what is tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow can occur in anyone, not just avid tennis players. It is often caused by repetitive activities that strain the muscles and tendons in the forearm. This strain leads to small tears in the tendons, resulting in inflammation and pain. Common activities that can contribute to tennis elbow include playing tennis, lifting weights, using a screwdriver, painting, and even typing on a keyboard.
What are the causes that lead to tennis elbow?
Here are some common causes of tennis elbow:
- Overuse or repetitive strain
- Sports activities
- Occupational factors
- Incorrect technique or equipment
- Age and gender
- Poor conditioning and muscle imbalance
what are tennis elbow symptoms
Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a condition that causes pain and tenderness on the outer side of the elbow. It typically occurs due to repetitive motion or overuse of the forearm muscles and tendons, leading to inflammation and microtears in the tendons that attach to the bony prominence on the outer side of the elbow.
The symptoms of tennis elbow may include
- Elbow pain
- Weak grip strength
- Pain during activities
- Pain radiating down the forearm
How to diagnose tennis elbow?
There are several special tests that can be performed to diagnose tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis. Here are a few commonly used tests:
Cozen’s Test: In this test, the patient is asked to make a fist with their thumb inside the fingers. The examiner then stabilizes the patient’s forearm and applies resistance while the patient extends their wrist. Pain on the outer side of the elbow during this movement is considered a positive sign for tennis elbow.
Mill’s Test: The patient’s forearm is pronated (turned downward) and the examiner applies passive wrist extension, while also palpating the tendon on the outer side of the elbow. Pain or tenderness in this area is considered a positive sign.
Maudsley’s Test: The examiner resists the extension of the middle finger while the patient tries to extend it against the resistance. Pain or weakness in the wrist extensor muscles can be an indication of tennis elbow.
Resisted Middle Finger Extension Test: Similar to Maudsley’s test, the examiner applies resistance to the extension of the middle finger. Pain or weakness in the wrist extensors during this movement can suggest tennis elbow
Does physical therapy really help tennis elbow?
Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the treatment and rehabilitation of tennis elbow. Its primary goal is to reduce pain, promote healing, restore range of motion, and strengthen the affected muscles and tendons. The benefits of physical therapy include:
- Pain Relief: Physical therapy techniques such as manual therapy, ultrasound, and ice therapy can provide immediate pain relief by reducing inflammation and promoting blood circulation.
- Improved Functionality: Through targeted exercises and stretches, physical therapy helps restore flexibility, strength, and coordination, enabling you to perform daily activities without discomfort.
- Speedy Recovery: Properly guided physical therapy can accelerate the healing process by promoting tissue repair, preventing further damage, and reducing the risk of future injuries.
- Avoiding Surgery: In many cases, physical therapy can effectively resolve the tennis elbow without the need for surgical intervention. It is often recommended as a conservative treatment option before considering more invasive measures.
Which therapy is best for tennis elbow?
Physical Therapy Techniques are best for tennis elbow. Physical therapists employ various techniques to address tennis elbow and its associated symptoms. Some of the commonly used techniques include:
Manual Therapy: This hands-on approach involves targeted manipulation and mobilization of the affected muscles, tendons, and joints to relieve pain, improve the range of motion, and enhance healing.
Ultrasound Therapy: By utilizing high-frequency sound waves, ultrasound therapy increases blood flow, promotes tissue healing, and reduces inflammation in the affected area.
Therapeutic Exercises: Physical therapists prescribe specific exercises to strengthen the forearm muscles, improve flexibility, and promote proper biomechanics. These exercises may include wrist curls, eccentric exercises, and stretching routines.
Brace or Splint Application: Wearing a brace or splint can provide support to the affected area, reduce strain on the tendons, and promote healing.
Ergonomic Modifications: Physical therapists assess and suggest modifications to your workplace or daily activities to minimize repetitive motions and reduce the risk of re-injury.
What are Effective Exercises for Tennis Elbow?
Engaging in targeted exercises can greatly assist in the recovery from tennis elbow. Here are some effective exercises that your physical therapist may recommend:
Wrist Extension Stretch: Gently bend your wrist backward, holding the stretch for 15-30 seconds. Repeat this stretch several times a day to improve flexibility.
Eccentric Wrist Curls: Hold a lightweight, such as a dumbbell, and slowly lower it down with your affected wrist while keeping your elbow bent. Repeat this movement for 10-15 repetitions, gradually increasing the weight as tolerated.
