As you may imagine, playing tennis and golf are common causes of these injuries, but more often then not it is other activities that create inflammation of the tendons in the elbow. These may include using a screw driver, grasping, hammering, throwing of objects, turning a door knob, raking and painting among others. Each of these tasks performed on a repeated basis create stress to the flexor and extensor musculature of the wrist and elbow, thus irritating the tendonous attachments of the muscles. The muscles required to perform these movements run the length of the forearm attaching to the elbow either laterally, on the outside, or medially, on the inside. The anchor point of the muscles and their tendons being a boney prominence named either the lateral epicondyle or the medial epicondyle. While tendonitis of this nature can impact anyone at any age, it typically occurs between the ages of 30-60 and up initial irritation will often worsen over several weeks or months.
Symptoms of Lateral Epicondylitis or Tennis elbow may include pain on the outer part of the elbow which may radiate into your forearm or wrist, point tenderness over the lateral aspect of the elbow, pain when extending your wrist, morning elbow stiffness and a weak and painful grip such as when shaking hands.
Conversely, symptoms of Medial Epicondylitis or Golfer’s elbow include pain on the inner portion of the elbow possibly radiating into the forearm, tenderness to the touch, pain when flexing your wrist, morning stiffness and weakness. Self management of both conditions can effectively treat and altogether abolish one’s symptoms if performed promptly. P.R.I.C.E – Protect, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication may also assist in doing the trick. Further relief may be gained via gentle massage applied to the tendon area and musculature just beyond the elbow. Use of a “Golf” or “Tennis Elbow Strap” may help by redistributing the forces generated by the muscle through their tendons allowing the inflamed area some relief.
However, if these steps don’t help and you still suffer from loss of mobility, swelling, warmth to the touch in the area and pain, your physician may suggest other steps. These may include a corticosteroid injection, x-ray or rarely an MRI. Often a short regimen of physical or occupational therapy is recommended including analysis of your arm movement and technique, ultrasound, laser therapy, stretching and gradual strengthening of the arm which commonly are instructed and then performed at home. Typically, only in rare cases will someone progressively worsen to the point that surgical intervention is necessary.
Although it may be impossible to avoid taking the occasional heavy divot on the golf course, be forced into making repeated backhand returns on the tennis court, or swinging that hammer while working on the job, it is quite possible that you may avoid ever experiencing this sidelining pain through preventative measures. Follow these simple steps and you just may reduce your risk:
Strengthen your forearm muscles by using light weights moving against gravity both with the palm up and palm down. Additionally, strengthen the shoulder as weakness there may impose increased strain to the elbow and wrist
Stretch the involved muscles by fully extending your elbow and arm in front of you while using your other hand to gently pulling on your hand both palm facing away and palm facing towards you.
Fix your Form by consulting with an physician, therapist or instructor.
Take Breaks when your forearm is fatigued from whatever the project or sport you are participating in. That short rest may truly make the difference.
Listen To Your Body as taking a little time off is sometimes all you need to heal.