Do you have outer elbow pain that seems to get worse when gripping or bending? Do you have wrist weakness? Are your symptoms worse when you first wake up? If you do, you may have something commonly referred to as tennis elbow. Tennis elbow can become a painful and nagging injury, lasting from several weeks to months. Without proper care and treatment, tennis elbow can become a chronic and persistent condition.
What is tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow is a misnomer because it's not isolated to only tennis players or the elbow. Anyone can get tennis elbow with repetitive overuse of the involved muscles and tendons connecting the wrist, forearm and elbow. Basically, what happens is that inflammation and tiny tears develop in the tendon as a result of rubbing against bone, and this leads to pain and/or discomfort. So, if you do any activities such as gardening, typing or other racquet sports, you too are susceptible to getting tennis elbow.
Symptoms of tennis elbow
Common symptoms of tennis elbow include the following:
- Outer elbow pain that can begin as mild discomfort and progress to more severe pain as the effects of the injury worsen.
- Pain with activities--this can be pain in the elbow, forearm or wrist that is aggravated by gripping, lifting, squeezing or opening objects.
- Range of motion difficulties--there can be discomfort or difficulty bending the elbow or extending the arm.
- Weakness associated with the wrist, forearm or elbow.
- Morning stiffness--the elbow's position during sleep can aggravate symptoms.
Chiropractic care usually involves two phases: immediate care and rehabilitation. Start immediate care as soon as you start feeling any tennis elbow symptoms. The sooner you start, the sooner healing can actually begin. Typical phase one protocol is found below, and it is based on the RICE principle:
- Rest--avoid exacerbating the injury, keep elbow movement minimal to essential activities.
- Ice--ice the affected area. To avoid getting frostbite or aggravating your injury, do not use ice longer than 20 minutes at a time. A good icing regimen is 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off for the first 48 hours. Icing is used to help relieve pain and manage inflammation.
- Compression--there are many kinds of braces and supports designed for injuries related to tennis elbow. These will help to prevent swelling. You can also use an elastic bandage or "ACE bandage" to wrap the area, but be sure to allow for circulation.
- Elevation--keep the area elevated to help minimize swelling. This is especially important when going to sleep.
Phase two involves various strengthening and stretching exercises to help rehabilitate the elbow. These exercises must be done with proper technique to avoid further damage. It is best to consult with an Atlanta-area chiropractor regarding the best exercises to help with your tennis elbow treatment. They will be able to put together a plan based on your circumstantial limitations to help with your course of treatment. Supervised care is the best and most reliable way to get effective relief.