Symptoms and Causes of Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow causes pain on the outer side of the elbow due to inflammation of tendons around the elbow. The medical term for tennis elbow is lateral epicondylitis. This is because the pain is felt around the area of the lateral epicondyle (the lower, outer, bumpy part of the humerus bone in the upper arm). For most people, pain only occurs when they use their forearm and wrist, particularly for twisting movements like turning a door handle or opening a jar. For others, however, the pain is constant; it occurs at rest and can affect their sleep. In most people, tennis elbow affects the dominant arm (the arm that you write with).
What Causes Tennis Elbow?
The site of the pain in tennis elbow is where several tendons from your forearm muscles attach to the bone around your elbow. The pain is thought to be due to an injury, or several tiny injuries, to one or more of these tendons. An injury can cause a tiny tear to a tendon, leading to inflammation and scarring of the tendon.
Injuries are usually caused by overuse of the forearm muscles in repeated actions, such as wringing clothes or manual work (particularly with twisting movements). Despite being called tennis elbow, however, most racquet sports are not the cause of this type of injury (only 5 in 100 cases). Painters, construction workers, mechanics, landscapers, and others who have jobs that require excessive gripping or squeezing are prone to tennis elbow.
Tennis Elbow Symptoms
Tennis elbow pain may travel down the arm from the elbow towards the wrist. For some people, holding items, such as a fork, cup or a pen, may be difficult. Others may notice a stiffness in the affected arm or have difficulty straightening their arm. Other symptoms associated with tennis elbow may include:
➟ Tenderness around the elbow
➟ Soreness in the forearm
➟ Increased pain when grasping items
Tennis elbow rarely leads to serious problems, but if the condition is left untreated, loss of motion and function of the elbow and/or forearm may develop.
Tennis Elbow Treatment
Most tennis elbow symptoms improve over time just by stopping activities that bring on the symptoms. Generally, rest and icing the area for approximately 20 minutes per day will help decrease pain and start the healing process. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications may also help ease the pain until the condition improves. For short-term relief, a steroid injection may be prescribed, but the pain often returns. If these measures do not help alleviate the symptoms, physical therapy may be required to increase flexibility and strengthen the tendons. In some cases, a strap or brace may also be required.
Jacksonville Sport & Spine has extensive experience helping people recover from tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow (a similar condition that produces pain around the inner side of the elbow). Contact us today to learn more about our treatment options.