Tennis Elbow Pain: Prevention and Treatment
Anyone can get tennis elbow, not just tennis players. Repetitive arm motions weaken arm muscles and tear the tendons that attach muscle to bone. Tennis elbow can cause pain when you bend or straighten your arms or grasp or lift items. Half of all tennis players will get tennis elbow in their career.
Tennis elbow is a common condition affecting between 1 to 3 percent of the population in the United States while in the UK, it is estimated that 1 in 200 people consult their GP about the same annually. It usually occurs between the ages of 30 and 50 years.
In today’s guide, we unfold the prevention measures you can take to avoid Tennis Elbow pain as well as its treatments among other useful guidelines.
Let’s get informed!
What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow is a condition that causes pain around the outside of the elbow. It's clinically known as lateral epicondylitis.
It often happens after overuse or repeated action of the muscles of the forearm, near the elbow joint.
You may notice pain on the outside of the elbow, which may travel down the forearm when:
- Lifting or bending your arm
- When gripping small objects, such as a pen
- when twisting your forearm, such as turning a door handle or opening a jar
You may also find it difficult to fully extend your arm. Tennis elbow usually lasts between 6 months and 2 years, with most people (90%) making a full recovery within a year.
The Difference Between Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow
Both conditions are caused by repetitive arm and wrist motions, but the key difference lies in which part of the elbow is inflamed.
Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow fall under the category of epicondylitis, which is the inflammation of tendons that attach to the elbow. Tennis Elbow affects the outer part of the elbow, known as the lateral epicondyle, while Golf Elbow affects the inner part, known as the medial epicondyle.
Tennis Elbow Symptoms and Causes
If you've felt the pain and strain from this common tennis injury, you'll know all too well just how uncomfortable it can be - here are some of the most common symptoms and their causes.
What Causes Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow is mostly caused by overusing your forearm due to a repetitive or strenuous activity. It can also sometimes occur after banging or knocking your elbow.
If the muscles in your forearm are strained, tiny tears and inflammation can develop near the bony lump (lateral epicondyle) on the outside of your elbow.
You may get tennis elbow if your forearm muscles are not used to doing a certain activity, such as gardening or decorating. However, even if you use your forearm muscles frequently, it can still happen.
Activities That Can Cause Tennis Elbow
You can develop tennis elbow by doing any form of repetitive activity that involves twisting your wrist and bending your elbow or using your forearm muscles. This is denoted as the most common cause of persistent elbow pain.
Such examples include:
#1. Playing racquet sports (tennis, badminton or squash) or sports that involve throwing (javelin or discus)
#2. Using hand tools repeatedly (gardening shears, screwdriver or scissors)
#3. Using tools while decorating, plumbing or bricklaying
#4. Activities that involve fine, repetitive hand and wrist movements (typing or sewing)
#5. Activities that involve repeatedly bending the elbow (playing the violin)
What are the Symptoms of Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow is usually the result of overuse. Symptoms tend to come on slowly. Some activities may make the pain worse for weeks or months.
In most cases, a medical practitioner may ask about your medical history, what job you do, and any hobbies you have that may have caused your symptoms.
Signs of tennis elbow include:
- Burning or pain on your outer elbow that may travel to your wrist (these sensations may get worse at night).
- Pain when twisting or bending your arm (for instance, to turn a doorknob or open a jar).
- Stiffness or pain when extending your arm.
- Swollen elbow joint that’s tender to touch.
- Weakened grip when you try to hold items like a racquet, wrench, pen or someone’s hand.
Treatment for Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow often gets better on its own. Some people with tennis elbow are offered steroid injections when other treatments have not worked.
But if pain medicines and other self-care measures aren't helping, physical therapy might be the next step. A procedure, such as a shot or surgery, might help tennis elbow that doesn't heal with other treatments.
Physical Therapy for Tennis Elbow Pain
If your symptoms are related to tennis or job tasks, an expert might look at how you play tennis, do job tasks, or check your equipment. This is to find the best ways to reduce stress on injured tissue.
A hand, occupational, or physical therapist can teach exercises to strengthen the muscles and tendons in the forearm. A forearm strap or brace might reduce stress on the injured tissue.
Surgical and Other Procedures to Treat Tennis Elbow
In cases where non-operative treatment for tennis elbow fails, surgical and other procedures can be performed on some people with tennis elbow to improve the associated symptoms.
Steroids are anti-inflammatory medicines used to treat a wide of conditions like tennis elbow. Steroid injections may be given directly into the painful area around the elbow. At times there may need to numb the area and reduce the pain before performing the procedure.
