How to help with Elbow tennis

Tennis Elbow is a common condition at some point in our lives that can affect any one of us. Medically, it’s called a Lateral Humeral Epicondylitis that isn’t a blind bit of help to those who don’t know such jargon. Tennis Elbow means very little, even the more acknowledged term.

To experience this problem, you don’t have to play tennis, although it has disabled many players of this popular sport. Before power tools existed, some jobs could cause this to happen, e.g. screw-driving. The very act of gripping and twisting with strength for hours on end is tantamount to what is commonly referred to as repetitive strain injury (RSI) when using a screw driver or, for that matter, a tennis racket.

Having determined why it can happen, what can be done to alleviate and ultimately cure the 64 million dollar question? It is important to understand what physical structures have been hurt and to know exactly where they are in order to provide an effective non – surgical treatment.

Lateral Humeral Epicondylitis is double-dutch for most folk but it defines the location. The elbow is the visible joint between the arm’s lower and upper parts. The long bone between the shoulder and the elbow is called the Humerus, and there are different named lumps and bumps on this bone. There are two prominent bumps at the bottom end of the Humerus that are called Condyle; therefore an epicondyle is a round point on the condyle (epi-means on). The word lateral is used to further define the origin, which simply means away from the center to the side of the bone.

So we now know the injury site, but epicondyle has been added to it, meaning inflammation, so words like tendonitis and neuritis mean that your body’s bits are inflamed. A Lateral Humeral Epicondylitis is therefore nothing more than an inflammation of the bony prominence on the side at the bottom of the arm’s long bone. This isn’t the whole story because if it’s just a bit of an inflammation of the arm bone, what about the soreness and sometimes quite disabling pain we feel in the forearm itself, especially the muscles involved in gripping and twisting.

Having had the opportunity to treat several top professional tennis players, it is impossible not to notice how incredibly developed the forearm’s muscles are compared to the non-use of the opposite arm. It reminds me of the Popeye cartoon character whose forearm muscles, after swallowing a spinach can, used to grow massive. The muscles can easily be twice as voluminous in some cases.

After the treatment, the muscles can feel sore, so I encourage the patient to apply ice packs for 10-15 minutes at a time which reduces the inflammation and again stimulates the blood flow. Naturally, the actions that provoked the condition in the first place need to be modified or stopped altogether until the normal status quo has returned.
The use of a strap around the forearm placed just below the elbow can be helpful in supporting the actions that we take so much for granted, which can help reduce the strain on the muscles affected.

I’ve been focusing on non-surgical intervention so far. In short, there is the use of injections of hydrocortisone to nullify the local inflammation. This has to be delivered to the sore spot precisely. This is not easy to do and may require multiple injections before resolution occurs. I know there’s little appetite for these injections from many folks. Ultimately, it is possible to perform an operation. I’m not an orthopedic surgeon so I’m not going down that road.

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