Elbow pain is something that shows up in the clinic daily.
Our client, Nicole, struggled with ongoing pain in her elbow for several weeks. She had been doing everything possible to alleviate the pain, until she decided it was no longer worth the trouble and didn't come to see me until it became such a serious problem that she couldn't take it anymore. Once we figured out what caused her tennis elbow (constant use of power tools while working on remodeling projects around her home), we came up with a solution: daily physiotherapy and an exercise program geared specifically towards reducing swelling and pain.
What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis, is a painful elbow on the outside part of the elbow. It is painful due to:
repeating the same motion over and over again.
In fact, the tennis elbow can develop from any activity with a repeated motion, such as:
using a hammer
gripping an object like pliers
cutting up cooking ingredients, particularly meat with a knife
using a computer mouse repetitively
Why is Tennis Elbow Important?
Have you ever had a day when you had an important task to get done, but your elbow was painfully sore? Or your hands?
Most things we do during the day require our hands. And as the song goes, the hand bone is connected to the…elbow bone!
So, if we aren’t taking care of our hands or elbows, we can’t do the things we need to do during the day.
Things You Can Do Right Now for Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow is usually not a tendon-it is, meaning inflammation, it is usually a tendon-osis, meaning the tissue has broken down over time. So, elbow pain is likely due to a strain of the elbow tendon.
Tendons are very cool because they attach muscle to the bone. When healthy, they allow the muscles to do their job of moving the elbow, also known as a joint. But tendons are that white tissue, which means blood flow to them is limited.
So why use heat?
Improves blood flow to the area/tendon
Helps relax the muscle
Helps to speed up the healing process
Provides long-term relief from pain
2. Self Massage
So, now that there is some improved blood flow to the area, self massage will help release some of the tightness you are experiencing in that elbow!
How do you do this?
For tennis elbow, start: with your thumb on the outside of the elbow
Find that tender spot and push down slowly – not aggressively
Next you can try and gently push down from the elbow towards your hand
Will it hurt – for sure! You found the spot causing some of the issue. By pushing down on the tender spot it will help release some of the tension being held there. You are working the muscle that is tight.
This technique can be done with your hand or through the use of a tennis ball.
Despite heat and self massage, the forearms will still be tight – so you need to try and stretch them. The best way to do that is to stretch both the front and back of the forearm. With any stretches go slow and BREATH!
Exercises that could help you to relief from pain upto some extent:
1. Towel Crush:
This exercise helps target and improve your grip strength. Grip weakness is a major cause of tennis elbow so it's important to focus on exercises that contribute to increasing the strength of flexor muscles within your fingers and forearm. Like in tennis, when swinging a racquet there is a lot of stress and force on the hands. Daily tasks such as carrying groceries or lifting heavy objects will put strain on our fingers due to overuse without the associated workout to support the tendons around our fingers during these actions. This exercise can also help improve other motions like typing or holding keys for example!
How to perform this exercise:
Place your forearms on a table or other flat surface.
Place the towel into your hand, rolling it tightly into a cylindrical shape.
Begin to squeeze the towel, applying equal pressure to all sides. For added effectiveness, focus on the part of the towel you are squeezing - engage your mind as well as your body!
Hold for up to 10 seconds, letting go before the 10 second mark without losing complete control of the towel.
Repeat 3 times with each arm for ten seconds at a time.
2. Empty Handshakes:
Isolated movements at the forearm level (such as wrist exercises) are great when it comes to strengthening muscle-endurance in the muscles of your forearms.
How to perform this exercise:
Place your forearm onto the table. Let your wrist hang off the side of it as you remain seated (you can also stand).
Keep your hand straight as if you are going to shake a hand with someone.
Start moving your hand in a chopping motion from top to bottom.
Repeat 3 sets of 10 reps.
Turmeric is a powerful spice that helps to reduce pain, eliminate inflammation, fight chronic illness and keeps the body healthy. It is also loaded with antioxidants that help eliminate free radicals in the body,
which are part of the aging process.
Mix one teaspoon of turmeric powder in one cup of boiling water. Cover the cup for ten minutes. Stir well and drink twice daily, preferably in the mornings.
Take 250 to 500 milligram turmeric capsules twice daily for at least a few weeks. Make sure you consult with your doctor before use.
Ginger is an ingredient that can also be used in cooking to make delicious dishes. It not only relieves pain but does so in a way that suggests it can treat tennis elbow because of the anti-inflammatory properties that give relief to people with the condition.
Boil a piece of ginger root in some water. Once the water has boiled for 10 minutes, strain the tea and add some honey to taste. Drink it slowly while still warm, three times daily until the pain is gone.
Let’s Sum Up Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow pain can limit your ability to do the things you love. Tennis elbow affects millions of people each year, bringing pain and limitation to their lives. But you can help yourself with this easy treatment. Change gears and move forward. Don’t let it stop you from doing what you love.
How long does it take for a tennis elbow to heal?
It depends! It will depend on the level of commitment you have to treatment and if you need help from a physiotherapist. Physiotherapy can help ensure the right techniques are being done with your home program. Physiotherapy will make sure nothing else is causing the pain. Elbow pain can be around for a long time – don’t let it stop you.