The Most Effective Tennis Elbow Treatment Options, Explained

2% of people in the United States will develop tennis elbow at some point in their lives, but that doesn’t mean you have to. If you take care of your elbows, you’ll reduce the likelihood of ever developing this condition. If you already have a tennis elbow, don’t worry, because there are many tennis elbow treatment options that you can try. 

Some treatments may be more effective than others for your unique type of tennis elbow. But what is tennis elbow anyway and why does it happen? What are the symptoms and how can you know that you have them for sure?

What should you do once the signs of tennis elbow start to appear? Keep reading and find your answers below. 

What You Need to Know About Tennis Elbow

What many people don’t know is that tennis elbow is actually a form of tendonitis. Tendonitis is a condition that involves the inflammation of the tendons in the body. Tendonitis can happen anywhere you have tendons in the body, but tennis elbow, as the name suggests, only affects the tendons in the elbow.

Many people think that the only people who get tennis elbow are those who play tennis all the time. However, this is not quite true. While it is true that people who play tennis often develop tennis elbow, people who never play tennis may develop it as well.

People who play tennis are more likely to develop it because of the repetitive motions they put their elbows through when swinging a racket. However, if you tend to do any kind of repetitive motion involving your elbow, you may start to notice the first signs of tennis elbow. This happens because repetitive motions involving the elbow tend to inflame the tendons in your elbow. 

This inflammation eventually causes the tendons in the elbow to swell up. This is where the symptoms of tennis elbow start to arise.

The Details

Once the tendons in the elbow become swollen, it will be more difficult to make any motion involving your elbow. 

This is because the swollen tendons won’t be able to stretch and pull as they usually do. As a result, you may experience pain when you try to move your elbow or you may find it difficult to move your elbow at all. You will be more likely to develop tennis elbow not only if you do repetitive motions with your arm, but specifically if you do repetitive motions involving the first two fingers of your hand along with your thumb. 

This is because the first two fingers of your hand and your thumb pull on tendons in the rest of your arm in a certain way. Keep in mind that tennis elbow doesn’t often occur in those who are young. Instead, this condition is much more common in those over the age of 40 or so. 

If you meet all of these qualifications and your elbow happens to be sore, you might be wondering if you have tennis elbow. There are some important symptoms you should look for to tell if you have this condition or not which we will now explore. 

The Signs and Symptoms of Tennis Elbow

Keep in mind that tennis elbow does not develop overnight. Instead, this condition develops gradually. For example, if you play tennis every day for an hour or so, this will eventually start to wear down the tendons in your arm. 

This will soon strain them, inflame them, and cause them to become swollen. The reason this happens is that, as you exhaust your tendons with repetitive motions, you will actually start to create small tears in your tendons. These small tears are what contribute to this form of tendonitis. 

Besides tennis, you might develop tennis elbow from other spots such as squash, weight lifting, fencing, and so on. You may also develop it from certain kinds of physical labor such as painting walls, typing, construction, sewing, and so on. Whatever the case, the first symptom of this condition involves pain in the elbow.

Specifically, the pain will be most intense on the outside of your elbow where you can locate a boney protuberance. This protuberance is important because it marks the location where the bones in your arm connect with your tendons. If you have tennis elbow, this region may be particularly swollen or tender to the touch. 

This is due to the swelling of the tendons underneath your skin. Keep in mind that the pain doesn’t have to be localized to your elbow. You may feel the pain spread to other parts of your arm.

The pain may go all the way up to your elbow and all the way down to your wrist. The pain tends to be worse when you move your elbow. However, some people find that the condition is painful even when they only move their hands. 

What You Need to Know

This is because the tendons in your hand connect to the bones that make up your elbow. Some motions may also cause more pain than others. For example, you may experience acute pain when you try to lift an object or when you try to grasp something with your hand.

Opening and closing your hand may even cause pain throughout your arm. It is important that you don’t confuse tennis elbow with golfers elbow. While they are similar and while they both involve inflammation of tendons in the elbow, they are not the same. 

This is because golfer’s elbow involves inflammation of the tendons on the inside of the elbow while tennis elbow involves tendons on the outside of the elbow. Whatever the case, to know for sure whether or not you have tennis elbow, you will need to go to a doctor.

A doctor will put you through an exam that involves moving your elbow in a particular way. In some cases, your doctor may also have you get an X-ray. This will ensure that you are really dealing with tennis elbow and not another problem such as a bone spur or other problem. 

