What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is pain or inflammation on the outside of the arm near the elbow, where the muscles and tendons in the forearm attach to the elbow’s bony area. In some cases, a partial tear of a tendon, which attaches the muscles to the bone of the elbow, may occur. Pain can be felt in the elbow, forearm, wrist, or back of hand.
What causes Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow is often caused by the overuse or repetitive use of the muscles in the forearm, wrist and throughout the arm. Despite its name, the condition is not solely caused by playing tennis, although it is a common injury among those that play tennis due to the overuse of the muscles that can cause the condition during the sport. The injury can occur from a sudden and abrupt injury to the tendons and muscles in the forearm, or more typically can occur over time due to repeated overuse of the muscles in the forearm and wrist. The condition is more common in men than women and often affects people that are involved in repetitive use activities for work or leisure.
What are the symptoms of Tennis Elbow?
The symptoms of tennis elbow include pain that is apparent near the outside area of the elbow. The pain usually radiates along the forearm, and may also be felt through the wrist and in the back of the hand. The pain typically develops over time, increasing in severity, although it can come on more suddenly if an abrupt injury occurs rather than a repetitive use injury. Symptoms are often felt in a person’s dominant arm, since that is the arm that is most often used for most movements, although it can occur in both arms. The pain associated with tennis elbow will typically be worse when moving the wrist quickly or twisting it, when squeezing objects, or even with actions such as shaking hands or grasping an object.
How is Tennis Elbow diagnosed?
Tennis elbow can be diagnosed by your Osteopath at Kinesis Clinic based on the description and location of pain. There are no medical tests that can diagnose the condition with certainty, however, and x-rays are typically normal. Your Osteopath will apply pressure to the area to determine pain and tenderness and will ask you to move your arm, elbow, wrists and fingers to see how the movement affects discomfort.
When should I seek care for Tennis Elbow?
If you experience repeated or continuous pain in your elbow or forearm, you should see an Osteopath so that a proper diagnosis can be made.
By treating the injury, you can avoid continued pain and worsening of the injury. If you have already been diagnosed with tennis elbow and basic treatment (such as ice, rest and NSAIDs) does not alleviate future pain, it is best to seek further advice from your Osteopath. If pain is severe or comes on suddenly, if your elbow is inflamed, or if you can’t bend the elbow, you should seek immediate medical attention.
What will the treatment for Tennis Elbow consist of?
Typical treatment for tennis elbow may involve medication to reduce pain or inflammation (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs), cortisone injections, application of ice or heat therapy, a recommendation to avoid activity that causes pain, or the use of a splint to keep the arm immobile for a short time while the injury heals. Once the pain has subsided, physical therapy is typically recommended to strengthen the tendons and muscles around the elbow to avoid repeated injury. A change in how activities and movements are done may be recommended, the limiting of some activities may be suggested, and the use of a brace or splint worn below the elbow to alleviate pain may avoid future pain and injury. If the injury and pain does not respond to traditional treatments, surgery may be a last resort option.
Which muscle groups/ joints are commonly affected from Tennis Elbow?
The exterior portion of the elbow, as well as the tendons and muscles that connect to the elbow in the forearm, are affected in individuals with tennis elbow. Pain may also be felt in the wrist and back of the hand.
What type of results should I expect from the treatment for Tennis Elbow?
If treatment for tennis elbow is sought on a timely basis and completed according to your Osteopaths recommendations, most individuals will notice a complete or at least substantial improvement in the pain associated with the initial condition. Ongoing changes to activity levels or the use of different techniques or equipment may need to be incorporated into routine activities in order to avoid re-injury. In a small percentage of cases, surgery may be required to repair the muscles and tendons near the elbow.
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