Tennis elbow is tendon inflammation caused by overuse of hand muscles, including arm and forearm. It is common among sportspersons, especially tennis players. However, it has nothing to do with tennis, and is sometimes also referred to as Golfer’s elbow!
Dr Anil Arora, head of unit and lead consultant, department of orthopaedics at the Max Super Speciality Hospital in Delhi) explains the problem in detail.
What is Tennis Elbow?
The condition is characterised by injury to the muscles and tendon area around the elbow, especially the outer bony area attached to the muscles of the forearm. In medical terms, it is also called as ‘lateral epicondylitis’ or ‘medial epicondylitis’ depending upon the location of the problem. These muscles allow you to extend your wrist and in case of an injured elbow, the person is unable to move their hand freely. The problem is related to the degenerative changes rather than any kind of inflammation.
Tennis elbow is more likely to occur in players and athletes. Approximately 40-50% of tennis players have faced the issue of tennis elbow during the course of their career. However, people with an active lifestyle and gym-goers might develop tennis elbow, too, because of overuse of muscles around the elbow.
Who are at risk?
“The condition is common among people who are engaged in activities that require repetitive arm, elbow or hand movement or rotation. Athletes, golfers, tennis players, carpenters, cleaners, labourers, mechanics, etc., are highly vulnerable to this condition,” says Dr Arora. Irrespective of the gender, tennis elbow may occur in both men and women.
Severe pain in the outer section of the elbow is the first sign of tennis elbow. If the pain persists for a longer period of time and continues along with other symptoms, then it is important to visit the doctor especially if over-the-counter medicines and ice packs don’t work and hamper your daily activities.
The symptoms are:
* Decreased grip strength
* Pain during lifting, push-ups, while shaking hands or squeezing objects
* Tenderness in the outer bony part of the elbow
* Soreness in the forearm
A physical examination and X-ray of your elbow joint is required to ascertain its condition and arrive at the diagnosis. The treatment involves:
* Minimizing all the activities that instigate the pain in the elbow.
* Wearing counterforce braces to give support to the elbow. Occupation therapies like massages, stretching, ice packs etc. should be taken to increase flexibility and strength.
* Taking anti-inflammatory, over-the-counter medicines as prescribed by the doctor.
* Corticosteroid injections in severe cases.
* Surgery is usually the last resort for patients who’ve been struggling with tennis elbow for almost 6-12 months. In the surgery, the tendon is reattached and released by making a small incision on the elbow. Once the surgery goes well, recovery takes time and demands regular sessions with the physiotherapists.
Experts suggest, minimising all the activities that instigate pain in the elbow.
* All tennis players should adjust the size of the racquet so that there’s no strain on the arm. The grip size, racquet material, etc., should be just perfect to avoid any kind of injuries while playing.
* Take frequent breaks while performing repetitive actions. Stop immediately if you experience pain.
* Make adjustments in your routine to avoid activities that involve excessive use of the elbow.
* Exercise regularly to ease out and relax your muscles and release tension.
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