When we have an injury, we realise how much we take for granted, and one of the big ones is when patients come and see me for tennis elbow. My top advice for tennis elbow is to REST REST REST , basically pretend that arm is useless. They then realise how much they use their arm, whether it is the dominant one or not! “But I don’t play tennis!” they say. Well, here’s a news flash, only a small percentage of people with “tennis elbow” actually play tennis. It is mainly caused by overuse of the arm and hand. Tightness in the muscles of the forearm build up and put pressure on a bone on the outside of the elbow, leading to inflammation, which in turn causes pain.
Signs and symptoms of tennis elbow:
- Pain when using your arm
- Pain when gripping (like using chopsticks, holding coffee cup, gripping door handle, etc)
- Soreness or tender to touch around the elbow
- Swelling or redness around the elbow
- Elbow or forearm pain
- Swollen fingers
- Pain that could be worse in the morning or at the end of the day
- Numbness or tingling in the fingers
- Neck and shoulder pain associated with elbow pain
- Pain when shaking hands
- Pain when trying to lift something like a kettle or shopping.
You are at risk of developing tennis elbow if:
- You are in the 30-50 year old age bracket.
- You have an occupation where you are using your arm and/or fingers a lot (i.e. typing/mousework on computer, tradework, cooking, repetitive arm movements (machinist, packer, etc).
- You play a lot of racket sports, especially if you employ the wrong technique.
- Have suffered from tennis elbow in the past.
What can I do about it?
- REST REST REST. Overuse of the arm is what caused it in the first place so not using your arm at all will help in its recovery. Rest means no lifting, no gripping (from door handles to even your toothbrush), and basically keeping the injured arm useless until recovery. i understand that it is hard to not use your arm 100% of the time, but the more you rest it, the faster it will improve.
- ICE/HEAT. This depends on how long you have had it. If it is chronic tennis elbow (over 3 months in duration), you might need to do a combination of ice and heat. Otherwise, for acute tennis elbow (less than 3 months), especially if the elbow is swollen or red, then 10 minutes of ice 3 times per day will help reduce the inflammation and provide some relief.
- TENNIS ELBOW STRAP. Purchase a tennis elbow strap from the pharmacy, so that if you do have to use your arm especially at work, wear it and it will take the pressure off the tendons to allow it to heal.
- OSTEOPATHIC TREATMENT. Sometimes, tennis elbow is not as simple as it sounds. There are other factors involved like the posture of your spine affecting how your shoulder and in turn your arm are working. The beauty of osteopathy is that we look at everything as a whole, so during an assessment for tennis elbow, we will address those things, which will speed up your recovery even more, and most importantly, prevent recurrence.
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