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All About Tennis Elbow

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I am facing a fairly likely diagnosis of tennis elbow but I won't know for a couple of weeks. Tennis elbow is also known as lateral epicondylitis, an extremely painful inflammation of the tendons that are attached to the muscles in the arm, specifically the elbow.

It happens due to overuse of the elbow from repetitive behaviors like working on an assembly line or frequent participation in sports like golf and particularly tennis, hence the name.

But many people get this tennis elbow from something other than tennis or racquet sports, like carpenters or those who work all day long on a computer.

In my case, tennis is indeed the culprit and the pain is horrendous. A deep ache in the arm, especially when extending it or pulling it back by the elbow (which is exactly what I do when I play tennis, and I play a lot) and also when I flex my wrist back, as if revving up a motorbike.

These are all classic symptoms. It wakes me up at night and is getting worse. The onset was pretty sudden and recent but I will see a health care professional next week.

In the meantime, I wear a band and soldier on with tennis because like lots of players, I'm not prepared to give it up and I hope I never have to. The next month or so will let me know whether I can compete this summer, something I've been training for all winter.

A diagnosis is done by examination and finding out about a person's lifestyle, job and exercise habits. A physical examination is performed by asking the patient to perform movements and motions to test for pain and mobility, especially in the elbow, forearm and wrist areas. X-rays are not usually done because tennis elbow is not usually seen on scans.

EmpowHER's Tennis Elbow page advises the following treatment options:

"Rest: Do not do activities that cause pain. Do not play sports, especially tennis, until the pain is gone.
Ice: Apply ice or a cold pack to the outside of the elbow for 15-20 minutes, four times a day for several days. Wrap the ice or cold pack in a towel. Do not apply the ice directly to your skin.

Take one of the following drugs to help reduce inflammation and pain:
■Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
■Naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn)
■Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

"If you still have tenderness in the elbow while taking these drugs, do not return to physical activity. Check with your doctor.

Wear a counter-force brace on your forearm if recommended by your doctor. This brace limits the force generated by your forearm muscles when you use them.

"Heat: apply heat to the elbow only when you are returning to physical activity. Heat is helpful before stretching or when you are getting ready to play sports.

"Strength Exercises
"Gradual Return to Your Sport

"Begin arm motions of your sport or activity, such as tennis strokes, as recommended.

"Cortisone Injection
The doctor may inject cortisone into the tendon attachment at the lateral epicondyle. This may help to reduce pain and inflammation."

Arm support and braces are commonly worn by sufferers of tennis elbow who feel they offer excellent support and can help avoid repeat injuries. These arm braces can be found online and in sports stores and range from $15 to over $100 in price.

According to Sports Injury Handbooks, tennis elbow is the fifth most common sports injury. There are two forms of tennis elbow -- lateral and medial and a person's type often depends on their style of play.

Lateral tennis elbow tends to happen to tennis players who strain their arms from hitting late backhands whereas medial injuries can happen to players whose forehands carry a lot of topspin. (I suspect I have a medial injury.)

Early intervention is key. Getting treatment and decreasing play until the arm is healed may be a necessary evil. Recovery can take from as little as several weeks, to two years.


EmpowHER. Tennis Elbow Treatments. Web. Wednesday March 7, 2012. https://www.empowher.com/condition/tennis-elbow/treatments

Sports Injury Handbooks. Top 10 Sports Injuries. Web. Wednesday March 7, 2012. http://www.sportsinjuryhandbook.com/injuries/index.html

Reviewed March 8, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment2 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Conservative methods involving the R. I. C. E technique and exercises have proven work great for tennis elbow treatment. If you add tendon healing diet to it even becomes more effective.

March 27, 2012 - 12:17pm
EmpowHER Guest

We have a new brace developed specifically for treatment of tennis elbow, check out our website, www.supertenniselbowbrace.com

March 8, 2012 - 12:54pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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