Understanding the symptoms and causes of tennis and golfer’s elbow

How many times have you experienced intense elbow pain while playing a sport? Or perhaps, got swelling due to excessive physical activity? This is due to tennis injury or golfer’s elbow. This name came into existence after it was discovered that tennis and golf players faced too many injuries at the elbow. As per statistics, nearly 29% of working professionals complained of immense pain and suffered from acute tennis or golfer’s elbow. Read on to comprehend the details of these medical conditions. Also, find out the best effective treatments for tennis and golfer’s elbow.

treatment of tennis elbow

  • External factors that contribute to tennis or golfer’s elbow

    Beyond sports, there are several other reasons that result in the development of this condition. Women have more joint inflammation and laxity as compared to men. So, they can easily suffer from injuries. As stated earlier, our body’s capability of rebuilding connective tissues drops down with age. Handling heavy loads, smoking, being overweight, and labor work are the other causes that lead to the symptoms of tennis or golfer’s elbow.

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  • The functioning of tendons
    Tendons play the role of elastic in a human body. They create flexibility and help build connectivity between the tissue proteins. Once they are overused or stressed, they cause inflammation and breakdown rapidly. As you begin to grow older, you observe that your body is incapable of producing those tissues. Hence, you experience stiffness, and the tendons are no longer capable of rebuilding stressed tissues. Even the treatment for tennis elbow turns a little tricky. An amalgamation of blood, oxygen and nutrients would gradually enter the blood vessels and heal the tendon. This process could take around two years.
  • The occurrence of this medical condition
    Tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow can be associated with a type of pain that appears on the outside or inside. They are medically termed as lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) and medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow). They are caused by abrupt or subtle injury in the tendon area of the elbow muscles. Due to acute, chronic damage or inflammation of nerves, the soft tissues of the joints are disrupted. In serious medical cases, the pain extends to the forearms and biceps as well. More than 50% of sports injuries result in the breakage of the tendons. They lead to the lack of mobility, muscle imbalances, poor movements, etc.

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  • The difference between tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow
    The symptoms of tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow can be distinguished from the type of muscle pain. They are classified as medial pain and lateral pain. The muscles that allow flexibility of the wrist are attached to the medial epicondyle. Medial pain occurs due to ligament injuries, bone issues, and several other reasons. Golfers, footballers, weightlifters, and athletes are at a high risk. The lateral epicondyle involves pain when the muscles that extend to the wrist are wounded. Tennis players are more prone to lateral elbow pain. Even older women who perform gardening, cooking, and knitting activities can suffer from a tennis elbow condition.
  • The symptoms of this medical condition
    There are a few symptoms of tennis elbow. Some of them include pain while performing a handshake with the opposite person. Squeezing objects and vigorously moving the wrist can cause further pain. At times, the discomfort increases around the elbow, and you can experience dreadful strain in your arm. Lifting heavy objects, handling utensils, or using cutleries such as knife and fork can intensify the pain.

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  • Diagnosis for the treatment of tennis elbow
    Tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow can’t be diagnosed from blood tests. The doctor would suggest you to undergo an MRI scan. This would reveal changes in the tendons, muscles, bones, and ligaments. Inflammatory gels, cortisone injections are some of the creams that work on the muscles. Extracorporeal shock wave therapy and ultrasound techniques reduce pain and boost tissue regeneration. Elbow bands decrease stress on the elbows and ease pain. Doctors advise eccentric exercises to reduce elbow pain and develop tendons.

Besides these, there are a few other therapies that are known for healing the medical condition. Platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy promotes healing of the damaged tissues. Compression therapy involves a flow of blood and nutrients to the injured area. The spot is wrapped tightly with an elastic bandage or tight fabric bandages for a few minutes and then unwrapped to let the blood rush back.

Another form of recovery that physiotherapists suggest is massages, stretching, and active release therapies (ART). Nitric oxides work when placed directly on the injury. They help in the connective tissue production of the broken ligaments. Acupuncture, Botox, and corticosteroids are some other medications proposed for the treatment of tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow. If the different treatments for tennis elbow do not show any hints of improvement, then the last alternative would be surgery. The doctor would advise this only in rare cases after performing auto-biopsies. Some patients could be suffering from other medical conditions as well. As a result, the treatments fail to respond efficiently.

  • Eat the right food to promote tendon health
    Apart from the treatments, it is important to consume the right food that would support the treatment for tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow. The diet should be rich in proteins that build and repair the wrecked tissues. Consume plenty of vegetables, fruits, vitamins, and minerals. Increase the quantity of anti-inflammatory foods and supplements such as ginger, omega-3, and turmeric. Vitamin C, vitamin A, copper, and zinc should be increased in your regime. Avoid inflammatory or allergic foods. Consume the following foods for a quicker recovery:
  1. Omega-3 acids: walnuts, flax, chia, fish and marine oils
  2. Flavonoids: garlic, pineapple, berries, cocoa, tea and turmeric
  3. Vitamin C: red bell and green bell peppers, strawberries, guava, grapefruit, kohlrabi, papaya, brussels sprouts, kiwi, mango and oranges
  4. Vitamin A: carrots, sweet potato, spinach, pumpkin, collards, kale, watercress, and beets
  5. Zinc and copper: mushrooms, spinach, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, green peas, barley, soybeans, oysters, lobster, and crab

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  • Smart ways to reduce stress on the tennis elbow
    Why do you have to await the occurrence of injuries and then rush for treatment of your tennis elbow? It is always beneficial to practice measures that prevent the occurrence of such injuries. During workouts, use a safety bar squat or cross arm front squat to reduce elbow stress. Focus on exercises that evenly distribute weight on all the muscles. If you are in pain while exercising, avoid performing those particular tasks. Keep varying activities and movements to avoid stiffness. Use elbow bands for support during workouts. Monitor your body posture. Hunched shoulders may lead to shoulder and elbow pain.

Avoid sitting in a single posture for hours. Keep changing positions and try to maintain a comfortable stance. Get massage therapies regularly and work on improving your flexibility. Plan a food journal and track the inflammation and symptoms of tennis elbow.

You must take charge of your health and take all the necessary precautions to avoid injuring yourself. These injuries are unbearable and can drain your energy. Try to sip plenty of water throughout the day. Water prevents rigidity in the muscles and promotes flexibility in the joints. Apply pieces of ice to minor bruises and injuries. If you face excessive pain, visit the doctor immediately. A few simple tips can help you live a safe and healthy life.

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Amelia Smith

Nutritionist, herbalist, health and medicine writer and yoga enthusiast, Amelia Smith, is a professional in the health, nutrition and diet industry.
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