According to this study on non-elite athletes, 56% of participants reported sustaining a sports or exercise-related injury. For many, this puts into perspective the shocking prevalence of sports-related injuries even for individuals who are not working at top performance levels.
This same study cited the fact that individuals were more likely to seek help from fellow teammates or online sources rather than seeing a doctor or physical therapist right away. This leads to a higher demand for explanations of common injuries, such as our explanation on tennis elbow, below.
However, when using an online source, remember it does not replace the advice of a medical professional. If your symptoms worsen or remain persistent, be sure to seek professional medical care.
What causes Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow (epicondylitis) is a term used to describe pain of the epicondyle region on the arm. This region is located on the outer edge of the forearm.
When injured, symptoms of tennis elbow include acute and radiating pain down the remainder of the arm and pain that is worse when doing activities that put strain on the wrist. When persistent, this pain can become numbness, extending down into the hand, then causing problems such as poor grip strength.
Tennis elbow is caused by tears to the epicondyle tendons and forearm muscles (pictured above). While there are a variety of factors that can contribute to these injuries, repetitive movement, such as those found in racquet sports and golf, and main culprits. Further, age seems to be a contributing risk factor with a majority of tennis elbow injuries affecting individuals between the ages of 30 and 50.
Tennis Elbow Treatment
Depending on the severity of the injury, tennis elbow treatments can range from restin the affected arm, practicing exercises for range of motion, physical therapy, and a variety of medications that can reduce inflammation at the site.
One of the leading ways to prevent tennis elbow is also one one of the ailments most effective treatment options: rest. As seen in the previous graphic, the elbow joint produces collagen fibers deep within the tendons that increases the body’s natural ability to heal. This is enhanced through resting the affected arm in addition to using alternating hot and cold compresses.
In combination, these methods reduce both pain and inflammation in the muscles and tendons while making it more likely for the wound to heal without structural damage.
Generally speaking, medications used for tennis elbow are over the counter NSAIDs such as ibuprofen. These anti-inflammatories can either be taken orally or topically, depending on the severity of the condition.
While oral medications tend to be best for long term pain, many of the acute forms of tennis elbow benefit greatly from topical application of ibuprofen. These can be found in a variety of gels at a local pharmacy.
- Steroid Injections
When other treatments fail, a doctor will often use steroid injections to help ease the most immediate pain caused by the condition. Injections can be given in groups of three and administered up to several months apart.
However, it is worth noting that injections are generally not seen as effective for long term pain. Often at this point, other options are needed.
- Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy
In sports medicine, physical therapists and occupational therapists are professionals which help you work with your body to better deal with your pain. This can look like exercises that are done several times a day in order to manage pain and stiffness, or, can result in various new ways to deal with daily problems to make functioning with your condition less painful.
Elbow surgery is recommended as a final resort for individuals with severe and debilitating pain that havent found relief through other means. This decision and the overall recovery must be considered carefully and under the advice of the physician in charge of your care.
While many of these remedies seem simple on the surface, there is always the risk of your condition worsening without the proper care. If your condition does not improve over 7 days or if you experience any increase in pain, speak to a medical provider to identify a better method of moving forward.
Seeking Professional Help
While these exercises are effective for many types of pain, there is a certain point where you need to involve professional help. Especially in cases of severe or persistent pain, seeking pain management allows for you to have a wider range of resources available to you including physical therapy, medications, and even alternative treatment suggestions such as acupuncture.
When looking for pain management options, Arizona Pain and Spine prides ourselves in connecting patients with the right care providers to overcome their pain. To start your journey, contact us at (480) 986-7246 for more information and get on the path to discussing your next treatment options.