Of course tennis elbow is rarely caused by tennis! So what is it, and how do I help myself get better?
Tennis elbow is really common.
As ridiculous as it sounds, the strength of pain associated with a bad case of tennis elbow is debilitating. Excruciating. ‘Get away from me!’ kind of pain.
Tennis elbow pain is super common yet very few therapies are any good at fixing it! One of the reasons therapies don’t fix it is because the pain is often Myofascial pain, a pain that Myotherapists know a lot about but most other therapists know little about. Another reason is the fact that there are many injuries that all cause a symptom in the same point of the elbow. So it can be hard to figure out the real cause.
I have fixed hundreds of cases of tennis elbow over the last few decades. In some cases just two treatments and in other cases six months of work on a problem that has been present for 20 years!
What is it?
Tennis elbow is classically called ‘lateral epicondylitis’ (more recently lateral epicondylalgia – use that word at a dinner party!) The outer point of your elbow is called your lateral epicondyle and epicondylitis suggests it is inflamed.
The only problem with asking ‘what is it?’ is the fact that although the pain presents in basically the same area each time, there are at least three types.
1. Pain from muscle.
That little bone is the anchor point for like six different muscles. Knots in these muscles can all refer pain to this little bony point and make it really painful and tender.
2. Pain from tendon.
Pain can arise from inflammation or wear in the tendon right where it inserts into this bone.
3. Pain from nerve.
Your radial nerve runs from your neck through your armpit then right past this point. Pressure on this nerve in the neck can make this part of the elbow hurt.
What causes it?
It is caused by a whole raft of things. Repetitive activities like painting, scrubbing or even typing can all cause it. The action of lifting something heavy and twisting the wrist in the same movement is a classic. And of course tennis causes tennis elbow in a small percentage of cases!
I had previously sought other treatment for tennis elbow and it was suggested Myotherapy would help. I’ve had 3 treatments of Myotherapy. The result being pain free, no swelling. If I hadn’t have had not had this treatment I would now be on Workcover unable to work or sleep because of the pain. I’m extremely impressed by the results.
If you have had tennis elbow pain for more than six weeks, go and see a Myotherapist. If, however, you catch it early, try implementing these things and see how you go.
1. Heat or ice?
Now depending on the type of tennis elbow that you have, one will improve with heat and one with ice.
Try heat first because more cases are this type. The good thing is that if heat is not the right thing the body will tell you. If the wheat bag causes it to throb or ache then don’t use it. Otherwise wrap your heat pack around the whole forearm covering the pain for 10 minutes daily for 10 days. Check out the articles ‘4 Tips on when to use heat and when not to’ and ‘What heat is good heat‘. Alternatively, if your pain is nerve or inflammation, ice will be best. When using ice, apply it very specifically to the site of pain for 10 minutes. Not all around the forearm like the heat. So the ice might only be on an area the size of a 20 cent piece. Do this daily for 10 days.
2. Don’t lift with your palm facing down.
Lifting with your palm facing down aggravates just about every type of tennis elbow. So imagine you are going to pick up the bag of groceries. You can put your hand straight on the bag and lift it with the palm down OR you can turn your palm up and slide your hand under the handles and lift with the palm up.
Every time you lift with the palm facing down you aggravate the injury. Protect it. Lift with the palm up. Think about the application of this for a minute. Reaching into the back seat to pick up the computer satchel. Picking up the groceries, toys, a bucket and so on. Holding the hands ‘up’ just off the keyboard all day. Even a backhand in tennis that uses too much wrist to deliver the power is loading the forearm in the same way.
3. Take longer than you think you need.
So if you follow these rules for 10 days and you get 30 per cent or more improvement continue with it and you will keep improving. But be warned. Tennis elbows are very temperamental. Once you feel 100 per cent you cannot trust it. You have to stick to lifting correctly for a few more weeks than you think you need to. Most of us learn this the hard way, having to repeat the healing process a few times.
Finally if you stick to these rules for 10 days with no improvement then see your Myotherapist. I have fixed cases that are weeks or decades old so there is always hope for this troubling complaint.
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