Tennis elbow remedy

by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

Tennis elbow is an overuse injury caused by repeated contraction of the muscles connected to the lateral epicondyle of the elbow.

Tennis elbow occurs more often in non-tennis players than in tennis players. The key factor is trauma to the elbow, leading to inflammation and soreness.

The pain usually gets worse with extending the wrist, turning the palm upward, or grasping items. Just reaching into the refrigerator to get a carton of milk can cause pain.

Routine activities such as turning a door knob, holding an umbrella, or shaking hands can become excruciating.

The main symptom of tennis elbow is tenderness and pain that starts at the lateral epicondyle of the elbow. The pain may spread down the forearm.

The physical exam is often most helpful in diagnosing tennis elbow.

When the diagnosis is not clear, your doctor may order other tests such as a diagnostic ultrasound or MRI.

Treatment involves control of symptoms as well as helping the elbow to heal.

Anti-inflammatory medications may provide some relief. If inflammation doesn't go away, a corticosteroid injection may be tried. The problem here is that corticosteroids weaken tendon tissue and may make the problem worse.

Physical and occupational therapy may be of benefit. You may need to wear an elbow strap that wraps around the upper forearm in a way that relieves the pressure on the tendon attachment.

Exercises are used to gradually stretch and strengthen the forearm muscles.

Because tendinosis is often linked to overuse, the therapist will work to reduce repeated strains on your elbow.

If you really are a tennis player, here are a few tips that may help:

1. Work with a knowledgeable coach to improve your technique

2. Make sure that the grip on your racket is the right size for you (a grip that is too large or too small increases wrist-muscle fatigue

3. Play on clay or grass courts (cement and other hard courts raise ball velocity, producing greater impacts and higher elbow forces)

4. Use rackets that are a bit more flexible (the stiffer the racket, the larger the force transmitted to the arm)

5. String your racket at a lower tension (the tighter the strings, the higher the force)

6. Strength train your wrist and forearm muscles. For the wrists, good exercises include squeezing a tennis ball and doing wrist curls and extensions with a dumbbell

7. Carry out stretching exercises for the wrist muscles and muscles on the outside and inside of the elbow before and after you play

8. Use a vibration dampener on your strings.

Other tips:

1. Ice down your sore elbow, keeping the ice on for 10- to 12-minute intervals, with 20-minute rests between applications

2. Use oral anti-inflammatory medications as directed by your doctor

3. Apply topical anti-inflammatory creams on the elbow

4. Once the pain subsides, try using a tennis elbow brace or 'counter brace band' when you play. This band, which fastens around your forearm below the elbow joint, slightly changes the angle of pull on elbow tendons, helps distribute impact forces at the elbow, and absorbs shock

For more information about tendonitis, visit our sister site:
Tendonitis provides reliable, accurate, and useful information on tendonitis treatment written by a board-certified rheumatologist. Learn more about how to get tendonitis relief using the most up-to-date methods.

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