No one realizes how much they use their elbow until it stops working the way it should.  This is often what is relayed to me when I treat someone with Tennis Elbow, formally known as Lateral Epicondylalgia.  If you feel sharp pain that prevents you from picking up your favorite cup in the morning, you very well may have this condition.  

Many people are shocked when they get their diagnosis of “Tennis Elbow.”  They frequently respond with, “I don’t play tennis.”  Tennis alone, does not cause elbow pain.  The high repetition of any activity like using a hammer or turning a screw driver can cause the pain.  

What Causes it

The cause of Tennis elbow was originally thought to be due to inflammation.  However, research in recent years has been unable to find any inflammatory markers.  Rather, there seems to be degenerative changes in the common extensor tendon that causes much of the pain which is why the condition can last for such a long period of time.  Anecdotally, I regularly find tenderness and spasm through the wrist extensors in addition to pain on the outside dimple of the elbow.

How Do I Treat it?

There are several treatment strategies out there for treating Tennis Elbow.   The first and most commonly prescribed treatment is a steroid injection to the tendon.  For some people, this can make a huge difference.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t cure everyone.  For those who don’t benefit from a cortisone injection, they are usually prescribed physical therapy.  Physical therapy research promotes eccentric strengthening exercises to improve the tensile strength of that deconditioned tendon mentioned above.  

One of the common home exercises I send home with my patients is some deep tissue massage, not around the elbow itself but on those tight, tender wrist extensors.  This is a great way to quickly get symptoms to calm down.  To do it, all you need is some lotion (I prefer cocoa butter) and something smooth and hard like a brush or spatula handle.  Simple apply some lotion to those tender muscles and gradually increase pressure while massaging those muscles with the object of choice.  Spend 5-10 minutes doing this activity.  While it may be a little tender initially, you should find that the soreness in those muscles subsides after just a few treatments.  

Alternative Choices

If you still aren’t finding success with this massage technique, you may need to follow up with a qualified healthcare professional like a sports medicine physician or a physical therapist.  They will know how to properly treat this condition.  If you have other questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to me directly at 479-402-9400 or email me at [email protected].

Dr. Christian Robertozzi

Author Dr. Christian Robertozzi

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