Written by: Vijay Muni, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Lateral epicondylitis, commonly known as tennis elbow, is a condition that plagues many, not just tennis players. If you've ever experienced that persistent, nagging pain on the outer side of your elbow, you know how frustrating it can be. But fear not! This article will delve deep into the anatomy, causes, and effective treatments for lateral epicondylitis so you can crack the code and find relief.
The anatomy of lateral epicondylitis
Knowing your elbow's anatomy is essential to understanding lateral epicondylitis. The lateral epicondyle is a bony bump on the outer side of your elbow, and it plays a crucial role in anchoring the tendons and muscles that control wrist extension. When these tendons become inflamed or damaged, you experience the telltale pain of tennis elbow.
The culprits behind tennis elbow
So, what causes this pesky condition? Contrary to popular belief, it's not just tennis that can trigger it. Repetitive arm motions, gripping activities, and simple tasks like typing or using a computer mouse can contribute to lateral epicondylitis. Overuse and improper technique are often the main culprits.
Additionally, age and improper equipment can play a role. Our tendons become less flexible and more susceptible to injury as we age. Using ill-fitting equipment or applying excessive force can also strain the tendons, leading to inflammation and pain.
Effective treatments for tennis elbow
Now, the million-dollar question: How can you treat lateral epicondylitis effectively? Here are some proven methods:
Rest and Ice: Give your overworked tendons a break. Resting the affected arm and applying ice can help reduce inflammation and pain.
Occupational Therapy: An occupational therapist (OT) can guide you through exercises to strengthen the muscles and tendons around your elbow, improving stability and reducing strain.
Soft Tissue Massage: Massaging your forearm muscles can help alleviate the inflammation/stress/pain in your wrist extensor muscles. Please use my affiliate link to buy BioFreeze, which can help relieve your pain.
Medications: Over-the-counter or anti-inflammatory pain relievers may help manage pain and reduce inflammation. Please consult with a healthcare professional before using them regularly.
Corticosteroid Injections: A healthcare provider may sometimes recommend corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation.
Surgery: Surgical intervention may be considered if conservative remedies fail to provide relief. However, surgery is typically a last resort.
Activity modifications can be crucial for managing and recovering from tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis). Adjustments to your daily routines and activities can reduce strain on your affected arm and allow it to heal.
Here are some activity modifications to consider:
1. Rest and Avoid Overuse: Give your elbow adequate time to rest and recover. Avoid activities that aggravate your symptoms, incredibly repetitive gripping, and wrist movements.
2. Ergonomic Workspace: If you work at a computer, ensure your workspace is ergonomically designed. Use an ergonomic chair, keyboard, and mouse to reduce strain on your wrist and elbow. Maintain good posture to minimize stress on your upper body. Please check out some of my recommendations on my affiliate link for an ergonomic workspace:
3. Equipment Modifications: If you engage in sports like tennis or golf, consider using equipment designed to reduce strain on your arm. You should use a racket or club with a larger grip size to distribute the force more evenly.
4. Proper Technique: If you participate in sports or activities that involve repetitive arm movements, such as weightlifting or racquet sports, work on improving your technique. Good form can help reduce strain on your elbow.
5. Brace or Support: Consider wearing an elbow brace or support when engaging in activities that may exacerbate your symptoms. These devices can provide stability and alleviate pressure on the tendons. Please use my affiliate link to buy some of my recommendations for top bracing products:
6. Grip Modification: Modify your grip on tools and objects. Use a more extensive, padded grip on devices, or use your unaffected hand more for tasks like carrying heavy bags or opening jars.
Pacing: Pace yourself during activities. Take frequent breaks to rest your arm, primarily if you're engaged in repetitive tasks.
Avoid Heavy Lifting: Refrain from lifting heavy objects with the affected arm. Instead, use your unaffected arm or ask for assistance when needed.
Stretching, Warm-up, & Active Exercises: Before any physical activity, ensure you warm up properly and perform gentle stretching exercises for your forearm and wrist. Muscle stretching can help prevent muscle and tendon strain. Please check out Empire City’s Occupational Therapy YouTube channel for exercises to perform at home.
Ice and Rest After Activity: After engaging in activities that stress your elbow, apply ice to the affected area for 15-20 minutes to reduce inflammation. Follow this with rest to allow your arm to recover.
Consult a Healthcare Professional: Lastly, consult with a healthcare provider or OT for personalized advice on activity modifications based on the severity of your condition and your specific needs.
Remember that activity modifications are critical to managing tennis elbow, but they should be part of a comprehensive treatment plan that may include exercises, medications, and other therapies. It's essential to follow your healthcare provider's recommendations to ensure a successful recovery and prevent recurrence of symptoms.
Prevention is key
Preventing lateral epicondylitis is often more manageable than treating it. To minimize your risk, practice proper technique and ergonomics during repetitive activities. Warm up before engaging in strenuous tasks and consider using equipment that reduces strain on your elbow.
In conclusion, lateral epicondylitis, or tennis elbow, maybe a common ailment, but it's not something you must endure indefinitely. By understanding its anatomy, recognizing its culprits, and exploring effective treatments, you can crack the code to find relief and get back to your daily activities without that persistent pain in your elbow. Remember, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance on managing and treating your specific case of lateral epicondylitis.
Vijay Muni, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Vijay Muni is an experienced occupational therapist specializing in outpatient orthopedics, stroke rehabilitation, fall prevention, and chronic pain management. His approach to occupational therapy is empathetic and collaborative, actively involving clients in their rehabilitation journey to achieve meaningful outcomes. Through evidence-based practices, Vijay empowers clients to overcome obstacles, fostering confidence and achievement. He founded Empire City Occupational Therapy PLLC to provide accessible rehabilitation and help you be the best version of yourself. For more home exercises and valuable content, visit Empire City OT on YouTube.