Forearm Pronation and Supination: Hold a light dumbbell and rotate your forearm inward (pronation) and outward (supination) in a slow and controlled manner. Perform 10-15 repetitions on each side.
Ball Squeeze: Hold a stress ball or tennis ball in your hand and squeeze it firmly for 5 seconds, then release it. Repeat this exercise for 10-15 repetitions to improve grip strength.
What helps tennis elbow naturally
There are several natural remedies and self-care measures that can help alleviate the symptoms of tennis elbow. Here are some suggestions:
Rest: Giving your arm and elbow adequate rest is crucial to allow the injured tendons to heal. Avoid activities that exacerbate the pain and try to modify your movements to minimize strain on the affected area.
Ice or cold therapy: Applying ice or a cold pack to the affected area can help reduce pain and inflammation. Apply it for about 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day, especially after activities that trigger pain.
Compression: Wearing a compression band or brace around the forearm may provide support and help reduce strain on the tendons. It can also help reduce swelling.
Physical therapy exercises: Specific exercises and stretches can help strengthen the forearm muscles and improve flexibility. Consult with a physical therapist who can guide you on appropriate exercises for tennis elbow.
Ergonomic modifications: Evaluate your work or sports equipment and make ergonomic modifications to reduce strain on the forearm muscles. This may involve adjusting your grip, using ergonomic tools, or using proper techniques to minimize repetitive movements.
Topical creams or gels: Over-the-counter topical creams or gels containing ingredients such as menthol or capsaicin may provide temporary pain relief. Follow the instructions and precautions mentioned in the product packaging.
Herbal remedies: Some herbal remedies, such as arnica or turmeric, are believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. However, it’s important to note that scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness for tennis elbow is limited. Consult with a healthcare professional before using any herbal remedies to ensure they are safe for you.
What is the difference between tennis elbow and tendonitis?
Tennis elbow and tendonitis are related conditions, but they refer to different areas of inflammation in the arm.
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, specifically refers to the inflammation of the tendons on the outer side of the elbow. These tendons connect the forearm muscles to the bony prominence on the outer side of the elbow. It is typically caused by repetitive motion or overuse of the forearm muscles, leading to microtears and inflammation in the tendons.
On the other hand, tendonitis is a more general term that describes inflammation of a tendon anywhere in the body. Tendons are the thick cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones. Tendonitis can occur in various parts of the body, such as the shoulder, knee, wrist, or Achilles tendon. The specific name of the tendonitis depends on the location where the inflammation occurs, such as rotator cuff tendonitis or patellar tendonitis.
What is better for tennis elbow ice or heat?
When it comes to treating tennis elbow, both ice and heat can be beneficial, but they serve different purposes at different stages of the condition.
Ice: In the early stages of tennis elbow or when you experience acute pain or inflammation, applying ice can help reduce swelling and provide pain relief. Ice helps to constrict blood vessels and decrease blood flow to the area, which can reduce inflammation. You can apply an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a thin cloth to the affected area for about 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Be sure to allow your skin to rest and warm up between icing sessions to avoid any potential damage from prolonged exposure to cold.
Heat: Heat therapy is more beneficial during the later stages of tennis elbow when the acute inflammation has subsided, and you are dealing with chronic pain or stiffness. The heat helps to increase blood circulation, relax muscles, and promote healing. You can use a warm towel, or a heating pad, or take a warm shower to apply heat to the affected area. It’s generally recommended to apply heat for around 15-20 minutes at a time, a few times a day.
How long is physical therapy for tennis elbow?
The duration of physical therapy for tennis elbow can vary depending on various factors, including the severity of the condition, individual response to treatment, and adherence to the prescribed rehabilitation program. Typically, physical therapy for tennis elbow lasts for 4 to 12 weeks.
What exercises should I avoid with tennis elbow?
When dealing with tennis elbow, it’s important to avoid exercises and activities that can exacerbate the condition and further strain the affected area. Here are some exercises you should generally avoid:
Heavy lifting: Activities that involve heavy weights or putting excessive strain on your forearm muscles can aggravate tennis elbow. Avoid lifting heavy objects or performing exercises like deadlifts, bench presses, or bicep curls with heavy weights.
