Why Does My Elbow Hurt?

A hurt elbow is one of those many universal experiences prevalent amongst regular gym-goers, rowers or anyone who participates in actions which put stress on the elbow. A common form of such elbow pain is known as Lateral Epicondylitis a.k.a Tennis Elbow. It has the potential to be one of the most annoying and excruciating forms of elbow pain anyone can experience, if not given the proper attention to prevent, or time and patience to remedy. It can easily deteriorate and become more or less permanent, should the required type and amount of care not be given to it. Do not fret though, such an ailment apart from being non-fatal, is easily remedied. In this article, we discuss some of the key symptoms and remedies in healing a tennis elbow.

What exactly is a Tennis Elbow?

Tennis Elbows are often described by physicians as an inflammation or irritation of a thick cord (Tendon) in your dominant arm that attaches the bone to the muscles.

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Our Tendons are composed of tough tissues that connect the muscles in your lower arm to the bone. While some tendons are tough, flexible, and comprise of fibrous bands of tissue, others can be small, delicate, like the tiny bands in the hands, or large, like the heavy, ropelike cords that anchor the calf or thigh muscles. These variations make them susceptible to injuries.

Who gets a Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow or Tendonitis can affect anyone but it's an injury common in adults and experienced mostly by athletes who play tennis, golf, ski, cricket, weight lifters as well as people in activities that involve repetitive arm motions in their line of work such as painters, carpenters, etc. You don't always get a tennis elbow by playing tennis. If you are engaged in activities that require repetitive gripping and excessive use of your thumb and the first two fingers, there’s a good chance you may suffer from tennis elbow in the future. It can pop up at any age, but its occurrence is most common in people who have crossed their 40's.

How does it happen?

Tendonitis is known to occur in two ways:

  • Overuse where a particular body motion is repeated too often or

  • Overload particularly where the level of a certain activity, such as weight lifting, is increased too quickly.

Other Tendonitis risk factors also include a poorly placed bone or joint, such as length differences in legs that stress soft-tissue structures or conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, thyroid disorders and reported cases of unusual medication reactions.

Symptoms of Tennis Elbow

It’s very likely that you have a Tennis elbow if you exhibit the following symptoms:

  1. Pain that radiates from the outside of your elbow into your forearm and wrist
  2. Pain and weakness that makes it difficult to
    • Shake hands or grip an object
    • Turn a doorknob
    • Hold a coffee cup
    • Push a lever downwards with your palm
  3. Morning stiffness of the elbow with persistent aching
  4. Soreness in the forearm
  5. Tenderness on the outer bony part of the elbow

Tennis elbow injuries may in most cases go away with a little rest and ice techniques or without leading to any serious related issues that need medical intervention, however, if a serious injury is left untreated an individual will experience the following severe conditions that require medical care:

  1. Chronic pain that lasts despite ice, resting, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers
  2. A complete loss of motion or loss of function of the elbow and forearm
  3. Pain that limits normal daily activity
  4. Any weakness or numbness in the hand, which may mean you have another type of injury in the wrist or elbow

IMPORTANT:
It is however important to have a proper diagnosis where a physician reviews your medical history. The consultation should include any previous joint injuries and evaluate specific aspects of the injury, such as how your pain feels like (sharp, dull, burning), if it is limited to one area or if it spreads away from the joint to involve a wider area of your arm, leg or hand, or if the pain disappears when you rest the area, or if it is present even at rest.

Treatment

A thorough review of your medical history and a physical exam of any tenderness, swelling, redness, muscle weakness and limited motion in the area of the sore tendon is vital as it will help your doctor understand which tendon is affected and make an educated diagnosis. He will then recommend the nesassary form of treatment to suit your condition in the best way.
In severe cases where symptoms continue despite aggressive treatment, X-ray images may be required and additional nerve studies that look for any entrapment of the radial nerve in the elbow joint.

Medication

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Taking NSAIDs (Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin or naproxen can be very helpful in reducing the pain and swelling. However, it’s best to consume them once a day and not multiple times since these drugs have side effects and can cause some damage to the liver.

Important information about the correct way to consume one such medicine(aspirin):

Before starting on your daily aspirin therapy under the advice of your doctor, you should let him or her know if you have a health condition that could increase your risk of bleeding or other complications. These conditions include:

  • A bleeding or clotting disorder (bleeding easily)

  • Aspirin allergy, which can include asthma caused by aspirin

  • Bleeding stomach ulcers

Your doctor will discuss what dose is right for you. Very low doses of aspirin —75 milligrams (mg), which is less than an adult's dose aspirin can be effective. Your doctor will usually prescribe a daily dose anywhere from 81 mg — the amount in an adult low-dose aspirin — to 325 mg (a regular strength tablet).

Physiotherapy

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The use of Physiotherapy methods have shown to be very effective in the short and long-term management of tennis elbows. Physio treatment can include the icing of the wound, gentle mobilization of your neck and elbow joints, Electrotherapy, elbow Kinesio taping, muscle stretches, neural mobilizations, massage and strengthening so as to achieve the following results:

  • Facilitate tissue repair and reduce elbow pain
  • Restore normal joint range of motion, function, muscle length, strength and movement patterns
  • Normalize upper limb neurodynamics and joint function

In addition, wearing a tennis elbow brace for 3 to 6 weeks can be very effective because it will dissipate the stressful gripping forces away from your injured structures.

A basic guide to a very common and doable self-help physiotherapy process (icing of the wound):

As soon as you notice pain, use ice or cold packs for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, several times a day. Always put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin. Keep using ice as long as it relieves pain. Or use a warm, moist cloth or take hot baths if they feel good. Do what works for you.

Prolotherapy

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Prolotherapy has also proven to be a great non-surgical option for treating Tennis Elbow injuries. This cutting edge form of regenerative medicine that involves the use of Dextrose, Stem cell therapy and a Platelet rich plasma to effectively treat pro-athletes who suffer from frequent injuries. Injections are administered around the affected area, which causes a mild inflammatory reaction that draws new immune cells to the area to regenerate the injured tissues, manage pain and assist rapid healing.

Conclusion

You can definitely alleviate the pain from a Tennis Elbow by completing the rehabilitation process and taking further precautions when partaking in activities which causes stress to your elbows. Many victims of Tennis Elbow have prolonged their suffering because of a lack of care and they would often take a longer time to complete their recovery process. As always, prevention is the best medicine.

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