Tennis elbow, which is known among doctors as lateral epicondylitis, refers to the pain and soreness in the outer part of the elbow. This happens when the tendons connecting the forearm muscles to the elbow become damaged. The pain from this injury spreads down to the arm and wrist. If not treated, it can cause pain whenever you do simple activities like opening a door or reaching for something.
Most cases of tennis elbow is due to overuse. Doing activities that require you to twist your arm can wear off the tendons and damage them over time. These activities stress the tendons and leave tiny tears. Also, a direct blow to the outer elbow from a car accident, fall, sporting activity or assault can also cause damage to the tendon.
Tennis elbow is named such because it's very common among tennis players. The sport of tennis require its players to twist the arm over and over. But other activities like gardening, painting, and using screwdriver can also lead to tennis elbow. While everyone can get this problem, those who are over the age of 40 are at greater risk.
This condition is diagnosed through careful examination of the elbow. The doctor will also ask questions about the elbow problem along with the patient's daily activities and past injuries. X-ray may be performed to rule out other conditions that may be causing the pain.
As for treatment, this can be done at home. For one you need to give your arm a good rest. You cannot do any activity that worsens the pain. The moment you notice pain, apply cold compress for 10 to 15 minutes at a time many times a day. Make sure you put a cloth between the ice and skin. Using ice can relieve the pain. If not, try using a warm moist cloth. It may do the trick.
Your doctor may also advise you to take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen. You may also rub a NSAIDs cream over the painful area. Wearing a counterforce brace can also help you. This is a strap wrapped around the forearm and placed about an inch below the elbow. It lightens the pressure on the tendon.
When the pain is gone, the doctor will teach you rehabilitation exercises designed to stretch and strengthen the tendon. This will help the tendon heal as well as prevent any further injury. Be sure to learn and practice the correct techniques. If you experience any pain or discomfort while engaged in the stretching exercises, stop right away.
If you're a tennis player, you can prevent tennis elbow by using the proper backhand technique, using the correct equipment while playing, and stretching before a game. For others, proper lifting especially of heavy objects and warming up before exercises are effective preventive measures.