Once your doctor diagnoses you with tennis elbow, it will be time to explore your treatment options. 

Tennis Elbow Treatment Options to Consider

In most cases, you don’t need to worry about getting any invasive treatments for tennis elbow. This is because most cases of tennis elbow heal on their own. Keep in mind that tennis elbow is nothing more than inflammation of the tendons in the elbow. 

Inflammation usually goes down on its own over time. However, you will need to make sure that you don’t do anything that will continue to inflame the tendons in your elbow. For that reason, you should try to get your affected arm a rest. 

You should avoid grabbing anything with the affected arm or moving the affected elbow in any way. This can be difficult at first and many people like to wear an elbow strap to make it easier. An elbow strap will keep your elbow in place so you don’t move it too much throughout the day. 

By keeping your elbow relatively mobile, the tendons in your arm will finally have a chance to rest and relax. Keep in mind that this won’t happen overnight. Just as the development of tennis elbow took time, it will also take time for the condition to go away on its own. 

Besides keeping your arm immobile, there are a few other things you can do to help the condition go away on its own. For example, using an ice pack on your elbow is a very simple and helpful treatment option. This is because using anything cold on your inflamed tendons will help reduce the swelling and inflammation. 

Cold Packs and Medication

Besides that, the cold will also numb any pain you may have in the area. You should aim to hold an ice pack to your elbow for about 30 minutes every day. Instead of putting the ice pack directly on your skin, wrap it in a towel first so you won’t irritate or hurt your skin. 

Apply the ice pack every few hours throughout the day. After a few days, you should notice that the symptoms of your tennis elbow have started to reduce in intensity. Eventually, the pain will completely go away on its own. 

If the pain is particularly bad, you can supplement the ice pack with some over-the-counter pain medication. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication is especially useful since, as the name suggests, this class of medication helps to fight against inflammation in the body. The only downside is that these pills may slow the healing process of your elbow. 

For that reason, you should only take these pills as often as necessary or as your doctor recommends. The medication should reduce your pain as well as the inflammation your tendons currently have. Once you mix these pills with the regular use of ice packs, your tennis elbow should soon be a problem of the past. 

But what if you have a severe case of tennis elbow and your condition doesn’t seem to be going away on its own?

Other Treatment Options for Tennis Elbow

There are some cases in which your tennis elbow may not heal on its own. This is not common but it can happen if you have severely damaged your elbow in some way. For example, if you have somehow caused a large tear in the tendons in your elbow, this tear may not heal on its own. 

In rare cases, you may even need surgery for your tennis elbow. If you have caused a large tear in one of your tendons, this tear will not come together by itself. Such a large tear would also severely limit your range of movement and would cause a lot of pain. 

Surgery can fix this problem by suturing the torn pieces of the tendon back together. As you heal from this surgery, you will need to be careful not to move your arm as this may damage the healing tendon yet again. After you recover, you should be able to use your arm and elbow as you did before. 

Some people may find that their range of movement is not quite the same after surgery. To fix this problem, you may need to go to physical therapy. Whether or not you need surgery for your tennis elbow, physical therapy can be quite helpful for getting back your mobility. 

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can ensure that your elbow doesn’t become too stiff as it heals. Keep in mind that physical therapy does not involve intense exercise. Instead, it involves gentle stretching of the tendons. 

That way, the tendons remain limber and flexible as they heal. It is usually best to stretch your tendons three or four times every day. Going to see a professional physical therapist can be helpful as well. 

That way, a professional can help you determine which stretches would be most helpful for treating your condition. In some cases, steroid injections may be necessary to treat your elbow. Steroid injections are helpful for reducing inflammation, but they may not be ideal as a long-term treatment option. 

All About Tennis Elbow Treatment

There are many tennis elbow treatment options to choose from and some may be more adequate than others to treat your unique type of tennis elbow. If you have only minorly injured your elbow, you may only need to wait a few days or so until the injury heals on its own. On the other hand, if you have severely damaged your elbow, you may need surgery, physical therapy, or steroid injections. 

Contact us here to learn more.

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The Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas offers diagnosis and treatment for hand, wrist, and elbow problems in Houston, using the most advanced and minimally invasive medical techniques. Our orthopedic hand specialists and hand and finger surgeons are waiting to provide you with excellent care at one of our hand care centers in River Oaks, Webster, North Houston, Katy/Sugarland, or Baytown

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