The Path to Recovery from Tennis Elbow
The tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a condition that does not always have anything to do with playing tennis. Of course it had first been identified in professional tennis players, hence its popular name, but it can also happen to you as a result of everyday activities or tasks you regularly perform at work.
Lateral epicondylitis affects the muscles in the outer forearm which connect to the elbow. It is not a condition which you can ignore because it causes pain, swelling, and tenderness in your outer elbow and forearm, making it almost impossible to get a good grip on items, lift heavy weights or flex your arm. Left untreated for a long time, the tennis elbow will certainly require surgery.
However, there are ways in which you can prevent this extreme solution. The most important thing to do is to recognise the early signs of tennis elbow and act quickly. Here are some of the most efficient home therapy techniques which you can apply:
- Apply the RICE Method
If you have been following our blog, you have become familiar with the RICE method. At any rate, here it is what it stands for: Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate. This is a highly effective method recommended both by doctors and physical therapists in case of injury while running, practicing sports or going to the gym.
So, if you start feeling pain in the outer part of your elbow and forearm, stop doing the activities which caused it (repetitive flexing of the forearm, lifting heavy objects, gripping, etc.) and apply ice packs for a few days in 20-minute sessions with 4-hour breaks between applications. Apply a compressive bandage for the first 2-3 days and wear your arm in a sling during these critical first days.
- Perform Simple and Effective Stretching Exercises
Stretching is one of the top warm-up techniques used by professional athletes worldwide. It is also one of the most recommended recovery therapies by doctors. For the tennis elbow, “prayer stretching” is the most effective exercise you can do at home every day. Press your palms together at chest level, and descend slowly towards the abdomen, maintaining the hands pressed.
Another simple and useful stretching exercise is the wrist stretch. Grab your fingers with the other hand, and gently pull them outward, until the palm is stretched back towards the forearm. You can also use a stress ball and squeeze it in your hand 10 times, increasing this number as your hand regains its grip and strength.
- Warm up the Affected Area
After the initial applications of ice packs, it is time to turn to warmth in order to speed up your recovery. The best moments to apply warmth to your elbow are right after the stretching exercises. Use a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel or a sand bag which you can warm up in the microwave oven.
- Apply Self Massage
Massage your forearm gently in 10 to 15-minute-long sessions. Use long finger strokes of medium pressure and advance slowly along the forearm. Do not become overzealous by turning your massage into a “good rub down”, because it is absolutely not recommended. If you are not sure you can give yourself an adequate therapeutic massage, hire a specialised massage therapist.
- Wear a Brace
You are not expected to take a complete break from your work or from daily activities while you recover from tennis elbow. Of course, you will stop doing those repetitive movements which caused the injury, but any kind of gripping and lifting movement can worsen your injury. This is why you should wear an elbow brace throughout your recovery period when you are performing physical activities with your injured arm.
As a final thought, please remember that this path to recovery will work if you recognise the symptoms of tennis elbow from the initial stages. This is why it is very important not to neglect any kind of pain you experience – find its cause and apply the right form of therapy to cure it.
The SPI Team are here to help if you want further help …