Tennis elbow is pain on the outer elbow. The medical name for tennis elbow is lateral epicondylitis. The lateral epicondyle is the bony bit you can feel on the outside of your elbow. The tendons of the muscles that run down the back of your arm and into your hand (extensor muscles) start from the lateral epicondyle.
It is usually caused by overuse of the extensor muscles with repetitive movements and movements against resistance. Overuse of the extensor muscles can cause micro-trauma to the tendon. This results in inflammation of the tendon. Although this is painful it does not cause long-lasting damage.
In India the disease is common in housewives how do brooming, cloth washing with hands as these activities involve frequent wrist extension.
Signs and Symptoms of tennis elbow
- The lateral epicondyle will usually be tender to touch and it may also be a little swollen. The pain may spread a little way down your forearm.
- The pain is made worse with gripping and twisting movements, e.g. opening jars, turning a door handle, lifting. Sometimes the pain can be constant.
- Pain and stiffness on waking
- Tennis elbow is more likely to be caused if you suddenly do a lot of activity that you are not used to. However it can also start for no apparent reason.
- Different people will experience varying degrees of pain, ranging from mild discomfort when using the arm to a severe ache.
- Repeated movements of the wrist and hand will make the pain worse.
How long will it last?
This is difficult to say and will largely depend on how long you have had it for and whether you are able to avoid doing the things that are making it worse (see overleaf for treatments). It is likely to take some week, possibly months to fully resolve.
Treatment of tennis elbow
- Avoiding activities that aggravate your symptoms is essential to allow the inflammation to settle.
- Sometimes rest alone may be enough to resolve the pain however application of warmth (e.g. a hot water bottle or wheat-bag) is very helpful.
- An ice pack (a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a damp tea-towel) applied to the tender area for 10 minutes twice a day can help.
- Tennis elbow strap (shown below) may ease the pain if worn during aggravating activities. These are often available from your local chemist
- Anti-Inflammatory tablets or gels/creams may be helpful