What is elbow tendonitis?
The term tendon refers to the ends of the muscles that joint the muscles to the bone. Such attachments are generally noted at the joints such as that of the elbow or knee. Tendonitis is a term used to describe the inflammation noted in the tendons. Elbow joint is one of common joints associated with tendonitis giving rise to the condition known as elbow tendonitis. Tendonitis can generally result from any injury involving the tendons, overuse of the joints or due to decreased elasticity of the tendons owing to advancing age.
Golfer’s elbow refers to the inflammation of the inner side of the elbow most commonly noted in individuals who play golf regularly. However, golfer’s elbow is not limited to golf players and can also be noted in other individuals who tend to overuse the elbow joints. Excess or repetitive stress on the elbow joints is the most common cause of golfer’s elbow. In case of golfers such stress generally results from wrong methods of holding or swinging the golf club. Other sportspersons who practise racquet sports or other sports such as base ball or soft ball can also develop golfer’s elbow owing to improper techniques. In case of individuals who do not play sports but are involved in occupations such as painting, carpentry, typing or other occupations that involve repetitive movement of the wrist or hand movements can also develop golfer’s elbow.
Tennis elbow also refers to the inflammation of the tendons of the elbow joint. It however differs from golfer’s elbow by its location. The tendonitis generally involves the outer aspect of the elbow in case of tennis elbow. Often noted in individuals who play racquet sports such as tennis, it can also be noted in other individuals who use the elbow or wrist joints excessively. In case of tennis players, wrong methods of backhand returns, late forehand swings and snapping of the wrist while serving the ball can result in repetitive injury to the tendons ultimately resulting in tendonitis. Tennis elbow can also result in cases of individuals practising other occupations as explained before that involves repetitive movement of the wrist and arms.
What are the signs and symptoms of tennis/golfers elbow?
Pain, inflammation and restriction of the elbow movements are most common symptoms noted in individuals suffering from tennis/golfer’s elbow. The pain may vary in severity depending upon the condition. Some individuals may have increased pain during night. The movement of the elbow joint may be restricted either due to the pain or due to increased amount of swelling in the elbow joint. In certain cases the elbow joint may be painful to touch. The pain may worsen when the affected arm is moved. In some cases the skin overlying the elbow joints may appear red and be warm to touch. Some individuals may also complain of tingling or numbness in the fingers of the affected arm. Turning a door knob, shaking hands or picking up things from the ground may be difficult due to restricted movement or pain.
The type of tendonitis is diagnosed based on the history of your occupation and the type of repetitive movement you perform on a regular basis. The doctor also performs physical examination to locate the exact location of the pain or swelling to diagnose the type of tendonitis. Imaging tests such as X-ray or MRI scans may be advised depending upon the severity of the condition.
What is the immediate treatment for golfers/tennis elbow?
Pain and inflammation of the elbow joints are immediately treated with the R.I.C.E principle. The acronym R.I.C.E stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. Resting the elbow joint is advised to reduce the movement of the joint and thereby the associated pain. Adequate rest can minimise a majority of the symptoms. Intermittent application of ice packs on the affected joint helps in reduction of the swelling by minimising the accumulation of body fluids in the affected areas. Compression bandages such as crape bandages that snugly fit on the elbow joint also works in same way. However, it puts pressure instead of cooling when compared to ice. Keeping the joint elevated (above the level of your heart) while resting or sleeping also reduces the inflammation in the affected joints. Any swelling or pain that does not subside following these methods for a few days should be investigated. Severe pain, swelling or restriction of movement also requires a doctor’s consultation to diagnose the condition early and prevent any associated complications.
What is the treatment for golfers/tennis elbow?
Golfers or tennis elbow that does not subside with the above mentioned treatment will require further measures to reduce the symptoms. Medications that belong to the class of anti-inflammatory and pain killers are generally advised to reduce the pain and swelling of the elbow joint. Specific medications such as glucocorticoids may be injected to the affected joints in more severe cases. Physiotherapy that involves performing specific exercises to initially reduce the pain and swelling and later to strengthen the joint is the next step that is usually performed along with the administration of medications. This therapy involves performing certain specific exercises such as stretching of the joints to improve the flexibility of the joints and strengthening exercises to increase the strength of the muscles and tendons. Such exercises are to be performed under the guidance of a physiotherapist. Return to the regular activities and gradually increasing the amount of activity is advised based on the amount of recovery noted. Severe cases which do not resolve with the treatment measures listed before may require surgical correction. Rest for a few weeks followed by physiotherapy is advised after surgical treatment.
How can golfers/tennis elbow be prevented?
Following proper techniques of playing sports prevents majority of injuries such as golfers elbow or tennis elbow. Stretching and warming exercises before and after playing or indulging in your occupation can improve the flexibility of the joints and increase their endurance. Early diagnosis and treatment is helpful in preventing the need of surgical treatments or complications associated with golfers or tennis elbow.