Your elbow joint is made up of three bones; your humerus, radius and ulna. The bony bump on the outside of your elbow is called the lateral epicondylitis. If you are experiencing pain specific to the outside of your elbow, this is commonly known as tennis elbow.
Lateral epicondylitis, or Tennis Elbow, is swelling of the tendons. This condition may also be referred to as tendinitis and refers to the tendons (bands of tough tissue) that connect the muscle of your lower arm to the bone. Tennis Elbow is most common in men and women aged between 30-50.
Causes of Tennis Elbow
The cause of tennis elbow, despite the name, is not only caused by playing tennis but in fact by repetitive motions. This can strain the muscles, causing too much stress on the tendons resulting in microscopic tears in the tissue. Other causes can include using small tools such as scissors, gardening, or work such as plumbing, typing or bricklaying. These are just a few examples but you may find that something else has caused pain to your elbow or wrist. That’s why it’s always good to seek advice from a medical professional such as your GP.
Common symptoms of Tennis Elbow
It’s important to understand what the common symptoms of tennis elbow are if you are experiencing pains in your elbow. Knowing the symptoms can help you with a diagnosis or inform a doctor what you are experiencing. Remember, some people experience differences in symptoms and pain levels, but may all be experiencing Tennis Elbow. Some symptoms of Tennis Elbow can include, but are not limited to:
- Recurring pain on the outside of the upper forearm
- Pain down the arm towards the wrist
- Pain when you grip something
- Pain performing certain tasks whilst working
- Reduced strength when you try to grip something due to pain
How to treat Tennis Elbow
Tennis Elbow can sometimes go away on its own. It’s recommended to stay active but avoid any activities that cause pain to the elbow. To diagnose Tennis Elbow, your doctor will do a thorough exam. He or she will ask you to flex your arm, wrist and elbow to see where it hurts.
You may also be required to get imaging tests, such as an X-ray or MRI to diagnose Tennis Elbow or rule out other problems. A physiotherapist can also suggest exercises to help stretch and strengthen the muscles in your arm. They may also suggest using a brace on your forearm to reduce stress on the painful area or show you different ways of completing tasks without putting too much strain on your arm.
Generally, if the pain persists over a longer period of time and doesn’t get any better your doctor may recommend getting corticosteroid injections. This, however, is only used for short term relief. It is very rare to be required to have surgery for Tennis Elbow. This is a very last resort treatment option that is generally only suggested after several months of physiotherapy and or another form of treatment such as a topical cream or gel to soothe aches and pains.
Tennis Elbow can often interrupt your daily routine and be painful when left untreated. If you are concerned about pain or swelling around your elbow and think you may be experiencing Tennis Elbow, it is always best to seek the advice of your doctor. Your doctor can assess your pain, ask you the questions needed to diagnose your issue and when required, send you for further testing.