles and tendons that a person uses to grip a tennis racket. However, most cases of tennis elbow are not due to playing tennis or any other sport. Any activity that involves repetitive gripping and twisting motion can cause this injury. Carpenters, painters, and plumbers are particularly susceptible.
Tips for Preventing Tennis Elbow
Before doing something that involves repetitive arm movements, gently stretch your arm muscles and warm up properly to help avoid injury. Avoid using a bent wrist- keep it straight when possible. Stick with smooth movements instead of sharp, jerky ones. Gloves with shock absorbing padding can also help.
Exercises that strengthen your wrist and forearm muscles can be a big help in preventing tennis elbow. Learning to use your shoulder and upper arm muscles can also help take the strain off of your elbow. A physical therapist or athletic trainer will be able to teach you exercises to build up your forearm strength.
Switch It Up
There is also plenty you can do throughout your day to lessen the strain on your arms and elbows. Make a conscious effort to avoid the same hand and arm movements over and over. If that is not an option for you, wear a brace and take breaks as often as you can. Talk to your employer about rotating jobs, doing different tasks, or changing your workstation setup to reduce strain.
Use Proper Equipment
Make sure the sports equipment you are using is the right fit for you. Lighter weight, larger grips, and softer strings may reduce the strain on your tendons. You can wear gloves or add padding to help. Ask a coach or athletic trainer to help you make sure your equipment is the right size for you.
Treatment for Tennis Elbow
Painkillers and NSAIDs
Taking over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers, such as ibuprofen or another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) may help ease mild pain and inflammation caused by tennis elbow. NSAIDs are also available as creams and gels (topical NSAIDs) and can be applied directly to a specific area of your body, such as your elbow and forearm. Heating pads and ice packs can also be placed on the affected area for the relief of pain and inflammation.
Rest and Recovery
The most important thing you can do is rest your injured arm and stop doing the activity that caused the problem. If you use your arms at work to carry out manual tasks such as lifting, you may need to avoid these activities until the pain in your arm improves. Avoid using your wrist and elbow more than the rest of your arm, instead, spread the load to the larger muscles of your shoulder and upper arm. When resting is not possible, modify your arm movements to help ease symptoms. Talk to your doctor about avoiding or modifying activities that could aggravate your arm and make the pain worse. Always consult with a trained medical provider or physical therapist before attempting exercises for tennis elbow.
Comprehensive Physical Therapy Near You
Some people can treat the pain and inflammation caused by tennis elbow with rest and OTC medication, but others may find that tennis elbow is affecting their day-to-day activities. If the pain is severe or does not go away within 2 weeks, it may be time to seek further help. In cases of severe or persistent pain, a doctor may recommend physical or occupational therapy. A physical therapist like the professionals at JAG-ONE Physical Therapy can provide treatments and exercises to help improve motion and reduce pain. We have a number of locations throughout New York and New Jersey, and our team is dedicated to helping our patients get back to moving without pain. For more information about treating tennis elbow and the other services we provide, contact the JAG-ONE Physical Therapy office nearest you today!