When the outer part of the elbow softens or become sore it is called lateral epicondylitis or tennis elbow. Repetitive use of the forearms or exterior muscles as while playing tennis, acute pain occurs in the elbow and the condition is referred to as tennis elbow.
More than hundred years ago it was called by various names like writer’s cramp, washer women’s elbow etc. It is the strain on the elbow that matters by any form of activity including playing tennis. Whenever muscles and tendon around the fore arm and elbow joint are overused, tennis elbow occurs. Normally it affects people over forty years of age.
Many symptoms are experienced by a person affected by tennis elbow. Some of them are:
- Pain caused by activities that use muscles extending up to the wrist.
- Outer elbow pain
- Difficulty in moving the wrist
- Difficulty in lifting objects due to pain from wrist to elbow.
- Unable to hold heavy items in the hand due to pain
- Radiating pain from the outside of the elbow to the wrist
The pain in the elbow extending up to the wrist occur due to extensive and overuse or due to any direct blow on the elbow. Tendons, tough tissues connecting the muscles of lower arm to the bone, swell due to tennis elbow. It must be understood that the cause of tennis blow is not necessarily playing tennis but may be due to stress to the muscles and tendon due to any other physical activity. For example activities like plumbing, painting, raking or knitting nay cause tennis elbow.
Tennis elbow affects mostly only one arm which is dominantly used. It is generally noticed only after months when the pain become intense and persistent.
Treatment for tennis elbow
Tennis elbow is a health condition which is self-limiting, meaning, it will eventually get cured without any treatment. But as it can last for weeks and months and can get cured very slowly, some simple treatments are attempted initially. When the problem persists even after such simple treatments, medications are given and finally invasive treatments are also considered, if non-surgical treatments are ineffective.
Simple non-invasive treatments are mostly successful.
At the initial stage, when the problem surfaces, simply by resting it can be cured. When the pain persists even after rest, use of ice bag or hot bag or compression are repeatedly tried on the elbow to provide the desired relief. Hot or warm water bath or massaging with hot water cloth is also helpful in reducing the pain. Depending on the suitability for the person concerned ice or hot water pack is used.
Muscles can be strengthened and stretched by physiotherapy also. Taking rest, placing ice or hot water bags, keeping the arms elevated are the first aids.
Activities that irritates the tendon may be stopped or changed so as to reduce the stress on the fore arms.
How to relieve pain?
As a first step to relieve the pain, an elbow strap is used to protect the tendon from further stress or damage. Using a ball squeeze hand strengthener is helpful in increasing the strength of the arms and reduce the pain.
Flexibility of the muscles can be improved by performing some of the motion exercises at regular intervals. The exercise must be selected based on the symptoms. Standing behind a sturdy chair, attempting to lift a chair or other objects from the floor, placing the hands on the top of a chair by holding the chair’s top with palms downwards.
All the above remedies can be usefully employed either singly or jointly only if the problem is attended at the initial stage.
In the advanced stage, taking pain killers or steroids or external application of ointments etc. can ease the pain and swellings in the joints temporarily.
Herbal remedies for Tennis elbow
Consumption of turmeric powder up to 500mg. thrice a day works as a natural pain killer since turmeric is rich in anti-oxidants. Likewise, consuming ginger extract with honey thrice a day also provides relief from tennis elbow.
St. John’s wort is another anti-inflammatory agent helpful in reducing the pain. In addition to consuming, external application of the pastes of turmeric, ginger or St. John’s wort are also effective in reducing the pain and swelling.
Drinking celery extract or eating celery, flax seed are also useful in relieving the pain.
One of the physical exercises that relieves tennis elbow is the Egoscue method which focuses on a variety of simple and gentle stretch exercises to reduce tendon pains. Egoscue addresses the issue based on the premise that tennis elbow occur due to improper posture.
Tennis elbow is a medical condition that can be cured by rest, exercises, and massages, external applications of ointments and consumption of certain herbal drinks. Attempts to get relieved of the pain using pain killers provide only temporary relief but not a total cure.
Since the tendon gets cured by any one of the above remedies, surgical remedy is not required. Moreover surgical remedy not only takes a longer time and even then the cure is not sure in many cases. In addition to doubtful recovery prospects, surgery may leave the person with infection, loss of blood and persistent pain. After surgery the person may not be able to revert back to the original state due to weakening of the arms on account of surgery.