How To Get Rid Of Tennis Elbow?

What Is Tennis Elbow?

Clinically known as lateral epicondylitis, tennis elbow is a common condition that causes pain and stiffness in the arm. The condition affects between 1-3% of the population across both genders and is most common in middle-aged individuals. Furthermore, individuals who smoke or are obese are statistically more likely to be at risk of developing the condition.

Lateral epicondylitis is caused by strenuous or repetitive use of the muscles and tendons that connect the forearm to the elbow joint, with the Extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) most frequently affected.

The term ‘tennis elbow’ has been used to describe the condition due to its prevalence amongst individuals who play tennis, though any repetitive use of the forearm or repetitive forceful wrist extension – such as playing an instrument, manual work, racquetball, typing, and so on – can lead to the condition developing.

Excessive or repetitive use causes tendon degeneration for any one of a number of reasons:

  • Microtearing of the tendon due to overuse
  • Heat injury due to overuse
  • Ischemia – inadequate blood supply to the tendon –  due to overuse
  • Nerve irritation due to overuse

The symptoms of tennis elbow include:

  • Pain around the elbow
  • Soreness in the muscles of the forearm
  • Pain that is reproduced with resisted wrist or finger extension and supination (rotation of the wrist)
  • Stiffness in the elbow may also occur, which may be more common in the morning

Tennis elbow can be extremely lifestyle-limiting, and prevent people from engaging in activities that they enjoy or rely on for income, leading most individuals with the condition to need to discover how to get rid of tennis elbow once and for all.

Best Braces For Tennis Elbow

As one would expect with such a common condition, much time and research have been spent seeking suitable solutions for lateral epicondylitis. One of the first options that should be considered is braces for tennis elbow.

Research has indicated that counterforce braces can help to reduce the issues caused by tennis elbow, offering the dual benefit of pain relief and an increase in grip strength.

 

Braces for tennis elbow are designed to decrease the forces acting on the ECRB by broadening the area of stress and thus helping to alleviate pressure on one specific area.

In addition to band/strap designs counterforce sleeves have been proven successful at both reducing pain and increasing strength.

Unfortunately, wrist splints have been found to be ineffective, as the support is located at the wrong part of the arm.

 

KT Tape To Treat Tennis Elbow

Kinesio taping – which is most commonly abbreviated to simply “KT” – was originally invented by Japanese chiropractor Kenzo Kase in the 1970s.

Over recent years, KT tape has become more and more popular in the treatment and management of a variety of musculoskeletal conditions – including tennis elbow. KT tape for tennis elbow has been shown to be highly effective; studies have suggested that pain diminishes when at rest and with resisted wrist extension.

To gain significant benefits, a special KT tape tennis elbow taping technique is required. Two Y-shaped KT strips should be used; the main piece is applied along the extensor muscles, and the second strip is applied perpendicular to the main strip on the proximal forearm.

To apply the first – main – strip:

  • Apply the tape head (also known as the anchor) to the wrist with no tension.
  • Apply the tape along the extensor muscles, stretched slightly with approximately 30% of the available tension.

To apply the second strip:

  • Apply the anchor of the second strip one inch distal and anteromedial to the lateral epicondyle with no tension.
  • Apply the tape with 30% tension to each tail across the wrist extensors.

When each section of the tape is in place, lightly rub the strip in order to activate the adhesive and create a firm hold. In most cases, KT tape will last for at least a week, even with regular washing and bathing – which provides the potential for long-term relief for those experiencing tennis elbow.

Exactly how KT tape is able to offer relief is not particularly well understood, but some theories have been presented. It is possible that the stretching of skin disrupts both the generation and propagation of pain signals, which leads to relief of the underlying condition.

Furthermore, KT tape reduces muscle activity in the injured tendon or muscle, which allows for rest and natural healing to take place. Finally, it is thought that KT tape can decrease stress at tendon insertion, which helps to alleviate clinical symptoms.

Best Stretches For Tennis Elbow

Both braces and KT tape have been found to offer significant benefits to individuals with tennis elbow, but soothing stretches can also be hugely beneficial. There are a number of stretches for tennis elbow to consider, all of which can be done throughout the day but are particularly beneficial as warm-up stretches conducted before engaging in activities – such as gardening, tennis or golf – that involve gripping.

Wrist Extension Stretch

  • Straighten your arm, but do not lock your elbow.
  • Bend your wrist backwards, as you would if you were signaling a person to stop.
  • Use your opposite hand to apply gentle pressure across the palm of your hand, pulling your hand towards you.
  • You should feel a stretch on the inside of your forearm.
  • Hold the stretch for 60 seconds.
  • Repeat the process on the other arm.

It is recommended that this pattern – 60 second stretches per arm – is repeated twice a day, five to seven days per week. You could, for example, use this stretch Monday through Friday, then have rest days on weekends if you felt it necessary.

Wrist Flexion Stretch

  • Straighten your arm with your palm facing downwards.
  • Bend your wrist so that your fingers are pointing directly down at the floor.
  • Gently pull your hand towards your body, stretching your fingers towards your torso.
  • You should feel a stretch on the outside of your forearm.
  • Hold the stretch for 60 seconds.
  • Then switch to the other arm.

As with the wrist extension stretch, the wrist flexion stretch should be repeated twice per day (2 x 60 second stretches, per arm), five to seven days per week.

