Lateral Epicondylitis (Tendonitis) or commonly called as tennis elbow, is not just an injury that’s related to athletes, many people of other professions/occupations also are affected by it. If you are a person who subject your forearms to excessive amount of stress, strain, the chances of you contracting this ailment is very high. Carpenters, construction workers, handymen, cooks, auto industry workers, etc, are all at a risk from this ailment. In fact, 30% of people undergoing tennis elbow treatment at any given time, are construction workers, not athletes!
How Does Tennis Elbow Occur?
When you lift heavy weights, move heavy objects or perform a strenuous task with your hands, the upper arm and forearm muscles are put under great strain. Of these two muscle groups, the upper arm has it a little easier because it has more muscle mass in the form of biceps and triceps. The chances of damage to these heavy muscles are relatively less. But the forearm is not so fortunate. The muscle mass here is very less when compared to the upper arm and so, these muscles rely on the ligaments and tendons (they connect the muscles to the bones and help in movement) to take up some of the strain.
Now, the tendons and ligaments are not functionally designed to take strain. They need adequate rest to
recuperate from any amount of strain, before they are ready for the next workload. When people work in professions that repetitively causes strain, without enough time for their recuperation, the tendons and ligaments become inflamed and ruptured respectively and it is painful. If people ignore the pain and work through it, the inflammation of tendons can aggravate and will need tennis elbow treatment. Strain is not the only cause for this ailment, age is also a factor. Older people get this ailment, resulting from years of overuse and excess strain on their forearm muscles and tendons. And as weird as it sounds, some desk job prone people also get this condition. This insidious condition can also be caused by a combination of mental stress and repetitive/robotic usage of forearm muscles. Tennis elbow treatment for insidious and extraneous cases are the same.
Different Stages Of Tennis Elbow Treatment:
Mild Tendonitis: Tennis Elbow, when it is in its beginning stages, is easier to treat but harder to diagnose. Since there is no visible damage to the tendons, the therapists and Doctors cannot identify the problem through scans, x-rays or EMGs. Athletes are at an advantage because their therapists know that tendonitis is the most probable cause for a painful elbow in players. Other people don’t have it that easy because the therapists will logically assume that the cause for their painful elbow is something else, not tendonitis. Diagnosing this ailment in the early stages is ideal because it can be cured easily.
Tennis Elbow Treatment Methods For Mild Tendonitis:
Massage: It is important to relieve the stress on the tendons and muscles and the best way to do that is through the old fashioned massage techniques. When the tendons are relaxed and rested, their inflammation reduces and the pain subsides. It is possible to get the tendons completely into working order within a week of proper massage. Yoga and Thai massage techniques are the most popular with therapists and they work very well in reducing tendon inflammation.
Onset of Epicondylitis: If proper diagnosis and treatment is not done in the beginning stages, the ailment deteriorates into its true form of Lateral Epicondylitis. In this stage, the tendons are so strained and inflamed that regular massages do not work on them. It also becomes possible to visibly see the inflammation and ruptures on tendons, ligaments and muscles at this stage, through MRIs and x-rays. Diagnosis is easier but treatment becomes tougher in this stage.
Tennis Elbow Treatment Methods For Lateral Epicondylitis:
Medication: Doctors prescribe milder forms of anti inflammatory medication to people in this stage. Aspirin or Ibuprofen formulations are the commonly used medications. These alleviators are only for treating the symptom of pain, the cure for ailment is done through other treatment methods.
Painkiller Injections: Some people may experience intense, persistent and throbbing pain in the elbow region. When medications don’t reduce this pain, Doctors prescribe regulated doses of cortisone (or other similar pain killers) injections. These injections completely eliminate elbow pain for a short duration of time.
Physiotherapy and Exercises: At this stage, people will have to undergo extensive physiotherapy sessions to give complete relief to the tendons. There are a set of exercises that prep up the tendons and other parts of the elbows and increase their ability to withstand strain. These exercises and physio sessions also help in reducing pain.
Braces and Elbow Compressors: Doctors also advice people to use elbow braces to prevent addition strain
on affected tendons and muscles. These braces also aid in treatment by compressing muscle tissues and blood vessels, increasing blood flow to affected tendons.
Extreme Lateral Epicondylitis: If the pain and inflammation of tendons persist beyond 6 months of treatment, that indicates onset of extreme Epicondylitis. There is no option now, other than surgery, recuperation and complete rest. It is possible to completely cure this ailment with the help of arthroscopic or open surgeries. People undergoing tennis elbow treatment and surgery will need at least 3 months to regain full mobility.
During these months of recuperation, their arm is completely immobilized, to ensure complete relaxation of tendons. People are also expected to complete a regimen of physiotherapy exercises after the surgery, to hasten recovery of mobility in the operated arms. Surgeries are only recommended when all non surgical methods have failed to arrest the ailment. For some people who have other health ailments, surgery might not be the right
option, even for extreme Epicondylitis; Doctors prolong the non surgical treatment methods for a longer duration, which gives slower but definite results.
Thankfully, most people suffering from tendonitis can be treated and cured in the first 2 stages. Only 7% – 8% of people need surgeries. It is also possible to prevent the occurrence of this ailment altogether by exercising regularly, giving the muscles adequate rest and also by wearing protective tennis elbow braces, even before the onset of the ailment.