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Understanding Tennis Elbow: Causes, Symptoms and Prevention 

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A doctor helping a patient with tennis elbow.
Tennis elbow, also known as tendonitis, is a painful and often debilitating overuse injury that can have a major impact on everyday activities. Despite its prevalence, there is still much to be understood about what causes tennis elbow, how it can be prevented, and how to effectively manage the pain associated with it. To treat tennis elbow successfully, it is important to identify what is causing it and then take steps to reduce or eliminate that activity. Resting is often recommended in order to allow time for healing; however, if rest does not bring relief, treatments or certain innovative therapies may be necessary. The most ideal scenario is to not get tendonitis at all. So, in this blog, we’ll discuss ways to prevent tennis elbow and the discomfort associated with it.

What Causes Tennis Elbow?

Although many people associate tennis elbow with tennis, it can be caused by any activity that involves repetitive motions such as:
  • Typing
  • Using a computer mouse
  • Gardening
  • Playing golf
  • Throwing a ball
  • Painting
Tennis elbow happens when the tendons and muscles that attach to the outside of the elbow become inflamed or irritated, resulting in pain and discomfort in the forearm and elbow. The pain associated with tennis elbow can also come from tiny tears in the tendons that attach to the bone. Tendonitis is most common in adults between 30 and 50 years old. It affects men more than women, but anyone can suffer from this condition regardless of age or gender. People who already have an existing wrist injury are more likely to develop tennis elbow due to increased strain on the elbow joint. A man holding a racquet and experiencing pain from tennis elbow.

Tennis Elbow Symptoms

Tennis elbow symptoms can prevent you from doing what you love most. Whether that’s exercising, playing with your children or grandchildren, or participating in your favorite hobbies. The most common symptoms of tennis elbow include:
  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Reduced strength
  • Limited range of motion
Generally, patients can experience these symptoms from their elbow all the way down their forearm. In extreme cases of tennis elbow, pain can be felt even when not actively using the arm or elbow. This is known as “spontaneous pain” and can be very uncomfortable for sufferers. People with severe tennis elbow may also experience limited range of motion in their arms and find it painful to straighten their elbow fully.

Tennis Elbow Prevention

Preventing tennis elbow can save you from weeks to months of pain and discomfort. Here are some precautionary steps you can take to prevent this condition:
  • Warm Up Properly: Before engaging in activities that may cause stress to the elbow joint, it is important to warm up. This can be done by gently stretching and rotating the arm in a circular motion. Doing some light cardio such as walking or jogging can also help prepare the muscles and tendons for physical activity.
  • Strengthen Muscles: Building strength in the muscles that surround and support the elbow joint can prevent overuse injuries like tennis elbow. Exercises that focus on the wrist and forearm will help prevent fatigue and joint damage.
  • Use Proper Technique for Activities: Whether you’re gardening, playing a sport, or a different activity, using proper technique is essential.
  • Use Appropriate Equipment: Using equipment tailored to your sport or activity can also prevent elbow issues. Utilizing appropriate equipment for activities such as lifting weights or even gardening can prevent elbow injuries.
  • Take Breaks: Allowing time for rest periods, stretch breaks, and recovery days is important to prevent overuse. Listen to warning signs from your elbow like mild soreness and take a break when needed. Preventing tennis elbow requires warming up properly, building arm strength, using proper technique, utilizing appropriate equipment, and resting when needed. Being proactive helps avoid this painful overuse injury.

Discover Treatments: The Best Tennis Elbow Treatments

A doctor is walking a patient through tennis elbow exercises.

FAQs About Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is a very common injury among younger and older individuals. Some of the most common questions we receive regarding this condition are:

What is tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow is a condition where the outer part of the elbow becomes sore and tender. It is an overuse injury caused by repetitive motions like gripping a tennis racquet.

What causes tennis elbow?

Tennis elbow is often caused by repetitive motions that strain the tendons in the forearm that attach to the elbow. Sports like tennis, golf, bowling can lead to tennis elbow. It can also occur from manual jobs involving gripping.

What are the symptoms of tennis elbow? 

Symptoms include pain on the outer elbow that can radiate into the forearm. There may be stiffness, weakness or tenderness on the elbow. Pain typically worsens with activities like lifting or gripping objects.

How is tennis elbow diagnosed?

A doctor will examine the elbow by applying pressure to look for areas of tenderness. They may order imaging tests like an MRI or x-ray to rule out other causes.

How can I prevent getting tennis elbow?

Warming up properly, using correct technique, strengthening the arm and forearm muscles, and taking breaks can help prevent tennis elbow.

How is tennis elbow treated?

Treatments include rest, ice, braces, physical therapy, and other non-surgical therapies. Most cases resolve with conservative treatments.

What are effective home remedies?

Applying ice packs, over-the-counter pain medication, stretching and massage can help manage tennis elbow at home. A counterforce brace may also help relieve symptoms.

When should I see a doctor for tennis elbow?

See your doctor if elbow pain does not improve after a few weeks of home treatment. Also seek medical care if pain is severe or limits your daily activities.

Can Blood Clots Cause Tennis Elbow?

Blood clots typically do not cause tennis elbow, a condition that affects the tendons in the elbow. However, understanding the risk of blood clots is important as they can form in other parts of the body, leading to serious health issues. It is crucial to be aware of the symptoms and seek medical attention if necessary.

Family Integrative Medicine Can Help Prevent Tennis Elbow

There are a number of treatments available for tennis elbow, and the sooner you start treatment, the better. But there’s one treatment that’s often overlooked in the prevention of tennis elbow: acupuncture. Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles into specific points on the body and can stimulate the release of natural endorphins, which are hormones that act as natural painkillers. Acupuncture works by stimulating the body’s natural healing process and increasing blood flow to the affected area. When inserted into specific points on the elbow, acupuncture needles can increase circulation and help reduce inflammation and swelling in the joint. This increased circulation can also reduce tension in the muscles around the elbow, which helps to relieve pain. If you’re looking for a holistic approach to the prevention of tennis elbow, look no further than Family Integrative Medicine. With our focus on the patient and emphasis on preventative care, we can help you avoid or remedy this common injury. Our dedicated staff is ready and willing to help! Call 407.751.2192 to schedule your appointment today!

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