Symptoms of Tennis Elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
The medical name for tennis elbow is lateral epicondylitis, which is one of several injuries which can occur when a person overuses the elbow. Playing tennis is one of the most common types of activities that can contribute, but there are also several other types of things that can cause tennis elbow. The pain associated with tennis elbow is felt primarily where the tendons of the forearm attach to the outside of the elbow. The pain can also travel and be felt in the forearm and wrist as well.
The symptoms of tennis elbow can include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Weakness in the forearm
- Pain when extending wrist
- Pain that radiates outward from the side of the elbow and into the forearm and wrist
- Increasing pain as time goes on
- Inability to grip or hold certain objects
The pain associated with tennis elbow is very similar to that of golfer’s elbow, a condition in which the pain develops on the inside of the elbow, rather than the outside.
Signs of When to See a Doctor about Tennis Elbow
There are times when the pain experienced may require a visit to a medical professional, such signs include:
- Unable to bend elbow
- Elbow appears to be deformed
- Elbow is hot and inflamed, person is running a fever
- A broken bone may be suspected
Causes of Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow is an injury that results from overuse, the repeated movement and contraction of the forearm causes the muscles to straighten and a person must raise the hand and wrist. As a result of repeated motion and stress, the tissue becomes inflamed and can cause a series of tiny tears in the tendons. Playing tennis or golf, using plumbing tools, raking leaves, painting and weaving can all be causes of the condition.
Rehabilitation Tips for Tennis Elbow
Once a diagnosis of Tennis elbow has been confirmed there are several things a person may be advised to do in order to alleviate and treat the condition. The following information is recommended for home treatment of the condition:
- Protection: protect the elbow from further injury by limiting use of the area.
- Rest: give the elbow a rest, but do not avoid all types of activity.
- Ice: use of cold packs and ice will reduce inflammation, swelling and pain.
- Compression: use an elastic wrap or bandage to keep counter-pressure on the affected area.
- Elevation: keep the elbow above the heart to limit swelling.
Tennis elbow can often become a chronic condition if it is not treated properly. It is because of this reason; the rehabilitation process should not begin until a person experiences limited to no pain. Regaining use and strength in the elbow, is very important before trying to return to previous activities. Generally, rehab is divided into three parts:
Goal: decrease inflammation and pain, heal tissue and stop muscle atrophy. During the initial injury, health care practitioners recommend, rest, ice, compression and elevation.
Goal: improve flexibility, increase muscle strength and endurance, increase and return elbow to function.
Light stretching exercises can include wrist flexion, extension and rotation. The elbow should be extended and not flexed; this allows an increase to the amount of stretching required. The stretches should be held for a period of 15-30 seconds and repeated 5-10 times per session, twice daily. Any type of vigorous or painful stretching of the elbow should be avoided and never stretch to the point of aggravating symptoms.
Examples of few effective exercises that will help you deal with tennis elbow:
Strengthening of tennis elbow
Bending the elbow, make sure the wrist is fully supported when doing the following exercises:
1. Wrist extension: put a 1 lb. weight in the palm of the hand facing down; support forearm on the edge of a table or on the knee so that only the hand can move. Raise and lower the wrist slowly.
2. Combined flexion/extension: tie on end of string to a pole or cut broom stick, attach the other end to a weight. While standing, extend the arm and elbow straight out in front of the body. Roll the weight up from the ground while turning the wrist. Flexors are worked when the palm is facing down and the extensors are worked when the palm is facing down.
3. Forearm pronation/supination: grasp a hammer or wrench in the hand with forearm supported. Rotate the hand with palm in down position, return to start, rotate palm to the upward position. To increase or decrease resistance, move hand further away or closer to the hammer head.
4. Wrist flexion: put a 1lb. weight in the hand with the palm facing upward, support the forearm on the edge of the table or the knee so only the hand can move. Bend the wrist upward slowly, and then lower slowly.
5. Ball squeeze: hold a rubber ball or tennis ball in the palm of hand, squeeze 30 times, and repeat 3 times per day. If pain is experienced, use a folded sponge or a piece of foam instead of a tennis ball.
6. Finger extension: put a rubber band around all of the finger tips and spread fingers out 30 times, repeating 3 times per day. If the resistance needs to be increased, add a second rubber band or use a thicker band.
For all of the above recommended rehabilitation exercises, perform 10 sets, 3-5 times a day, pain permitting. With all of the combined exercises, perform to the point of fatigue but never when pain is experienced.
Goals: improve muscle strength and endurance, improve and maintain flexibility and to be able to return to prior level of sport or activity. Continue the exercises paying special attention to the eccentric contractions of wrist extension and flexion. When symptoms have resolved and a person has regained range of motion, they may gradually increase activity level.
When treatment for tennis elbow begins as soon as the symptoms present, there is a good chance it will be successful. A long rest and allowing the tendons to heal may help a person avoid having surgery or more invasive forms of treatment. Treatment options for tennis elbow will depend upon the age of the patient, the severity of the condition and how much it affects quality of life. If a person is willing to make certain lifestyle changes, most cases of tennis elbow will resolve on their own with minimal medical intervention.