This procedure uses ultrasound to guide a needle through a numbed tendon. A needle is repeatedly passed through the area of the damaged tissue thereby disrupting its structure and stimulating a targeted healing response. In most cases, a single fenestration procedure is enough to treat the symptoms associated with chronic tennis elbow after testing the blood sample.
Ultrasonic Tenotomy-TENEX procedure
Similar to needle fenestration, a radiologist uses ultrasound to view a real-time picture of your torn tendon. This picture helps guide a needle to your tendon. This requires only a very small cut in your skin.
Ultrasonic energy vibrates the needle so fast that the damaged tissue liquidify and then sucked out.
- Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy for Tennis Elbow
Shockwave therapy is a non-invasive treatment, where high-energy shockwaves are passed through the skin to help relieve pain and promote movement in the affected area.
The number of sessions you will need depends on the severity of your pain. Shockwave therapy, while safe, can cause minor side effects including bruising and reddening of the skin in the area being treated. It is hence advised to consult with a doctor before concluding this procedure as a treatment method.
This treatment involves sending shock waves to injured tissue to relieve pain and help the tissue heal. A tool placed on the skin delivers the shock waves.
Tennis Elbow Surgery
For symptoms that haven't improved after 6 to 12 months of other treatments, surgery to remove damaged tissue might be an option. The surgery might be open, which uses a large cut, known as an incision. Or it can be done through several small openings, known as arthroscopic.
Whatever the treatment, exercises to rebuild strength and regain use of the elbow are vital to recovery. Between 80 and 95 percent of patients recover without surgery.
It's important to note that while surgery treats tennis elbow effectively, it does come with risks such as infection or nerve damage.
You and your doctor will decide which type of surgery is best for you.
Lifestyle and Home Remedies
The following self-care measures might relieve tennis elbow:
Rest. Do not do activities that make worse tennis elbow.
Taking frequent breaks during physical activity can reduce the amount of stress placed on your tendons and increase blood flow.
- Pain relievers. Try pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve).
- Ice. Apply ice or a cold ice pack for 15 minutes 3 to 4 times a day.
Tennis Elbow Prevention
To prevent further damage to the tendons, one can include some self-care measures suggested below:
- Stop the activity that is causing pain, or find another way of doing it that does not cause pain or stress
- Avoid using your wrist and elbow more than the rest of your arm. It may also help to spread the load to the larger muscles of your shoulder
- Get coaching advice to help you change or improve your technique if you play a sport that involves repetitive movements, such as tennis or squash
- Warm up properly and gently stretch your arm muscles before a physical activity that involves repetitive arm movements
- Use lightweight tools or racquets and make their grip size bigger, to avoid putting extra strain on your tendons
- Wear a tennis elbow splint when you're using your arm (not while resting or sleeping) to stop further damage to your tendons. Ask a GP or physiotherapist for advice about the best type of brace or splint to use
- Increase the strength of your forearm muscles (a physiotherapist can advise you about exercises to build up your forearm muscles)
Why We Recommend Topically Applying CBD for Tennis Elbow
As tennis elbow is caused by inflammation, the anti-inflammatory potential of CBD could make it the ideal treatment or preventative. A reduction in inflammation should hopefully minimise tissue tears.
In addition, pain is the most common symptom of tennis elbow and the most common benefit of CBD is muscle pain relief. Another tennis elbow annoyance is lack of sleep due to pain. CBD not only acts as a pain reliever but is known to help aid sleep.
For effective results, topical CBD is rolled or massaged into the skin at the point of pain and inflammation; the great thing about CBD is that even externally, it can bond to the CB1 and CB2 receptors to access the endocannabinoid system.
While ingestibles can take up to 20 minutes or longer to deliver CBD-based relief, a topical CBD cream will reduce pain and inflammation with near immediacy, and last for several hours.
Hempe Ice Muscle & Joint Gel is one of the best and most powerful CBD ice gels available on the market for relief enriched with Cannabidiol (CBD), Mint, Pine, Menthol and Laurel—rapid absorption for ultra-quick relief, a comprehensive solution for tennis elbow pain.
Remember to always listen to your body and seek medical attention if you experience persistent pain or discomfort in your elbow or arm.
The Bottom Line on Tennis Elbow
Most people need a few days or months of rest and nonsurgical treatments to let their injured tendons heal.
Would you incorporate our sustainable, high-quality range of topical relief products in helping you manage not only tennis elbow but also other forms of muscle pains?
Keep us engaged. We guarantee you advice on how to use our products as well as recommend some of the healthy tips you can take at the onset of tennis elbow pain.