Tennis elbow is a condition in which you experience pain around the outside of your elbow. It is generally caused by the overuse of muscles around your elbow, which leads to damaged muscles and the development of small tears in your tendons. It tends to weaken your grip. About one to three percent of people suffer from tennis elbow, with the condition mostly making an appearance after the 30s.1
Can Tennis Elbow Be Cured?
Tennis elbow is considered a self-limiting condition – that is, the injury caused to the tendons eventually heals on its own without treatment. However, since tendons take a while to heal, the condition may take months or even a couple of years to resolve. Meanwhile, your doctor may prescribe painkillers or corticosteroid injections to deal with the pain. And in some cases, surgery might also be advised.2 3 But you can also try some other treatments to help ease the symptoms.
7 Ways To Treat Your Tennis Elbow
1. Get A Little Rest
The first thing you need to do is rest your arm. This means that you need to stop activities like sports or manual work which can strain your damaged muscles and tendons. You might also want to find alternative ways of working which do not burden these muscles.4
2. Ice It
Using a cold compress on the affected area for a few minutes can help lessen the pain. You can wrap some ice or even a packet of frozen peas in a towel or washcloth to use as a compress. Do take care not to apply ice directly to your skin though.5
3. Try Physiotherapy
Physiotherapy can be really beneficial if you have tennis elbow. A physiotherapist may use techniques like tissue manipulation and massage to improve blood flow and lessen pain in your arm. She might also train you in exercises that can strengthen your muscles and improve flexibility.6 Stretching exercises are generally used to prevent stiffness and tendon shortening while strengthening exercises are used to build up your muscles. For instance:
Stretching Exercise: Stretch out your arm with your palm facing up and then bend your wrist so that your hand points in the direction of the floor. Now use your other hand to bend your wrist a little more till you feel a mild stretch in the forearm. Hold this position for about fifteen to thirty seconds and repeat the process two to three times. This exercise is known as a wrist flexor stretch. You can also do this exercise with your palm facing down (which is known as a wrist extensor stretch).
Strengthening Exercise: Grip a balled up sock or golf ball in the palm of your hand and squeeze. Hold this position for around six seconds and then relax your grip for about ten seconds. Repeat the process eight to twelve times. You can also use hand weights (start with something less than 2 lb and gradually increase the weight if you’re comfortable). But do remember that strengthening exercises are usually done after your pain has lessened and your flexibility has improved. Also, it’s best to start these exercises under the guidance of a physiotherapist.7
4. Use A Brace
It might be helpful to use a brace that wraps around your upper forearm if you have tennis elbow. This can reduce pressure on your muscles and tendons and relieve symptoms.8
5. Try Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy
This therapy uses sound waves which are passed through the skin to encourage the natural healing powers of the body and relieve pain. But though this treatment has been found to be effective it may cause slight side effects like bruising in the part that’s treated.9 10
6. Try Natural Remedies
Various plants and herbs also have beneficial properties that can provide relief:
- Cayenne, the hot spice related to bell pepper and paprika, contains a component known as capsaicin which can bring about pain relief when applied topically. Ointments with capsaicin block the transmission of messages of pain from the skin to the brain and can be effective against tennis elbow.11 12
- Prickly ash oil may help to improve blood flow and quicken healing when applied to the affected area. 13
- Turmeric, the yellow spice that gives curry its color has traditionally been used to fight inflammation. Try using this spice when you cook dinner.14
- Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapples reduces inflammation and may prove helpful. So try adding a few delicious pineapple slices to your salad for relief if you have tennis elbow. Also, turmeric is said to enhance the effects of bromelain so the combination could prove to be a potent remedy.15
7. Go For Acupuncture
The traditional Chinese practice of acupuncture may prove helpful if you’re looking to relieve the pain caused by tennis elbow. Acupuncture, the medicinal practice based on the ancient Chinese belief that disease is caused by the blockage of the vital energy known as Qi, stimulates specific points on the body (known as acupoints) to remove the blockage and restore energy flow. One study found that stimulating an acupoint on the leg by inserting fine needles resulted in pain relief for about 20.2 hours in people suffering from tennis elbow. 16
8. Turn To Homeopathy
Homeopathy has a few remedies that can be useful for treating tennis elbow. Your homeopathic doctor may advise you to use ointments made of Arnica (wolf’s bane), Calendula officinalis (English marigold), Hamamelis virginiana (witch-hazel), or Aconitum napellus (monkshood) to quicken healing and lessen discomfort.17
Steps To Prevent Tennis Elbow
Here are a few tips that may help you avoid tennis elbow:
- Try not to use your elbow and wrist more than you use the rest of the arm, and make use of the larger muscles in your upper arm and shoulder.
- In case you play a sport like tennis which requires repetitive movements make sure you use the right techniques (it might be a good idea to check in with a coach) and equipment.
- Stretching the muscles of your arm and warming up before beginning any sport that requires you to continuously repeat arm movements can help prevent injuries.
- Use tools and sports equipment which have a large grip size and are not heavy to lessen the strain on your tendons.
- Adopt exercises which strengthen your forearm muscles. And remember it might be a good idea to get the help of a physiotherapist to do so.18
|↑1||Synopsis of Causation. Ministry of Defence.|
|↑2, ↑4, ↑5, ↑6, ↑9||Tennis elbow – Treatment. National Health Service.|
|↑3||Tennis elbow. National Health Service.|
|↑7||Tennis Elbow: Stretches and Strengthening Exercises. University of Michigan.|
|↑8, ↑10||Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis). American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.|
|↑11||Cayenne. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts.|
|↑12, ↑13||Long, Jacqueline. The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine (3rd edition). Thomson Gale, 2006.|
|↑14, ↑15, ↑17||Tendinitis. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑16||Molsberger, A., and E. Hille. “The analgesic effect of acupuncture in chronic tennis elbow pain.” Rheumatology 33, no. 12 (1994): 1162-1165.|
|↑18||Tennis elbow – Prevention. National Health Service.|