Wrist Pronator Stretch

  • You will need to have access to a flat table for this stretch.
  • Lay your arm flat on the table, with the palm facing upwards towards the ceiling.
  • Using your opposite hand, take hold of your thumb from underneath.
  • Very gently begin to rotate your wrist, until you can feel the stretch.
  • Hold the stretch for 60 seconds.
  • Then switch to the other arm.
  • This pattern (60 second stretch per arm) should be repeated two times a day, five to seven days per week.

Wrist Supinator Stretch

  • Again, you will need access to a table to perform this stretch.
  • Lay your arm flat on the table, with the palm facing downwards towards the top of the table.
  • Use your opposite hand to grab your thumb from underneath.
  • You can then gently rotate your wrist, until you can feel the stretch.
  • Hold the stretch for 60 seconds.
  • Repeat the stretch on your other arm
  • The above stretches should be repeated two times per day, five to seven days per week.

Best Exercises for Tennis Elbow

Soothing stretches, as discussed above, can help to significantly reduce pain and discomfort caused by tennis elbow. However, in addition to these stretches, individuals who experience the condition should also find it beneficial to undertake specific exercise for tennis elbow.

Eccentric and isometric exercise have been shown to decrease pain and improve strength in individuals who have been diagnosed with lateral epicondylitis.

Isometric exercise involves the contraction of muscles, but without a change in the length of the muscle. For tennis elbow, the following is recommended:

  • You will need a resistance band to complete this exercise.
  • Place the resistance band over the hand of the affected elbow.
  • Keep the wrist in a neutral position, and pull the band towards the opposite hand – but be cautious to ensure that the wrist does not move.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat three times.

Eccentric exercise involves muscle contraction in which the length of the muscle is elongated. For tennis elbow, the following is recommended, which again requires the use of a resistance band:

  • Place the resistance band over the hand of the injured elbow.
  • Extend your wrist with greater force when compared to the first, isometric exercise we discussed above.
  • Pull your wrist towards the opposite hand.
  • Allow your wrist to move in the intended direction, but resist the movement as much as you can.
  • The full repetition should take around four seconds to complete.
  • You should feel the muscles at your elbow straining
  • Repeat the repetition 20 times in total.

Both of the exercises described above should be repeated four times per week in total.

Try Essential Oils

Essential oils, as the name implies, are the “oily” juice found naturally in plants. They are frequently responsible for the aroma and flavor of the plant.

Essential oils seem to have four main mechanisms to help combat pain:

  • They Are Powerful Antioxidants
  • They Are Powerful Anti-inflammatories
  • They Inhibit  Pain Receptor Activation
  • They Numb Pain Processing

Dr. Lucas MD essential oil tendon relief formula

Surgical options

Surgery is not a common choice for those who have been diagnosed with tennis elbow. The condition tends to respond well to physiotherapy, exercises such as those described above, and supports such as braces and KT tape. It is generally recommended that all other treatment options are considered before choosing to undergo a surgical procedure as, like any operation, surgery to alleviate tennis elbow does carry risks. However, for those experiencing chronic issues, it may still be worth considering.

The surgery, which is known as ‘tennis elbow release’ is relatively straightforward:

  • The surgeon makes an incision close to the elbow in order to inspect the connection between the tendon and the bonus.
  • The surgeon will then inspect the area in order to ascertain the best way to address the issue, which tends to vary between people.
  • Options include releasing the tendon, repairing tears in the tendon, removing tissue, or removing any bone spurs
  • The incision is then closed using stitches or staples
  • In general, the surgery will take less than 30 minutes, and can be performed under local or general anesthetic.

Potential complications of tennis elbow release surgery include:

  • Pain and stiffness in the affected arm
  • Nerve damage
  • Infection
  • Arthritis
  • Anesthetic reactions

Your surgeon will discuss the risks with you prior to the surgery.

Unfortunately, tennis elbow release does not provide an immediate ‘fix’; there will be a, sometimes long, recovery period, during which your arm will be in a sling and you will be unable to drive. You may also experience pain and discomfort as a result of the procedure, and you will need to ensure that the wound is kept clean until the stitches can be removed.

When the stitches (or staples) have been removed, you will need to undergo an intensive course of physiotherapy to ensure your recovery is as effective as possible. The surgery itself can be beneficial, but only if combined with high-quality physiotherapy that supports the tendon correctly. If you play sports – and especially sports such as tennis or golf – then it may be six months before your physiotherapist clears you to resume these activities, so do keep this in mind if you are considering surgery.

While unsuccessful operations are uncommon, there is a chance that the surgery may not actually be effective at reducing or eliminating the symptoms of tennis elbow. Due to this, surgery should always be a last consideration; it is best to explore other options, such as those we have discussed above, in depth before considering surgical intervention.

In conclusion

Tennis elbow can be a difficult condition to manage, and can be detrimental to a person’s ability to enjoy their usual daily activities, sports, and even their work.

Thankfully, with the right approach, the condition can usually be managed effectively, so those affected should always be able to find the relief they require.

Remember to stretch, exercise, try essential oils, use the right taping techniques, and immobilization devices to maximize your chances for success.

References

https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/tennis-elbow-lateral-epicondylitis#1

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tennis-elbow/symptoms-causes/syc-20351987

https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/96969-overview

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/7049-tennis-elbow-lateral-epicondylitis

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/lateral-epicondylitis-tennis-elbow

https://www.physio-pedia.com/Lateral_Epicondylitis