Tennis Elbow - Find Out More About Tennis Elbow and How To Treat It
Tennis Elbow, also referred to as Lateral Epicondylitis, or pain in the lateral elbow, is a common condition that spans in severity from inflammation of the elbow tendons to an actual tear within the tendon.
Caused by repetitive use that places strain on the two elbow tendons which extend to the wrist, people with tennis elbow have pain during wrist extension. Certain activities which include lifting a coffee mug or jug of milk, can cause the elbow pain associated with lateral epicondylitis.
The lateral epicondylitis region of the elbow has two tendons, the ECRL and the ECRB. These tendons go down the arm and attach to two bones in the wrist and hand. The ECRL and the ECRB work to pull the wrist and hand upward for extension. When a person has tennis elbow, there is a limited blood supply where the two tendons attach at the elbow. This makes it harder for the body to heal or recover from the tendonitis once it begins. It also helps to explain the chronic nature of this condition.
In tennis players, tennis elbow can be triggered by improper technique, a cracked racquet, or a racquet that is too stiff. New tennis racquets, new strings, increased tension of strings, or a new tennis pro that is teaching different than you are used to or new techniques learned, can all contribute to tennis elbow.
The racquet often causes tennis elbow. Tennis racquets that have a high power level or are very stiff can cause lateral epicondylitis. This is typically found in a double player type of racquet. If you are a tennis player suffering from tennis elbow, it may be worth consulting a certified racquet technician (CRT) to find out what type of racquet you should use.
Treatment for Tennis Elbow
If you are seeking medical treatment for tennis elbow, you have a number of options with orthopaedic surgery only recommended as a last resort. As with other medical problems, it is always advisable that you seek medical attention and advice from your doctor.
The treatment of lateral epicondylitis includes stretching exercises, medication and in severe situations, surgery. Typically initial treatment involves stretches that focus on the pronator muscle/tendon, and the ECRL and ECRB. Your doctor or physical therapist can give you more specifics on the exercises which are often recommended to be done 3 or more times each day.
Another line of treatment involves the use of a tennis elbow band. It is often recommended that you wear the band 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for about 6 weeks, removing the band during showering and related personal care. The band helps reduce inflammation causing the symptoms by changing the origin site of the ECRL and ECRB tendons.
People struggling with tennis elbow sometimes find anti-inflammatory medication helpful. Consult with your orthopedic or healthcare provider before taking any medication. On occasion a cortisone injection may be given to the inflamed area. Cortisone is a strong anti-inflammatory medication that works to reduce inflammation.
It is important to be aware though that because cortisone offers immediate relief, you may be tempted to return to the activity that caused the initial inflammation associated with the tennis elbow. This can make your symptoms return quickly. In addition, because the cortisone is injected close to the skin, it sometimes causes vitiligo, a skin whitening condition. If you experience vitiligo, your skin will typically return to its normal color within a year.
Certain experimental treatments are sometimes used to treat tennis elbow. These include things like PRP injections or platelet rich plasma, and prolotherapy.
Things Tennis Players Can Do To Aid Recovery
If you are a tennis player with tennis elbow, there are several things you can do to aid in your recovery. You might want to consider using a softer string like natural gut or a higher gauge string. For example if you were playing with a 15 gauge string, moving to a 17 gauge string should help.
Over wrapping the grip by one or two layers of a grip over wrap can also help. Lowering the string tension 2 to 3 pounds will reduce the force of the elbow and allow it to heal.
It is also advisable to have a discussion with your tennis pro about your technique. Backhands hit late, certain types of spin when hitting a serve and overheads can cause tennis elbow. It may be worth an hour private lesson to have the tennis pro identify technique errors that could be contributing to your tennis elbow with advice on how to correct them. How many times have you seen a pro tennis player with a tennis elbow band brace? Not too many because their technique is perfect.
If nothing seems to help fix your lateral epicondylitis, then your orthopedic surgeon may recommend an MRI scan. An MRI will reveal whether you have interstitial tearing within the tendons or if a tendon has torn away from the bone. In these cases, your orthopedic doctor may recommend surgery.
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