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Tennis Elbow

5 min read

Tennis Elbow - 5 Best Treatments and Supports

Tennis Elbow is a common condition which, according toBUPA, affects between 1 and 3 people in every 100.

In this article I’ll explain exactly what Tennis Elbow is, what causes it, and the treatments and preventions you can do at home, as recommended by the NHS and other leading health institutions.

What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is a strain to the tendons in your forearm that causes pain around the outside of your elbow.

It is a type of tendinopathy that develops when your common extensor tendon - that joins your forearm muscles to the outside of your elbow (lateral epicondyle) - becomes inflamed due to small tears or thickening of the tissue.

Tennis Elbow can occur in both arms but you are most likely going to experience symptoms in the elbow of the arm you use the most.

You are most likely to get it when you’re aged between 40 and 50.

What Causes Tennis Elbow?

The main cause of Tennis Elbow is activities that involve gripping and twisting of the forearm.  

This repetitive action causes the inflammation, swelling, thickening or small tears to the tendon that creates the pain.

Although the condition is called Tennis Elbow, it isn’t actually related to tennis or exercise – more the repetitive action of gripping and twisting your forearm.

Only 5 out of 100 people get tennis elbow from playing tennis or racket sports according to the NHS

Activities that cause Tennis Elbow include:

  • Playing racket sports – for example tennis or squash
  • Throwing sports – such as baseball or discus 
  • Manual work involving repetitive actions – such as using a screw driver or massaging 
  • Using gardening or DIY tools - such as shears or a paintbrush  
  • Repetitive activities - such as typing or using scissors or playing an instrument 

Tennis elbow can also occur after knocking or banging your elbow.

Symptoms of Tennis Elbow

  • Mild discomfort around the elbow and forearm when you move your arm  
  • Burning or Pain down your forearm and outer part of your elbow
  • Pain that may disturb your sleep
  • Outside of your elbow will feel tender to touch
  • Swelling
  • Repetitive movements of the wrist will make the pain worse, especially with added weight
  • Weak grip strength

Tennis Elbow can be mistaken for Golfer’s Elbow, which you can read more about by clicking here.

Tennis Elbow Treatments

Treatment for Tennis Elbow depends on how long you've had symptoms and which treatments you've already tried and work best for you.  

Tendons heal slowly and symptoms of Tennis Elbow may last for several weeks or months, according to the NHS, and may come back again in the future. 

BUPAadvise that a full recovery may take between 6 months and 2 years, but most people experience an improvement within 1 year. 

Simple treatments can help to relieve the pain of Tennis Elbow.

Here are the 5 best treatments to treat Tennis Elbow at home:

Step 1

The most important thing you can do is rest your injured arm for a few days and avoid the activity that caused the symptoms to develop. This will help you make a full recovery.

If the activity is work-related, contact your occupational health advisor as you’ll need reasonable adjustments made to help you, including taking regular breaks to rest your arm.

Step 2

Hold an ice pack or cold compress against your elbow for up to 15 minutes every 2 to 3 hours to help relieve Tennis Elbow pain for the first few days. 

Step 3

If you need to lift using the affected arm, do so with your palm facing up and your elbow bent as this will put less strain on the damaged area. 

Step 4

Wear a Tennis Elbow strap or brace (epicondylitis clasp) when doing activities to support your arm. This may help to relieve discomfort in your forearm, according to the Chartered Institute of Physiotherapists. https://www.csp.org.uk/public-patient/rehabilitation-exercises/tennis-elbow

These Tennis Elbow supports aim to relieve pressure on your tendons and help give extra support to your arm muscles, by reducing the pull effect the muscle has on the tendon.

Step 5

Over the counter medication such as Ibuprofen and paracetamol can help ease symptoms.

There is also evidence that diclofenac gel can help improve pain in strains and sprains.

Always read the patient information leaflet and ask your pharmacist for advice.

 

 

The NHS also recommends the use of an orthoses - such as an elbow brace, strapping, support, bandage or splint in the short term.

Click here to see the best supports for Tennis Elbow from PHYSIFLEX.

If your symptoms don’t improve after 6 weeks, it is advisable to contact your GP for examination.  

Your GP may refer you to an orthopaedic consultant or a physiotherapist for review.

They will consider non-surgical treatments such as a Botox, steroid injection or shock wave therapy.

Acupuncture is not recommended for treating tennis elbow, as there not enough evidence that it will improve symptoms.

Surgery is only considered as a last resort in severe and persistent cases of Tennis Elbow, where the treatments mentioned above have not been successful over a period of time.

How To Prevent Tennis Elbow

These exercises can help prevent symptoms of Tennis Elbow returning, according to the Chartered Institute of Physiotherapists UK

You should perform them for at least 6 to 8 weeks after the pain resolves to help build strength and improve flexibility.

Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions .

Bend your elbow at a right angle and hold out your hand with your palm facing up.

Turn your wrist over slowly so that your palm is faces down.

Hold for 5 seconds, and slowly release. 

 


Conduct the exercise again while holding a light weight, such as a 1kg dumbbell or tin of beans. 

Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Bend your elbow at a right angle.

Hold a light weight with your palm up.

Bend your wrist slowly towards you.

Hold for 5 seconds, then slowly release.

 

Perform 10 times

Stand up straight and lower your arm to one side.

Bend your arm slowly upwards so your hand is touching your shoulder. 

Hold for 15–30 seconds. 

Perform 3 sets with each wrist

Keeping your arm straight in front with your palm facing down, gently bend your wrist down.

Use the opposite hand to press the stretching hand back towards your body and hold for 15–30 seconds.

Straighten your wrist.

Gently bend the stretching hand backwards and use the opposite hand to pull the fingers back.

Hold for 15–30 seconds.

 

 

Did This Help?

Please comment below with your feedback and let us know if this helped you.


Jamil Anakkar
Founder, PHYSIFLEX and NHS Emergency Care Practitioner 


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