Overview

Tennis Elbow, otherwise known as lateral epicondylitis, is inflammation of the forearm tendons due to overuse. Your extensor carpi radialis brevis, used to extend your wrist and fingers, typically becomes inflamed and irritated due to the overuse.

Though tennis elbow is often found in tennis players however it is not limited to just those who play tennis. Rather, anyone who is performing repetitive gripping and twisting motions which puts a strain on the muscles and tendons in the forearm is susceptible to developing tennis elbow.

Causes

tennis elbowThat main cause behind tennis elbow is overuse of the forearm muscles and tendons. The repetitive use and motion of the extensor carpi radialis brevis eventually lead to tiny tears in the tendon leading to pain.

Besides gripping and swinging a tennis racket, here are a few other activities that can cause tennis elbow:

  • Plumping
  • Painting
  • Using a screwdriver
  • Screwing tops off of jars

Any activity that involves repetitive twisting and gripping can lead to tennis elbow.

Symptoms

The symptoms of tennis elbow typically develop over an extended period of time and can range from mild to severe.

Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Weak grip strength
  • Pain and discomfort at the outside of the elbow
  • Pain may radiate in the upper and lower arm

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of developing tennis elbow include:

  • Most common in adults between the ages of 30-50
  • Jobs that require repetitive motions of the wrist and forearm
  • Racket sports such as tennis

Tests

Typically, a physical test is enough to make a diagnosis of tennis elbow. Your doctor will apply pressure to the tender area in your elbow as well as have you move your wrist and fingers in various directions. tennis elbow test

In order to rule out any other conditions, your doctor may order further tests.

  • X-rays may be used to determine if arthritis is the source of the pain
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan can be used to rule out a herniated disk and ensure the pain isn’t radiating from the neck
  • Electromyography (EMG) would be used to rule out nerve compression as the source of the pain

Treatment

Luckily tennis elbow will usually heal on its own with rest and other remedies such as:

  • Ice for 20 to 30 minutes to help reduce pain and swelling
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and aspirin to help with pain and swelling
  • Physically therapy is used to help strengthen muscles and tendons
  • For severe and chronic cases of tennis elbow that last up to 6 to 12 months surgery may be needed
    • During surgery, the damaged part of the tendon and tissue are removed
    • Check out this article for further information about surgery for tennis elbow

Exercises Tennis Elbow Exercises

After allowing your elbow to rest and the inflammation to subside, it’s a good idea to start implementing some strengthening exercises. Here are 5 exercises you can perform at home:

  1. Grip Strength
    • Using either a towel or small ball (any piece of equipment works here, be creative), rest your forearm on your leg and squeeze and hold your hand for 10-15 seconds. Repeat 10 times a couple times a day
  2. Wrist Supination
    • Start with your forearm resting on a table (or your leg), a dumbbell in your hand (1-3lbs), and your palm facing down
    • With your palm face down, slowly rotate your wrist so that your palm is now facing up toward the ceiling
    • Repeat 15 times
  3. Wrist Pronation
    • Again, start with your forearm resting on a table and a small dumbbell in your hand
    • Start with your hand in a neutral position (think thumb facing towards the ceiling)
    • From there, slowly rotate your wrist down (to the left), like you’re pouring a glass of water
    • Repeat 15 times
  4. Wrist Flexion
    • With your palm facing up and a small dumbbell in your hand, rest your forearm on a table
    • Then, flex your wrist by curling it towards your body. Keep your palm up the entire time
    • Repeat 15 times
  5. Wrist Extension
    • This time your palm is facing down with a small dumbbell in your hand
    • With your palm facing down the entire time, extend your wrist by curling it towards the ceiling
    • Repeat 15 times

* If you do not have a dumbbell available, you can replace it with a can of soup or another light object you’re able to grip in your hand *

Sources

  • https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/tennis-elbow-lateral-epicondylitis/
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322746.php
  • https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/tennis-elbow-lateral-epicondylitis#2
  • https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/tennis-elbow-lateral-epicondylitis#2