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Published on May 29, 2013

Tips for Treating Tennis Elbow

After a long day at work, you finally arrive at the front door of your home. Grabbing your keys, you attempt to open the door when a sudden sharp pain shoots up and down your forearm as you turn the handle — tennis elbow strikes again.

For anyone dealing with tennis elbow, the uncomfortable pain that comes along with simple actions, like turning a handle, can be a daily burden. But don’t be misled by the name — there are a variety of activities aside from tennis that can inflame the tendons between your wrist and elbow.

“Most people with tennis elbow are not tennis players,” says Gregory Tadduni, M.D., Taylor Hospital hand surgeon. “People are always calling and saying ‘I don’t play tennis…’ [but the number of tennis elbow sufferers who actually play racquet sports is] definitely the minority.”

Activities like gardening, painting, or using equipment the wrong way can all lead to tennis elbow. “You have to keep that tendon warmed up and stretched out before it becomes a bigger problem,” Tadduni says.

To know when you should stretch and warm-up your tendons, it’s important to identify the cause of your pain. Once you’ve discovered the culprit, you can then try one or more of the following ways to reduce pain and inflammation in your forearm.

  • Rubber Bar Therapy: Researchers discovered that when patients used a rubber bar to exercise their wrists and forearm muscles and tendons, 81 percent saw improvement in elbow pain and 72 percent increased their strength. This inexpensive exercise can conveniently be done during hand therapy treatments and at home. You can also increase your range of motion by trying stretch and strengthening exercises. One simple stretch Tadduni suggests is to “bend your fingers down toward the palm and then hold it.”
  • Wear a Brace: Once you start experiencing soreness, Tadduni recommends wearing a support brace to help alleviate the pain. A counterforce brace also works by restricting full muscle expansion when it contracts, ultimately reducing muscle activity and the force created by the muscle.  
  • Identify activities that make tennis elbow worse: Rehabilitation will only take longer if you continue engaging in the same activity that originally caused tennis elbow. Once you know what is causing your pain, you should either find another way to do the activity or stop doing it altogether. By speaking with a hand therapist, together you can find ways to do an activity differently and painlessly.
  • Corticosteroid Injections: Cortisone shots temporarily relieve pain as it reduces inflammation of the muscles and tendons. Anti-inflammatory medications, like Advil or Aleve, can also minimize swelling.
  • Ultrasound Therapy: This form of therapy can help heal the tendon and ultimately reduce pain as a needle is guided by ultrasound technology to break up scars. It also promotes collagen production that replaces damaged tissue.
  • Surgery: If nothing else works, or if the tendon is severely damaged as a result of a tear, surgery may be required to fully repair the muscles and tendons in your forearm. However, some cases of tennis elbow are more severe than others. “There’s a type of … tennis elbow that’s resistant to normal treatment because it’s the result of nerve compression,” Tadduni says. “Surgery is often needed for this condition.”

It’s important to discuss with your doctor which treatments are best for you and your particular case of tennis elbow.

Crozer-Keystone’s orthopedics and plastic surgery specialists work “hand in hand” with the experts at The Philadelphia Hand Center to bring you the kind of care that is second to none. All in a familiar and convenient setting that’s close to home. To learn more about our team of hand specialists as well as our comprehensive hand and wrist services, locations and more, call 1-855-CK-HAND (1-855-254-4263) or visit http://hand.crozerkeystone.org.

To learn more about the specialized hand therapy services at Crozer-Keystone Health System, call 1-877-CK-MOTION (1-877-256-6846).

 

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