Tennis elbow is a common condition that affects many people who engage in repetitive activities that strain the tendons in the elbow. While tennis players are often associated with this condition, anyone who uses their forearms and wrists repeatedly may develop tennis elbow. In this article, we’ll discuss the causes of tennis elbow, its symptoms, and how long it typically lasts.
What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is a condition that occurs when the tendons that connect the forearm muscles to the outer part of the elbow become inflamed or damaged. This inflammation can cause pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow, as well as weakness in the affected arm. Tennis elbow is often caused by repetitive motions, such as gripping a racket, using a hammer, or turning a wrench.
Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
The most common symptom of tennis elbow is pain on the outside of the elbow. This pain may be mild at first but can become more severe over time. Other symptoms of tennis elbow include:
- Tenderness on the outside of the elbow
- Weakness in the affected arm
- Stiffness in the elbow joint
- Numbness or tingling in the fingers
How Long Does Tennis Elbow Last?
The length of time it takes for tennis elbow to heal can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the treatment methods used. In general, tennis elbow can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months.
For mild cases of tennis elbow, rest and home remedies such as ice, compression, and over-the-counter pain medication may be enough to alleviate symptoms and promote healing. However, for more severe cases, medical treatment may be necessary. It’s important to note that even with medical treatment, recovery from tennis elbow can be a slow process. It may take several weeks or months of rest and rehabilitation to fully recover from this condition. In some cases, individuals may experience occasional flare-ups of symptoms even after the initial healing period has passed.
Causes of Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow is caused by overuse and repetitive stress on the tendons that attach to the lateral epicondyle, a bony bump on the outer part of the elbow. These tendons help to stabilize the forearm muscles and allow you to extend and lift your wrist and hand. Overuse and repetitive stress can cause tiny tears in the tendons and result in inflammation, pain, and weakness.
Tennis elbow can be caused by a variety of activities that involve repetitive gripping, twisting, or lifting of the wrist and hand, including:
- Playing tennis or other racquet sports
- Lifting weights or using exercise equipment
- Painting, plumbing, or carpentry work
- Using a computer mouse or typing for long periods of time
- Cooking or chopping food
Treatment Options for Tennis Elbow
The treatment options for tennis elbow depend on the severity of the condition and how long you have been experiencing symptoms. In general, treatment aims to reduce pain and inflammation, promote healing, and prevent further damage to the tendons. The following are some of the most common treatment options for tennis elbow:
- Rest: Avoiding activities that aggravate your symptoms and taking a break from sports or other strenuous activities can help to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Ice: Applying ice to the affected area for 15-20 minutes several times a day can help to reduce swelling and pain.
- Compression: Wearing a compression band or brace around the forearm can help to reduce stress on the tendons and promote healing.
- Physical therapy: A physical therapist can provide exercises and stretches to help strengthen the muscles and tendons in the affected arm and improve flexibility.
- Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help to reduce pain and inflammation. If these medications do not provide relief, your doctor may prescribe stronger pain relievers or a corticosteroid injection.
- Surgery: In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to repair severely damaged tendons.
You can reduce your risk of developing tennis elbow by taking the following precautions:
- Use proper equipment: If you play sports or engage in activities that involve repetitive arm movements, use properly fitted equipment that is appropriate for your skill level.
- Use proper technique: Use proper technique and form when engaging in sports or other activities to avoid putting unnecessary stress on your tendons.
- Warm up and stretch: Before engaging in strenuous activities, warm up and stretch to help prepare your muscles and tendons for the activity.
- Take breaks: Take frequent breaks and avoid overusing your arm and elbow.
- Strengthen your muscles: Strengthening the muscles in your arm and forearm can help to reduce your risk of developing tennis elbow.
Tennis elbow is a common condition that can cause pain and discomfort in the elbow and arm. While it can be a frustrating condition to deal with, with proper treatment and rest, most people can recover from tennis elbow within a few weeks to several months. If you’re experiencing symptoms of tennis elbow, it’s important to see a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.