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Tennis Elbow

When there is inflammation of the tendons on the outside of the elbow at the lateral epicondyle of the upper arm, the condition is known as tennis elbow. This condition is caused by certain repetitive movements of the wrist Tennis players are not the only people who are affected by this condition, which is also known as lateral epicondylitis. Activities like hedge clipping, tennis, excessive use of a screwdriver or hammer, painting or any such activity that involves repetitive motion of the wrist which also requires constant gripping may lead to tennis elbow. Though, the real cause of tennis elbow is not clearly defined, it is due to tears of the tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the bone of the arm at the elbow joint.

Symptoms of tennis elbow

  • Pain over the outside (lateral) of the elbow
  • Pain while lifting or carrying objects or gripping even light objects such as a coffee cup.
  • Pain radiates down the forearm.
  • Tenderness is felt on or below the joint's bony prominence.
  • Pain due to tennis elbow may last for about 6 to 12 weeks.
  • The discomfort may be for a short duration or it may last for several years.

Normally the pain due to tennis elbow sets in gradually, though at times it may also occur suddenly. Most patients complain of pain in the dominant arm. Manual workers like painters, plumbers, carpenters and gardeners who use their hands face the risk of developing this symptom. Many sports participants like racquet sports players, golfers, fencers are also prone to tennis elbow syndrome.

Tennis elbow is not simply caused by inflammation of the tendons alone, consider experts. The degenerative process either due to aging, or repetitive use of the forearm may also be responsible. If there is poor blood flow in that area, it does not heal completely and accessing nutrition and oxygen necessary for healing becomes difficult. This condition will lead to small tears in the tendon because of its degeneration and is revealed as symptoms of tennis elbow.

X-rays help to diagnose tennis elbow for patients who have the usual symptoms near their forearm. If the doctor has any confusion, an EMG is sometimes obtained to confirm the diagnosis of a tennis elbow. Pain over the outside of the elbow may sometimes occur due to instability of the joint, elbow arthritis and radial tunnel syndrome. Though the symptoms of these conditions are normally distinct, they can be confusing at times.

Even after the initial injury is healed, these areas tend to tear again. Hemorrhage will result because of this condition and there will be formation of rough, granulated tissue and calcium deposits within the surrounding tissues. Inflammation is caused due to leakage of collagen. The blood flow in this area is cut off because of the pressure developed due to inflammation. It can also squeeze the radial nerve that controls muscle in the arm and hand.

When your elbow is involved in any activity, always take care to warm up your arm for a few minutes before starting. Apply a pack of ice over the arm for 15 or 20 minutes, if you experience severe pain in that area after use. If the usual measures like rest, anti-inflammatory medications and stretching routine do not yield good results, then in rare cases surgery is considered. Tennis elbow can be prevented by:

  • Lifting objects with the palm facing your body.
  • Using hand weights, you can do strengthening exercises.
  • Before starting any stressful activity, stretch the relevant muscles by grasping the tips of your fingers.
  • Be cautious to avoid a relapse. Try to modify or just discontinue the action that caused the strain. Frequent breaks during the activity will help prevent this condition.
  • Strapping a band around your forearm just below the elbow will help as a support. Using bands can cut off blood circulation and thus delay healing and so it is best to use these bands only after tennis elbow has healed completely.
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Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: June 24, 2019