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What Is Tennis Elbow and How Do You Treat It

If you’ve found yourself wondering, “what is tennis elbow and how do you treat it?” then in all likelihood, you’re experiencing some symptoms of this painful condition.

Despite its name, tennis elbow doesn’t just affect athletes, it’s a potentially agonising and frustrating condition, impacting people from all walks of life.

So, what is tennis elbow? How is it caused? And are there any ways to prevent tennis elbow?

The team at NQ Physiotherapy Solutions in Townsville passionate about helping people regain full function of their limbs so they can live life to the fullest. Education is key when it comes to managing, treating, and preventing injuries like tennis elbow. Continue reading to learn more about tennis elbow, what causes the condition, how it’s treated and finally, whether or not you can cure tennis elbow.  

What Is Tennis Elbow and How Do You Treat It?

Tennis elbow is a painful condition that occurs when the tendons in the elbow are overloaded, causing inflammation and sometimes even small tears in the tendons. This usually happens when a person is required to repeat the same, or similar, two motions with the wrist and arm over a long period of time. Tennis elbow typically occurs in people with occupations requiring repeated use of the muscles around the elbow like plumbers, painters, cooks, butchers, gardeners, carpenters, office workers and, of course, tennis players. 

The overloaded tendons in the forearm attach to the bony point on the outside of the elbow, creating pain that radiates down into the forearm and wrist which builds into a burning pain over time. Other symptoms include swelling of the area and weakness or stiffness in the forearm. Often, simple movements like shaking hands or turning a doorknob can cause pain for someone with tennis elbow.

In terms of treatment, if you stop doing the action that causes the pain, the condition will usually get better on its own. Obviously, this isn’t an option if your livelihood depends on you using the affected area! So, in this case, management of the causes and symptoms is necessary. Recovery from tennis elbow can be slow, as tendons do not have their own blood supply and take longer to heal than muscles. In some cases, it can take up to two years to achieve a full recovery with proper patient cooperation.

How to Treat Tennis Elbow

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) suggests that the best treatment for tennis elbow is to remain active but to avoid actions that cause significant pain like lifting heavy objects with your hands facing downwards. 

Using pain relief medication (in either pill or gel form) to reduce the swelling can help, as can regularly icing the area. If these measures don’t resolve the issue, it’s advisable to seek the help of a physiotherapist. Physiotherapists can suggest exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles in the arm to help with the pain. Your physio can also employ manual therapy to relieve your symptoms in the short term.

According to the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, stretching and strengthening exercises provided by physiotherapists can speed up the healing process with studies showing that the pain goes away faster in patients who regularly perform these kinds of exercises.

According to the studies completed so far, it’s best to do these exercises three times a day for between one and three months. The exercises can be done as soon as the pain subsides enough to allow some movement. It’s important to remember not to put too much strain on the arm as any exercises can exacerbate the problem if overdone.

Treatment options also include wearing a brace or strap on your forearm to reduce stress on the area, allowing for a more rapid recovery. You may also need to be retrained to perform tasks in a different way that avoids overloading the tendons. 

How to treat tennis elbow if the pain is severe and recovery is slow? Your GP may suggest pain-relief injections which are injected straight into the joint to provide short term pain relief. Usually, the active ingredient of these injections will be either a type of steroid, hyaluronic acid, or Botox. According to the research, these injections provide limited effectiveness and come with some adverse side effects.

What Can You Do for Tennis Elbow? Work with a Qualified Physiotherapist

The good news? If you’ve been wondering, “what is tennis elbow and how do you treat it?”, sleep soundly knowing it's a curable condition that can be fully resolved with the help of a suitably qualified physiotherapist. Manual therapy along with personalised stretches and exercises are imperative to long-term recovering and having a physio by your side to guide you through the healing phase is key.

At NQ Physiotherapy Solutions, our friendly team can help you manage your injuries so you can get back to doing the things you love ASAP! We deliver exceptional general physiotherapy, sports physiotherapy; providing advice to help reduce and manage your pain, improve the way your body moves, and guide your return to work or sport after injury. Get in contact with us today or book an appointment online with Townsville's leading team of physios.

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