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Tennis Elbow: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

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Tennis elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis), is a musculoskeletal injury that affects the outside of the elbow. It usually occurs as a result of overuse or repetitive movement of the forearm muscles and tendons near the outside of the elbow joint.

Symptoms include pain when you:

  • Bend or raise your arm
  • Hold objects or carry bags
  • Twist your forearm to open a jar or turn a door handle
  • Experience pain with backhand movements during racket related sports

What are the causes and symptoms of tennis elbow?

Despite its name, tennis elbow isn’t restricted to tennis players. Even non-athletes can get tennis elbow. Let’s take a look at the common causes.

Activities that can cause tennis elbow

  • A sudden, pull or jerk of the elbow or forearm muscles when playing a sport 
  • Repetitive activities that involve similar swinging motions like tennis (ie. badminton, ping pong etc.)
  • Prolonged typing on a keyboard or prolonged use of a mouse
  • Resistance training

Occupation-related causes of tennis elbow

Tennis elbow can be caused by repetitive movements such as those involved in the following activities:

  • Construction-related occupations such as plumbing, painting and those requiring general manual labour 
  • Desk occupations with prolonged typing and use of a mouse
  • Chopping food
  • Prolonged use of various musical instruments

Symptoms

Tennis elbow is characterized by pain and weakness concentrated near your elbow joint. In some situations, the pain can spread from your elbow down to your wrist. 

The pain can sometimes show up without warning, or it can come on gradually. Sometimes, it can be very noticeable when you try to grab something with your affected arm. There might not be one easily-identifiable cause of tennis elbow. 

Tennis Elbow Treatment at Home: Exercises and Stretches

Certain exercises and stretches can help alleviate lateral elbow pain. Here are some examples of these exercises below.

Note: These stretches may cause some discomfort. If you are uncomfortable with the level of pain you experience, stop the exercises and make an appointment to see one of our manual therapists for further support.

Wrist Stretches

Bend down on your knees and place your palms on a mat in front of you. If you have difficulty going on your knees, this can be done standing with your palms on a table. Turn one wrist at a time so it faces your knees. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds before switching hands. 

Wrist flexion

Bend your wrist down gently while keeping your arm straight in front of you with your palm facing down. Use the opposite hand to press your wrist downward and hold for 15-30 seconds. You should feel a stretch in the muscles on the outside of the forearm. If you find some relief, perform multiple times per day on the affected wrist.

Isometric Wrist extension holds

Raise the affected arm in front of you and press down on the back of your hand with the other hand without bending the wrist, while resisting the downwards movement. You should feel the muscles on the top of your affected forearm being activated. Choose an intensity that generates minimal pain. Hold for 10-20 seconds and repeat for 2 sets multiple times per day. 

Self Massage

Massaging the area of pain may provide temporary relief from the discomfort you may be experiencing in your elbow by improving blood flow and reducing tension. A hand-held massage device can also be used. 

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) and pain relievers (NSAIDs)

Anti-inflammatory medication may be helpful to reduce symptoms in your affected arm. Please consult with your family doctor about the use of medications for pain control. Medications may be helpful but may only provide temporary relief.

How do our manual therapists treat tennis elbow at the PWC?

Our Chiropractors can use many different techniques and modalities to treat tennis elbow including, soft tissue therapy, joint mobilization, acupuncture, shock wave therapy, and active exercise rehabilitation. Physical therapy can comprise some or all of these methods. 

Manual Therapy treatments for Tennis Elbow

If you are experiencing this type of pain acutely or for a long period of time, consider consulting with one of our Chiropractors. Upon your initial visit, our trained Chiropractors will perform a comprehensive history, physical examination, diagnosis, and a plan of management to get you back into action. Our Chiropractors love to educate our patients on their given diagnosis to ensure that they fully understand what they are dealing with, and what treatment options are available. The decision regarding which treatment will be used will be based on what is most effective, also taking into account your preferences.  

Soft Tissue Therapy

When musculoskeletal tissue are repetitively used with minimal recovery, muscles can be strained, and tendons can become inflamed. Treating the affected soft tissues involved can be very effective at improving pain, range of motion, and function at the elbow joint.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture can be incredibly effective for the treatment of tennis elbow. Acupuncture is a therapeutic technique that involves the insertion of very thin needles through the skin to stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissues and increase blood flow, with the goal of decreasing pain and inducing a relaxation response. Once the needles are in place, you will relax for a period of time, during which time your chiropractor may gently twirl the needles, apply heat, or stimulate the needles with electric pulses – this generally applies more stimulation and is intended to increase the effects of standard acupuncture. At the Pain & Wellness Centre, all of our chiropractors are certified medical acupuncture providers.

Shockwave therapy

Shockwave therapy is a non-invasive modality that involves the passage of high-energy shockwaves directed at the affected area resulting in decreased pain, improved blood flow, and increased function to the target tissue. The treatment can be done over a few sessions depending upon the intensity of your pain. 

Are you suffering from Tennis Elbow and you want to feel better? If you need treatment, our Chiropractors at the Pain & Wellness Centre are here to help you out. We will establish the right treatment plan and help you restore your function, so you can enjoy the activities you love.

How long does it take to recover?

Unfortunately, recovery depends on multiple factors, and it is not always straightforward. To get more clarity, it is important to get assessed and speak with your chiropractor about what could be contributing to your elbow pain.  In most cases, soft tissue injuries heal within 4-6 weeks, and treatment can be very effective; however, it depends on the severity of your injury, the length of time since you were injured, and the consistency of therapy and exercise. 

Conclusion

In some cases, elbow pain can be confused with normal forearm pain. A timely diagnosis is important for proper and effective treatment. Although there are many home remedies and exercises you can opt for, they may not resolve your elbow pain.

It is always recommended to consult health care professionals who can provide effective advice and treatment that can help you recover in a timely fashion. We at The Pain and Wellness Centre cater to your needs with utmost professionalism and care. You can bank upon our years of experience in the field, which will make your path to recovery a painless one.

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