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Injury Management, Tennis, Elbow

How Do You Treat Tennis Elbow?

Posted on August 12, 2016 by Thomas Parker, MD
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“Tennis elbow” is the common name for lateral epicondylitis and occurs when you have tendonitis -  swelling and pain of the tendon in your elbow. As the name implies, it affects tennis players frequently but can also affect anyone who plays sports or other activities that require tight gripping such as racquetball, fencing, or weight lifting.

While the condition can be painful, there are many tennis elbow remedies that are available. Most treatments can even be managed at home to fight the pain and inflammation so you may keep up with your favorite activities.  Be sure to avoid the culprit activity if it exacerbates the pain and make sure your technique is correct, since improper technique is the most likely culprit for injuries provoked by repetitive activities.

Apply Ice to Reduce Swelling

Ice is a natural anti-inflammatory. Reduce swelling and pain by applying an ice pack to the injured area for 15 to 30 minutes at a time. Be sure to apply ice after exercising as well as multiple times during the day for better results.

Ask Your Doctor about Medications

Medications can also fight pain and reduce swelling. With a doctor’s approval, you can take over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, such as ibuprofen or aspirin. These are often inexpensive, effective and relatively safe for most individuals.

If over-the-counter medications do not bring relief, your doctor may prescribe stronger anti-inflammatory medications. One form of treatment is a cortisone injection to ease tennis elbow pain. Cortisone is a steroid and can be more effective, although riskier, than NSAIDs.

Be Diligent with Warming Up, Stretching and Exercising

Thoroughly warming up the arm muscles before exercising can help prevent further swelling of the tendon. Before you hit the court, apply a heat pack for a few minutes as heat promotes healing by increasing blood flow to the area. Massaging the arm muscles can also deliver this same result.

Wear a Compression Wrap

elbow helix review by Brent AbelA compression wrap offers multiple solutions for injury treatment. Since it compresses the area, it fights swelling which in turn helps to reduce pain. An effective elbow compression wrap is durable enough to provide support and reduces strain on the affected elbow. When selecting a wrap, choose one that fits well and is comfortable. To complement the benefits of an elbow wrap, ask your doctor about strengthening exercises to perform on a daily basis.

Surgery as Advanced Treatment

The conservative tennis elbow remedies listed above are effective for most tennis elbow injuries.  According to WebMD, fewer than 5 out of 100 people eventually undergo surgery to repair injured arm tendon muscles. If you have struggled with tennis elbow for several months or longer and have tried traditional treatments as suggested by a doctor, you may need to undergo surgery to regain your ability to play tennis and other sports.

The pain and loss of mobility or strength from tennis elbow can threaten to take you out of the game but you can avoid being sidelined. With simple tennis elbow remedies such as RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation), physical therapy, and compression wraps you can stay on the court, on the job, and able to perform your favorite activities. 

Thomas Parker, MD

Thomas Parker, MD

About the Author: Thomas E. Parker, MD, Chief Executive Officer of Body Helix, is a retired physician, with a practice specialty of Internal Medicine. He attended The Ohio State University College of Medicine and completed his Internal Medicine internship and residency at Duke University Medical Center. Parker received the distinction of “Top Doctor” in Charlotte Magazine in 2011, 2012, and 2014. In 2008, Parker became involved in Body Helix as a founding member and Chief Science Officer with the responsibility of overseeing product development, safety and guiding marketing materials to reflect scientifically accurate claims.

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