Overhead activities: Any exercise or activity that requires repetitive overhead movements can strain the tendons in your elbow. Examples include overhead presses, pull-ups, and overhead tricep extensions. Modify or avoid these exercises until your tennis elbow has healed.
Forceful gripping: Exercises that involve forceful gripping or squeezing motions can worsen your symptoms. Avoid exercises like gripping weights or equipment tightly, using hand grippers, or performing exercises that require intense gripping, such as rows or farmer’s walks.
Impact sports and activities: Sports and activities that involve repetitive impact on the forearm, such as tennis, golf, or racket sports, can strain the tendons and worsen tennis elbow symptoms. It’s best to avoid these activities until you have recovered.
Excessive wrist extension or flexion: Movements that involve excessive bending or extending of the wrist can aggravate the tennis elbow. Avoid exercises like wrist curls, wrist extensions, or exercises that require excessive wrist movement
What foods treat tennis elbow?
There are no specific foods that directly treat tennis elbow, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet can support overall healing and provide nutrients that promote tissue repair. Here are some dietary considerations that may be beneficial:
Anti-inflammatory foods: Include foods that have anti-inflammatory properties in your diet. This can include fruits and vegetables such as berries, leafy greens, tomatoes, and broccoli. Healthy fats like avocados, nuts, and seeds, as well as fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, may also help reduce inflammation.
Protein-rich foods: Adequate protein intake is essential for tissue repair. Include lean sources of protein such as chicken, turkey, fish, tofu, beans, and lentils in your meals.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is known to support collagen synthesis and tissue repair. Include citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi, bell peppers, and leafy greens in your diet to ensure sufficient vitamin C intake.
Calcium and vitamin D: Calcium and vitamin D are important for bone health. Include dairy products, leafy greens, fortified plant-based milk, and sunlight exposure (for vitamin D synthesis) to support bone strength.
Stay properly hydrated by drinking an adequate amount of water each day. Hydration is crucial for overall health and helps maintain proper joint function.
Avoid processed foods: Minimize the consumption of processed foods, sugary snacks, and excessive amounts of saturated and trans fats, as these can contribute to inflammation and overall poor health.
What is the best position to heal your tennis elbow?
Sleep position should be considered as a possible aggravating factor that delays the healing of an acute injury and results in chronic pain. If validated, keeping the arm down at night can be recommended for tennis elbow.
Why is my tennis elbow not healing?
if tennis elbow does not heal within 6 to 8 weeks, it may be due to a non-inflammatory problem. About 80% of these cases do not fully recover because the tendon has been subjected to excessive strain or overuse, which can damage the structure of the tendon. This can result in early wear and tear of the tendon, making it difficult for the condition to resolve completely.
Is tennis elbow permanent?
Tennis elbow is typically not a permanent condition. With appropriate treatment and proper care, the majority of people with tennis elbow can recover and experience a significant reduction in symptoms.
When is tennis elbow serious?
Tennis elbow typically doesn’t cause serious issues. However, if left untreated, it can lead to problems such as limited motion or function in the elbow and forearm. If you experience pain that affects your daily activities, it’s important to reach out to your healthcare professional for guidance.
What is the average age for tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, can occur at any age, but it is most commonly seen in individuals between the ages of 30 and 50. This is the age range where people tend to be more active, both in sports and occupations that involve repetitive arm movements or gripping actions.
How should you sleep with tennis elbow?
When dealing with tennis elbow, finding a comfortable sleeping position can help alleviate discomfort and promote better rest. Here are some suggestions on how to sleep with tennis elbow:
Elevated arm: Try elevating your affected arm while sleeping by using a pillow or cushion to support it. This can help reduce swelling and relieve pressure on the elbow joint.
Neutral alignment: Aim to keep your arm and wrist in a neutral position while sleeping. Avoid bending your wrist or curling it under your body, as this can exacerbate the pain and strain the affected tendons.
Supportive pillows: Consider using supportive pillows or cushions to provide additional support and alignment to your neck, shoulders, and upper body. This can help maintain a more comfortable and relaxed position for your arm.
Experiment with positions: Every individual is different, so try different sleeping positions to find what works best for you. Some people find sleeping on their back with a pillow supporting their arm, while others prefer sleeping on their non-affected side with a pillow tucked between their arms for added support.
Night splint: In some cases, your healthcare professional may recommend using a night splint. This device helps keep your forearm and wrist in a neutral position during sleep, reducing strain on the affected tendons.