Pain that radiates near the elbow itself is what is defined as tennis elbow. While the name may indicate something entirely different, this is a condition that often occurs to a person that has never picked up a tennis racket in their lives.
What is Tennis Elbow?
The most common symptom of tennis elbow is pain. The cause of this is often muscle overuse. When you use your forearm and hand muscles, there is a chance of pain occurring in the elbow. To better understand why this pain occurs, we must first examine the elbow itself. Your elbow is:
- Where muscles and tendons attach
- A bone
Obviously, if you hit your elbow hard and feel pain, this is not the same thing. Instead, tennis elbow is a deep pain in muscles and tendons that attach to the elbow. These muscles are the same muscles needed to move your hand or forearm. When overworked, this tendons become strained just like that of any other muscle strain that can occur.
Overworking these muscles is actually classified as a disease, but it can be remedied unless there is a muscle degeneration issue. The medical term, lateral epicondylitis, is used to describe this outer elbow pain that is both sore and tender.
The Symptoms That Tell The Truth
Thankfully, there are many symptoms seen that can diagnosis this painful occurrence. These signs will include the following.
- Pain that is prominent on the outside of the arm and may be persistent.
- Touching the outside of the bone will lead to pain or tenderness.
- Pain from basic gripping or moving of the forearms.
- Pain when pouring a drink or using extension muscles.
- Stiffness of the arm or elbow felt in the morning.
Oftentimes, the problem is made worse when a person attempts to hold the wrist in a neutral position. For instance, trying to open a stuck jar will hurt immensely.
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A person should note that this condition does not leave bruising or inflammation in most cases. In fact, a person will likely not know what has occurred and will suffer with this condition that simply gets worse over time. Thankfully, there is a rather small portion of the population that will ever experience this pain and most are considered middle-aged.
Furthermore, both men and women can get this condition, but women are far less likely to suffer from tennis elbow than a man.
Before worrying too much about this condition, understand that only 1 – 3 percent of people will actually suffer from it in their lifetime. Furthermore, less than 5 percent of sufferers actually play tennis. Statistics show that this condition often occurs between the age of 30 and 50. Before this age, the likelihood of tennis elbow drops dramatically.
Diagnosis is very particular. In fact, this is the one condition where x-rays or blood work cannot help determine your pain. While x-rays may be used to ensure that any breakage has not occurred, this is certainly not the norm. Only when pain is so severe that a breakage could have occurred will a doctor recommend an x-ray.
Usually, a doctor will ask you about your pain and evaluate your condition by touching the elbow.
It is important to know that a visit to a doctor is essential if the pain does not subside. While there are braces and other forms of treatment, severe pain in the same area can be a result of something else. Breakage, fractures, muscle damage or even nerve damage can cause severe pain in the same region and will need to be diagnosed accordingly.
If a doctor visit is necessary, you should expect to make another appointment shortly so that the doctor can reevaluate your condition.
There are a variety of treatment options available. While not extensive, please remember that these treatments will be based on the severity of pain you feel. If you are losing mobility in your arm or are in so much pain that you cannot perform normal movements, you can expect a more intensive form of treatment.
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- Therapy: Physical therapy may be used to strengthen the forearm and hand muscles. Through therapy, stretching may be done as well as an analysis of your current form when performing activities. Therapy may not be recommended for every person, but it will help those with severe pain or loss of movement.
- Bracing: There are a variety of braces available online or through your doctor that will allow your elbow to rest. These braces ensure that you cannot enter a position where you put more strain on the elbow itself. There are other support braces that will apply pressure and effectively help you relieve pain and stop swelling. Bracing is very beneficial and you may only need to wear your brace when you perform certain activities.
- Cortisone Injections: Severe cases may require injections. Through the use of cortisone injections, the pain will be reduced greatly and swelling will go down. This is often used with joint pains and is more for helping with discomfort.
- Gels and Creams: Gels and creams can be purchased that will absorb into the skin and right into the muscles. These creams work just like cortisone injections, but they are often less effective due to not being injected into the body itself. However, the majority of people suffering from tennis elbow will find these creams and gels help greatly.
There is also a very small chance of surgery being needed. This is only a necessity in severe cases where all other treatments have been exhausted and no pain relief has been found.
Resting and reducing physical activity may be recommended. Prominently seen with a person’s main hand, this may mean not playing certain sports, writing or performing various other activities.
There are very few circumstances where this condition will lead to a major life change having to be made. The older a person is, the more debilitating this condition seems to be.
With 42 percent of people over 50 years of age stating that the condition caused a disability. Younger sufferers did not note the severity of pain seen in this group.