What is Tennis Elbow and How Do You Manage It?

Despite its name, it’s not just tennis players who can suffer from tennis elbow. If you lead an active lifestyle or have sprained your wrist and arm, you may have experienced this common condition before. The injury usually goes away by itself, but you might be able to speed up recovery by following a few strategies.

What is tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is a painful injury affecting the bony bump on the elbow. The injury itself can extend to the wrist and fingers. Tennis elbow can be temporary, or it can last for weeks or even months (chronic tennis elbow).

Sometimes tennis elbow is used to describe any elbow pain due to overuse of your arm and hand muscles. The condition isn’t strictly associated with tennis – you can get tennis elbow by doing other activities too.  

Causes

Most common amongst people in their mid-30s to 50s, tennis elbow is usually caused by using your arm in a repetitive manner, leading to tears in your elbow tendons (those near the extensor carpi radialis brevis muscle). The resulting inflammation can result in strain in other parts of your arm, and you might find it painful to grasp or carry things.

The main cause is repetitive strain, or doing anything straining your elbow muscles and leading to tears, but other possible causes also include poor technique when playing tennis, golf, or other racquet sports. You can also get tennis elbow from doing activities like using a chainsaw, painting, woodwork, or playing a musical instrument. It’s not uncommon to see butchers, cooks, and assembly-line workers develop tennis elbow, due to the repetitive nature of their tasks.

Symptoms

Tennis elbow is associated with pain on the outside of your elbow. The pain may worsen when you grip things with your hands or when you stretch your elbow muscles.

You might also experience pain when you do anything involving resistance to wrist- or finger-extension movements.

The most painful area will be the bony bump on your elbow, but you could have tenderness in your forearm when you straighten your elbow or make a fist.

Some people with tennis elbow experience neck stiffness and tenderness, along with nerve irritation.

Treatment

If you think you have tennis elbow, it’s best to see a doctor so they can provide you with a formal diagnosis. Your doctor might perform an ultrasound scan or MRI to find out if there are any tears or inflammations – signs of tennis elbow. Usually X-rays won’t be necessary. Left untreated, tennis elbow can take up to a year to heal.

If you’ve been diagnosed with tennis elbow, a physiotherapist can provide a treatment program to assist with reducing pain, repairing tissue, and restoring you to a pain-free range of motion in your arm. Your physiotherapist might advise you rest your arm for at least two or three weeks, and tone down the exercise or task causing the strain. The treatment plan could include neck and elbow exercises, electrotherapy, and muscle stretches, as well as strengthening exercises and massage. A successful physiotherapy program usually results in a return to normal joint and muscle function.

For temporary pain relief while you get work towards healing your injury, you can take an over-the-counter pain medication, like Herron. Putting ice on the affected area every four hours could also assist in alleviating pain.

Prevention

Avoiding strain where possible could help you prevent tennis elbow. This could include making changes to the way you play a sport, reviewing your equipment, or cutting back on your exercise intensity. If your injury is related to a task at work, you could adjust your workstation or change the task to reduce repetition. Stretching prior to exercise could also help prevent injury.

If you think you may have tennis elbow, seeing a doctor or physiotherapist as soon as possible can also help.

Herron is used for the temporary relief of pain and fever. Always read the label. Use only as directed. Incorrect use could be harmful. If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional.

Disclaimer: The Herron blog is interested in general community wellbeing and information, and does not imply that Herron products should be used for serious ailments without the advice or recommendation from your healthcare practitioner.

All information presented on the Herron website is meant for general knowledge and never meant as a diagnosis of prescription. Please always contact your doctor for health related matters.