Treating Tennis Elbow: AKA Lateral Epicondylitis

Tennis elbow earned its name because playing tennis used to be the main cause. These days it is much more commonly caused by computer usage. There are many recommended practices to heal your tennis elbow. Unfortunately, many of these recommendations do not get at the root cause of tennis elbow. In this blog, I would like to address these common recommendations and give you my own "Gold Approved" recommendations for healing your elbow pain.

Tennis elbow is a classic repetitive strain injury (RSI): that affects the muscles and tendons on the back of the arm and the outside of the elbow. Tennis elbow is a form of "tendinopathy," which is a fancy way of saying there is something wrong with your tendon. In a 2008 scientific paper by Andres et al, tendinopathy is “any painful condition occurring in and around tendons in response to overuse.” Furthermore, “little or no inflammation is present in these conditions.” With little to no inflammation, your standard anti-inflammatory regimen of icing and ibuprofen will help with the short term pain/swelling but won’t work miracles in healing tennis elbow.
Here are some of the most common doctor recommendations for helping tennis elbow:
  • Rest. Many doctors will tell you to avoid activities that aggravate your elbow pain. However, the condition might improve with rest but typically comes back shortly after resuming the activity that caused it.
  • Pain relievers. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or naproxen (Aleve) are another common doctor recommendation. These medications might help you make it through your match, however, they are not a great long term solution because they don't treat the root cause of the condition.
  • Ice. Your typical primary care doctor and myself, may tell you to apply ice or a cold pack for 10 minutes three to four times a day. This is fantastic for reducing any immediate inflammation and will reduce your pain. However, this again will not treat the root cause of your condition.
  • Alter your technique. Consult a coach to improve/change your swing. 
If you want your injury to heal faster, more completely and not just coddle your painful elbow, here are some better or "Gold Approved" treatment recommendations:
  • Reduce scar tissue and painful nerve endings formed by your activity which is reducing blood flow. We can achieve this by using rapid release technology, Graston technique or Gwa-Sha, or deep tissue myofascial release.
  • Adjust the elbow, shoulder and wrist. This is best done by a Certified Chiropractic Extremity Practitioner (C.C.E.P).
  • Cold laser; a medical device that increases the amount of energy delivered to the tissue to speed up the healing process and reduce inflammation. It increases ATP production and cellular transport (cold laser is a couple of steps above therapeutic ultrasound).
  • Tennis elbow support brace, similar to the Mueller Hg80 Tennis Elbow brace. Wearing a forearm strap or brace will change the fulcrum of the muscle slightly, thus reduce stress on the injured tissue.   

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