Though often unappreciated or recognized, the elbow and especially the ligaments and nerves that pass through, are put under constant pressure and demand during even the most simple of activities. Research shows the condition is not entirely inflammatory in nature and has many root causes and presentations. Typically the condition affects individuals greater than 40 years of age with a history of repetitive activity of the forearm leading to aggravation of the tendons. Most often the condition shows up in the dominant arm and will take extended periods of time to heal due to the low blood flow to the area.
The cause of tennis elbow is not precisely known, and is very likely due to many contributing extrinsic (activity) and intrinsic (anatomical and nutritional) factors. Some, but not all, of the following factors can lead to symptoms of tennis elbow and pain at the lateral epicondyle:
- Poor general conditioning
- Improper form while training
- Bad technique during sport or work (repetitive)
- Worn or poor fitting equipment
- Gripping with unnecessary force
- Sudden forceful pulls
- General overuse
As the namesake for the condition, tennis is the most common sport directly associated with this condition. However, tennis players represent a very small portion of the total population of tennis elbow sufferers. Use of the wrist and forearm to increase power during movement, rather than the core, will create susceptibility to lateral elbow pain. Tennis is certainly a sport that often creates opportunities for these causes, but many other activities do as well. Those who engage in other racquet sports, work at a computer for long periods of time, hair stylists, construction workers, mechanics, and others that grip and use their wrists while the torso is stationary are likely to develop this condition. Other conditions such as carpal tunnel, rotator cuff calcification or tears, and biceps tendonitis may also increase the chances of developing tennis elbow.
Pain from tennis elbow is felt on or near the bump that forms the outer portion of the elbow. Symptoms are usually mild, but can be so excruciating the daily activities become impossible. They usually occur one to three days after the causal activity and typically get worse with activity and better with rest. Performing a backhand in tennis, use of a screwdriver, shaking a hand, wrist extension, lifting an object with the arm extended in front, or unscrewing a lid are all motions that will recreate the pain of tennis elbow. Pain is generally specific to the lateral elbow, but can radiate down the forearm into the wrist and hand. Rarely does swelling or bruising occur, and these symptoms may indicate a more serious condition.
KT Tape helps to treat tennis elbow by increasing circulation to a relatively nonvascular area. KT Tape also decreases pressure and creates fascial manipulations to immediately reduce pain. To minimize healing time, one should also perform light progressive stretching of the forearm muscles, ice after activity, implement massage, and focus on core movements rather than overuse of the extremities. NSAIDs may also be taken to reduce pain and any inflammation that may be present. Once symptoms have subsided, implementation of a strength training program targeted at the shoulders, back, and core will help to reduce strain on the forearm. Technique improvement during sport or occupation will also greatly reduce the occurrence of tennis elbow.
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