Pain around the elbow, but not necessarily caused by playing tennis
What It Is & What Causes It
Tennis elbow (also called lateral epicondylitis) is a condition that is caused by the inflammation of the tendons and muscles in the forearm, so it is a form of tendonitis. Inflammation of the tendons and muscles in the forearm can occur when they have become strained and have tiny tears due to repetitive and strenuous activities.
Sports involving the use of upper limb such as tennis, can cause muscles in the forearm to become overused which can lead to inflammation and pain. However, many other sports such as golf, weightlifting and cricket can also cause tennis elbow, so it is not just tennis. Any sports or activities that involve constant, repetitive use of the wrist and forearm can potentially cause tennis elbow. Such other activities include chopping, hammering, drilling, gardening, painting and other manual work. Anyone can have tennis elbow but it is more common in people who are over the age of 40.
The common symptoms of tennis elbow is pain and tenderness around the outside of the elbow that can spread into the upper and lower arm. Sometimes, there may also be swelling around the elbow and forearm. Pain and discomfort will be experienced when moving the elbow joint and wrist joint, especially when lifting objects, gripping objects, shaking hands and other actions that require straining the arm.
Treatment for tennis elbow mainly includes RICE principle (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation). Take rest to allow the forearm and wrist to recover and refraining from using it in strenuous activities again. Using ice packs, elbow support and splints can reduce pain, inflammation and swelling as well as speeding up the recovery process. After the initial inflammation has calmed down, commence gentle strengthening exercise, especially in a lengthened fashion (eccentric). In addition, gentle stretching can be useful to improve mobility and promote healing.
Physiotherapy can help to treat tennis elbow and your physiotherapist can apply taping and prescribe suitable rehabilitation exercises to help reduce your symptoms and assist you to return to your normal daily functional activities. Sometimes, tennis elbow strap can also be prescribed to reduce pain with movements.
Shockwave Therapy (Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy)
Shockwave therapy is a relatively newer technology which uses powerful sound waves to promote soft tissue regeneration and repair. The sound energy is absorbed into the soft tissue to promote healing and reduce pain through microvascularisation and soft tissue repair. Many clinical studies have demonstrated shockwave therapy as an effective treatment for tennis elbow. (https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S1743919115012212?token=6BA54BE6C20539C5CB7F31D1B8F50E6266E4142D7FC40A57AAE743641550C4AA1E09AF0462567D58CCB4C590253A8067&originRegion=us-east-1&originCreation=20210406123317)
Shockwave therapy can be a practical and realistic alternative treatment option to steroid injection and pain medications.
Prevention for tennis elbow involves using the correct techniques and form when exercising or carrying out activities. It is important to put minimal stress on the elbow, muscles and tendons in the forearm during sport. Stress on the elbow and wrist can be reduced by using correct body positioning and techniques to minimise strain to the forearm muscles. Other ways of preventing tennis elbow involve taking regular breaks, doing sufficient warm-ups and stretches both before and after exercising.