Tennis Elbow Injury: Quick Pain-Relievers
Published | 5 min read
Tennis elbow can be a painful and frustrating injury, but relief is possible. Discover effective remedies, including rest, physiotherapy, and Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments.
Despite its name, tennis elbow can be caused by any movements that involve repetitive wrist and arm movements — not just from playing tennis. These include activities such as lifting weights, writing, painting, and playing musical instruments.
If you suffer from this painful condition, you know how much it can affect your day-to-day activities. Thankfully, there are options for quick pain relief and other treatments to help support and heal the affected area.
What Causes Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow (also known as lateral epicondylitis) is a medical condition that causes pain in your elbow. It’s caused by repeated stress on the tendons in your forearm that attach to the bony bump on the outer part of your elbow, resulting in inflammation and pain.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), tennis elbow is viewed as part of the tendon and joint injuries, according to Real Medical Chief TCM Physician Chu I Ta. These are caused by damaged meridians and blocked blood flow, which results in sudden spasms, swelling, and pain.
Signs and Symptoms of Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow symptoms often develop gradually and vary in severity. These include:
- Pain or tenderness on the outer part of the elbow
- Pain that worsens when gripping, lifting, or twisting objects with the hand and wrist
- Weakness in the affected arm
- Stiffness or limited range of motion in the elbow
- Pain that radiates from the outer elbow to the forearm and wrist
In some cases, these symptoms may also be accompanied by shoulder and neck pain.
Quick Relief for Tennis Elbow Pain
Tennis elbow treatment focuses on reducing inflammation and improving the range of motion in the elbow joint. Several options may help for quick pain relief:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen may help quickly reduce pain and inflammation.
- Resting the affected arm and taking a break from the activities that aggravate the condition can help prevent further pain.
- Applying ice to the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, several times a day can help reduce pain and swelling.
- Elevating the affected area above the heart level can help reduce swelling and improve circulation.
- Wearing a compression band or brace around the forearm may reduce pain as it provides support. Real Health Medical’s Doctor of Chiropractic Simon Shen states that while ice and rest can provide fast relief from pain and swelling, “for non-compliant patients, sometimes an elbow sling may be prescribed.”
- Corticosteroid injections in the affected area have significant short-term improvements in symptoms. But it is linked to a higher recurrence rate and delayed recovery overall.
While these methods can provide fast relief, they don’t necessarily address the underlying cause. It’s important to consult with your healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
TCM offers several remedies under the guidance of a licensed TCM practitioner for tennis elbow pain. These include:
Acupuncture can help stimulate the flow of qi and promote healing. Physician Chu suggests targeting acupoints qu chi (LI11, 曲池), shou san li (LI10, 手三里), he gu (LI4, 合谷), shou wu li (LI13, 手五里), and yang ling quan (GB34, 阳陵泉).
Physician Chu lists the following commonly used herbs for tendon and joint injuries to promote healing and help reduce inflammation:
- Panax Notoginseng (san qi, 三七)
- Red Paeoniae
Trichocarpae(chi shao, 赤芍)
- Common Flowering Quince Fruit (mu gua, 木瓜)
- Subeect Spatholobus Stem (ji xue teng, 鸡血藤)
- Japanese Honeysuckle Stem (ren dong teng, 忍冬藤)
- Chinese Clematis Root and Rhizome (wei ling xian, 威灵仙)
Cupping on the distant muscles, like the shoulder and neck region, can help relieve the pain of the elbow joint, says Physician Chu.
Tuina massage techniques on specific acupoints can also help promote healing and reduce pain. Physician Chu advises patients to receive treatments from a qualified therapist and chiropractor. When combined with acupuncture, these treatments can help alleviate pain.
Clinical treatments for tennis elbow
There are several clinical treatments for tennis elbow:
- Physical therapy involves exercises to strengthen the forearm muscles and improve flexibility in the elbow joint. “Very frequent wrist extensor stretches are vital for tennis elbow. I will also recommend wrist flexor stretches to make sure the forearm is nice and relaxed,” advises Physician Chu.
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy uses a patient’s blood to create a concentrated solution of platelets, which is injected into the affected area to promote healing.
- Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) utilises high-energy shock waves to stimulate healing.
- Surgery (minimally invasive tenotomy) may also be necessary to repair or remove damaged tissue around the elbow joint when conservative treatments fail.
It’s vital that your tennis elbow injury is diagnosed and treated if you want to minimise any complications and prevent it from happening again. Your physician can tailor your treatment plan for the best results.
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