Tennis elbow is soreness or pain on the outer part of the elbow. It happens when you damage the tendons that connect the muscles of your forearm to your elbow. The pain may spread down your arm to your wrist. If you don’t treat the injury, it may hurt to do simple things like turn a key or open a door.
Your doctor may call it lateral epicondylitis.
Many kinds of arm use can lead to tennis elbow, although it is most commonly associated with tennis or other racquet sports, due to the harsh nature of the arm swings. There are many other occupations that pose a risk of developing tennis elbow as well.
- You can start treating tennis elbow at home right away.
- Rest your arm, and avoid any activity that makes the pain worse.
- 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 a long as it relieves pain. Or use a warm, moist cloth or take hot baths if they feel good. Do what works for you.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen if you need them. Or try an NSAIDs cream that you rub over the sore area.
- Wear a counterforce brace when you need to grasp or twist something. This is a strap around your forearm placed about an inch below your elbow. It eases the pressure on the tendon and spreads force throughout your arm.
- After the pain eases, your doctor or physical therapist can teach you rehabilitation (rehab) exercises to stretch and strengthen your tendon. Doing these exercises at home can help you tendon heal and can prevent further injury.
When you feel better, you can return to your activity, but take it easy for a while. Don’t start at the same level as before your injury. Build back to your previous level slowly, and stop if it hurts. To avoid damaging your tendon again:
- Take lessons or ask a trainer or pro to check the way you are doing your activity. If the way you use a tool is the problem, try switching hands or changing your grip. Make sure you are using the right equipment for your size and strength.
- Always take time to warm up before and stretch after you exercise.
- After the activity, apply ice to prevent pain and swelling.
- Be patient, and stay with your treatment. You will probably feel better in a few weeks, but it may take 6 to 12 months for the tendon to heal. In some cases, the pain lasts for 2 years or longer.
- If your symptoms don’t improve after 6 to 8 weeks of home treatment, your doctor may suggest a shot of steroid medicine. This could give you some short-term relief so you can start rehab exercises. Surgery is seldom needed for tennis elbow.
- Elbow Pain or discomfort, sometimes shooting down the arm
- Stiffness or decreased movement
- Tenderness to touch
- Guarding or favoring joint
- Weak grasp