Understanding Tennis Elbow
Many of the muscle tissues that extend your wrist are attached to a bony bump on the outside of your elbow called the lateral epicondyle. Sometimes, either because of injury or overuse, the area where these muscles insert can become swollen or irritated. This condition is known aslateral epicondylitis or more commonly as "tennis elbow"- although you do not have to play tennis to fall victim to this condition.
Any activity that involves repetitive wrist extension can lead to the creation of this condition, i.e., tennis, carpentry, bricklaying, knitting, playing piano, typing, or lifting objects with your palm facing down. The condition is much more likely to impact your dominant arm.
The pain that is caused by tennis elbow often begins as an intermittent or gradual pain that is brought on during activity and progresses so that even simple activities, like holding a coffee cup, become painful. Pain at times can increase when you straighten your arm, grip a doorknob or shake hands. The pain may vary from a mild discomfort to a severe shooting pain that radiates into the forearm, as well as sometimes to the wrist.
If you do not receive treatment, "tennis elbow" usually lingers - 80% of patients still report pain in their arm after one year of suffering form the condition. The first step in getting over tennis elbow is a successful treatment plan and then to modify or eliminate activities that cause symptoms. At night, it is best to avoid sleeping with your elbow compressed beneath your pillow.
When possible try to avoid lifting heavy objects with your palm facing down. Tennis or racquetball players can still potentially play their sports but may need to consider changing to a lighter racket or a smaller handle. In some cases we may prescribe a "counter force brace" for your elbow. This brace will behave as a temporary new attachment site for your muscles and will reduce some of the stress to your elbow. Sports creams and home ice massage may provide relief as well. Be patient with your recovery!