Also called "lateral epicondylitis", this is a condition where theouter part of the elbow becomes sore and tender due to an inflammation of thetendons in the elbow. The injury can happen to almost anybody, but the termcame to be because it can be a significant problem for some tennis players.
The pain oftennis elbow occurs primarily where the tendons of the forearm muscles attachto the bony prominence on the outside of the elbow (lateral epicondyle). Paincan also spread into the forearm and wrist.
This condition is caused by overuse of one arm, i.e. by repeated contraction ofthe muscles in the forearm that one uses to straighten or raise the hand. Thismeans that repetitive motions and the stress put on the tissue cause the tendonsto inflame or even tear. This might be brought on by excessive use of a hammer,or a screwdriver, it can be brought on by painting, golfing, etc. Actually,every activity that requires constant gripping may cause tennis elbow.
Inflammation can also happen if the elbow has suffereddirect injury, causing the muscles to tear.Rarely, another medical condition (such as rheumatism, arthritis, etc.) may bethe cause of this condition.
The best ways of preventing tennis elbow include taking breaks when doingsomething for a long period of time, stretching the arms (for about 15 minutesbefore starting; this way the muscles are ready and warm), applying ice on theelbow after heavy use, strengthening overused muscles with exercise (in thatway they can endure more repetitive motions), keeping the wrist straight whiledoing the activity, etc.
The most common symptoms of this condition are: tenderness or pain on the outerbony part of the elbow (that gets worse when holding something or extending thewrist), soreness and weakness in the forearm, numbness or a tingling sensationin the elbow, shoulder or wrist, morning stiffness of the elbow with persistentaching, etc.
If left untreated, this condition can lead to chronic pain (whichis far more difficult to treat) or permanent disability. One should consult adoctor as soon as the first symptoms have presented themselves.
There are various ways of treating tennis elbow, and these include:
Resting. If one has noticed recurrent pain, one should refrain from theactivity that causes it for about a month.
Applying ice. This reduces the swelling and eases the pain.
Using creams. There are topical ointments that warm the joint, thus reducingthe pain.
Using anti-inflammatory drugs. These should reduce the inflammation, leadingto full recovery.
Acupuncture and acupressure. Used for improving the circulationand easing the pain.
Surgery. This is performed rarely on patients that sufferfrom tennis elbow, and, only if the other measures have not worked.