Everyone probably has a favorite tennis player. From the days of Billie Jean King and John McEnroe to today’s stars like the Williams sisters and Roger Federer, tennis has always been an exciting sport to both watch and play.
If you follow this sport, you know that injuries are a fact of life for the players. However, injuries can happen to anyone at any time, not just professionals, and you don’t have to be a jock to get tennis elbow.
Definition of Tennis Elbow
In order to understand tennis elbow, it may help to know a little more about the human arm. Like other areas of your body, the arm is made up of various bones, tendons, and muscles, all of which must work together precisely to allow you to use it and move it correctly. When something is wrong with any component, your body warns you with the sensation of pain.
The side of your elbow closest to your body is called the medial epicondylitis and the outer side is named the lateral epicondylitis. There are tendons and muscles on the lateral side, connected to the bone, which permit you to move your arm in that familiar hinge fashion.
Your elbow is just one of the hinge joints in your body. It is so named because the movements of your elbows, as well as your knees, are similar to opening a cabinet or jewelry box.
Unfortunately, if you perform this hinge motion too often or too vigorously, over time it can cause a stress injury. In addition, this area can be damaged by a sudden, forceful action or accident. The condition is identified with the name tennis elbow because, due to the type of movement involved, it afflicts both professional athletes and weekend warriors quite often.
Other kinds of activity that can initiate this type of repetitive stress injury are swinging a baseball bat, using a hammer, or digging with a shovel. For the record, when this type of injury occurs on the inner elbow, it is often referred to as golfer’s elbow. There are several varieties of other repetitive stress injuries such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. All have to do with overuse of tissues, tendons, or nerves in your body.
The elbow pain is the most obvious sign that you might have tennis elbow. Another clear signal is the accompanying difficulty of executing other specific tasks that involve having a strong grip. For instance, if you have tennis elbow, in addition to the pain that comes from swinging your forearm, you could also experience discomfort when you turn a doorknob or lift a frying pan.
Since tennis elbow is caused by repeatedly overusing your elbow, it is more likely to happen to those who are old enough to have done it too much. Tennis elbow does not typically affect people younger than 30. You can also expect to get it in the arm you use most frequently.
Treatment for Tennis Elbow
Although the pain associated with tennis elbow is quite serious, it can be difficult to diagnose. There is no scan or test that can detect it. If you suffer from comparable symptoms, your physician will likely perform an exam or conduct an x-ray anyway to rule out the possibility of other ailments, such as a sprain or fracture.
Unlike other injuries, tennis elbow is not usually treated with an operation. It is more common for your doctor to advise you to rest the affected area or use an over-the-counter pain reliever. Another recommendation might be that you wear an arm brace to prevent further overexertion. You may also wish to use an ice pack on the area to reduce pain and swelling.
There are also particular exercises you can do to help loosen and stretch the muscles and tendons of your elbow. However, this should only be done under a doctor’s direction and supervision.
Perhaps the best method of treatment is to know your own body. Identify the activities that cause you any discomfort and discontinue anything that creates pain. Take proper precautions whether you are working, playing a sport, or engaging in leisure activities by wearing the right equipment and performing movements safely. It is also wise to take breaks and rest any sore areas when appropriate.
Pros and Cons of Surgery for Tennis Elbow
You may often hear of famous athletes undergoing surgery for tennis elbow. Nonetheless, for the rest of us, surgery is considered a last resort for the treatment of tennis elbow.
Your physician might propose surgery if other treatment methods have been unsuccessful after more than 12 months of pain and your livelihood is being affected.
Surgery for tennis elbow can comprise fixing any damage to your tendon or eliminating affected tissue. This should help to alleviate the pain but it is important to note that these operations are not always successful. As with any type of surgery, there are risks and, in this case, it can include further impairment to the nerve or other loss of movement issues.