Tennis elbow is a condition you hear a lot about, especially during the warm summer months. This is because amateur tennis players are at a high risk for developing a condition called tennis elbow. Up to half of those who play tennis will suffer from tennis elbow at some point. However, 95% of those suffering from tennis elbow do not even play tennis! This makes tennis elbow somewhat of a misnomer.
The actual name of tennis elbow is lateral epicondylitis. There are a group of tendons that attach to the outside, or lateral, portion of the elbow. These tendons connect to the muscles in the forearm that bend the wrist upward, straighten the fingers, and rotate the hands into a palm-up position. Repetitive and strenuous use of these muscles can result in small tears in the tendons. Without adequate time to heal, these small tears can become re-injured. Over time this can lead to scar tissue formation that can leave the tendons thickened, rough, and even permanently weakened.
Since tennis elbow is caused by repetitive motion, there are certain occupations and hobbies that increase the risk for developing tennis elbow. Any activity that involves twisting the forearm, extending the wrists, or gripping an object while moving the forearm results in use of the muscles and tendons most often affected by tennis elbow. This places plumbers, painters, and carpenters at an increased risk of tennis elbow. Hobbies that increase the risk of tennis elbow include tennis, racquetball, and weaving. Even household chores such as mopping and raking increase the strain to the tendons involved with tennis elbow.
How can you tell if you might be suffering from tennis elbow? The most common symptom is a burning pain on the outside of the elbow. Sometimes there is also tenderness to touch in the muscles and on the bone on the outside of the elbow. The pain is often made worse by gripping or lifting objects. Even something as small as a coffee cup can become difficult to lift without pain. Occasionally, pain can shoot from the elbow down the forearm. It is possible for the symptoms to begin all of the sudden, but the symptoms usually start slowly and gradually get worse.
If you have the described symptoms for more then 3 days, it is important to go to your chiropractor and get an accurate diagnosis. Generally, a simple examination is all that is needed to diagnose tennis elbow. Your chiropractor will perform some orthopedic tests, press gently around the elbow, and have you perform certain motions to determine exactly which tendons are inflamed or damaged. X-rays are usually not required to diagnosis tennis elbow, but a MRI may be used in very severe cases to determine how much damage is present.
Early diagnosis of tennis elbow is important because it allows for early treatment that can reduce the risk of further injury. The first step in treatment is avoiding the activity that is damaging the tendons. Sometimes this means giving up an activity for a few weeks or simply modifying the activity or motion so the injured tendons have an opportunity to heal. During this healing time, your chiropractor will use certain physical therapies to aid the healing process. Therapies such as ice and ultrasound can reduce the inflammation of the tendons. Specific muscle stretching and adjustments to the elbow can restore proper motion and reduce the strain placed on the tendons. As you return to your normal activities, an elbow counterforce brace is sometimes used to reduce the strain to the tendons. It is important the brace only be used during specific activities, so your chiropractor will instruct you on proper use of a brace if one is necessary. Once the tendons have healed, you may be given specific strengthening exercises to prevent future injury.
To determine if chiropractic care could help you with your tennis elbow, or to speak with a chiropractor in the Edwardsville, IL area, call Dr. Emily Brueggeman at 618-692-0000 . Ask for a free Invitation to Health that includes a consultation and screening to determine if yours is a chiropractic case.