Tennis elbow affects more than tennis players
Whether your favorite summer activity is golf, tennis, gardening, or even home repair, you may run the risk of an overuse injury that can stop you cold.
Tennis elbow is caused by repetitive movements of the arm, elbow, wrist and hand, especially when gripping something like a racket, hedge trimmer, golf club or screwdriver.
Although tennis elbow affects up to 50% of tennis players at some point in their careers, many others develop the condition. In fact, less than 5% of tennis elbow diagnoses are caused by playing tennis!
The condition is characterized by a painful inflammation of the muscles and tendons that attach the forearm to the outside bony area of the elbow. If you feel pain around your outer elbow that gets worse when gripping something as simple as a toothbrush, you might already have it.
Quad City orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Ryan Dunlay, ORA Orthopedics, who specializes in orthopedic surgeries and sports medicine, says tennis elbow is common. A severe case of tennis elbow can keep you up at night, radiating into the forearm and eventually down to the hand. It can ache, burn and produce sharp, shooting pain.
A painful experience
Tennis elbow can easily be confused with other conditions that cause elbow pain. Those conditions – from bursitis to Little League elbow syndrome to stress fractures – can cause similar pain but require different treatment.
“A course of gentle strengthening and stretching exercises will help restore range of motion,” advises Dr. Dunlay. “Other therapies, including medications, can help.”
Dr. Dunlay also notes that it is important to identify sources of workplace physical stress – twisting your forearm, while carrying a child or a tray – and reverse the movement by stretching in an opposite manner slowly and gently throughout the day. This ergonomic therapy can help avoid further injury.
Elbow braces a good idea?
Some people find pain relief and enhanced grip strength by wearing tennis elbow straps just under their elbows. Available at drug stores everywhere, they are an inexpensive supplement to the gentle stretching and strengthening program provided by physical therapy.
Many patients enjoy full recovery through physical therapy, tennis elbow straps, anti-inflammatory medications, and other therapies. If you don’t, consult with your physician about other approaches.