Tennis Elbow – Better Solutions Than Ibuprofen
Tennis elbow is a common condition affecting as much as 3% of the world’s population and not just those who play tennis.
In fact, tennis elbow is more commonly seen in non-tennis players than in tennis players. Tennis elbow is a common overuse injury which typically causes pain at the outer aspect of the elbow.
The affected area is where the forearm’s tendons and muscles attach to bone area of the elbow – from the outside. This area is also know as lateral epicondyle.
Recent studies show that tennis elbow is often due to damage to a specific forearm muscle. The extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) muscle helps stabilise the wrist when the elbow is straight. This occurs during a tennis groundstroke, for example. When the ECRB is weakened from overuse, microscopic tears form in the tendon where it attaches to the lateral epicondyle. This leads to inflammation and pain.
The ECRB may also be at increased risk for damage because of its position. As the elbow bends and straightens, the muscle rubs against bony bumps. This can cause gradual wear and tear of the muscle over time.
People typically develop this condition in association with activities involving repeated wrist extension against resistance. This includes sporting activities such as tennis, squash, badminton, as well as manual work such as carpentry, painting, chopping wood, bricklaying, repetitive use of a screwdriver, sewing and knitting or working at a computer.
The condition is more common in men than in women.
- Usually pain is experienced as an ache that increases to a sharper pain with activity
- Pain 1-2cm down from the prominent part of the bone on the outside of the elbow (lateral epicondyle)
- Occasionally, pain may radiate into the forearm
- In more severe cases, pain may be quite incapacitating and can keep the patient awake at night
- Occasionally, this condition can be associated with neck or upper back pain on the same side
- Muscle weakness and reduced grip strength may also be present
- Morning stiffness
Risk Factors For Developing Tennis Elbow
- Excessive or inappropriate activity
- Poor sporting technique or equipment
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle tightness
- Joint tightness (particularly the wrist, elbow, neck or upper back)
- Poor posture
- Inadequate warm-up
- Inadequate rehabilitation following a previous elbow injury
- A history of neck or upper back injury
- A history of injury to the nerves that supply the elbow
- Ice – 15 minutes on, off 15 minutes, up to 6 times a day
- Use anti-inflammatory herbs and nutrients
- Apply Heel Traumeel cream or gel to help reduce inflammation and relieve pain
- Avoid actions that trigger pain – Tennis Elbow pain is often made worse by movements of the hand and/or elbow. Gripping actions of the hand, such as lifting heavy bags or using tools aggravate the pain. Sometimes driving or computer use can make the pain worse. Turning doorknobs and keys in locks can also hurt.
- Pressure Point Massage
- Ice after activity
- Stretching (before and after physical activities) and light weight exercises
- Progressive exercises to improve flexibility, strength & posture
- Training and activity modification advice
- Use EpiTrain Supportive Brace which provides intermittent compression for improved metabolism, faster healing processes and prevention of further injury.
- Use FlexEze Heat Patches, heat increases blood flow and tissue flexibility, and may decrease pain and muscle spasms.
- Electrical stimulation, or TENS, which involves a mild electrical current that travels through electrodes placed at nerve trigger points can help reduce the pain as well.
- Massage over an inflamed area, which may reduce the formation of scar tissue and help new blood vessels grow in the damaged tissue. Massage is done by making small, firm circles over the injured area. It should not be painful and may be helpful before and after exercises.
Home Remedies For Tennis Elbow
- Take a few cabbage leaves and soak them for about 30 minutes in water. Wrap them around the painful area using a cloth, and leave for overnight.
- Boil one potato and mash it into puree. Apply it on the affected area, and wrapped using a cloth, leave it on for 30 minutes.
- Wrist flexion and extension
Bend the wrist of your injured arm forward and back as far as you can. Do 2 sets of 15.
- Forearm pronation and supination:
Bend the elbow of your injured arm 90 degrees, keeping your elbow at your side.
Turn your palm up and hold for 5 seconds. Then slowly turn your palm down and hold for 5 seconds.
Make sure you keep your elbow at your side and bent 90 degrees while you do the exercise. Do 2 sets of 15.
- Active elbow flexion and extension:
Gently bring the palm of the hand on your injured side up toward your shoulder, bending your elbow as much as you can. Then straighten your elbow as far as you can. Repeat 15 times and do 2 sets of 15.
- Forearm pronation and supination strengthening:
Hold a soup can or hammer handle in your hand and bend your elbow 90 degrees. Slowly turn your hand so your palm is up and then down. Do 2 sets of 15.
- Ball or sock squeeze
Hold a tennis ball (or a rolled-up sock) in your hand. Make a fist around the ball (or sock) and squeeze.
Hold for about 6 seconds, then relax for up to 10 seconds.
Repeat 8 to 12 times.
Switch the ball (or sock) to your other hand and do 8 to 12 times.
- Wrist curls
Place your forearm on a table with your hand hanging over the edge of the table, palm up.
Place a 500gm to 1kg weight in your hand. This may be a dumbbell, a can of food, or a filled water bottle.
Slowly raise and lower the weight while keeping your forearm on the table and palm facing up.
Repeat this motion 8 to 12 times.
Switch arms, and do steps 1 through 4.
Repeat with your hand facing down toward the floor. Switch arms.
How To Prevent Tennis Elbow
- Use a EpiPoint providing providing targeted and graduated compression to the lower arm for the treatment of epicondylitis humeri (tennis elbow).
- Stretch and strengthening exercises
- Stretch before and after exercise
- Learning new techniques and using different equipment for activities to help prevent further injury (e.g. use a lighter tennis racket, use entire body instead just wrist when using backhand stroke).