Let’s start with tendonitis… Tendons are tough, flexible, fibrous bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones. It means irritation and swelling. So, tendonitis literally means swelling and irritation of the elbow. The swelling and irritation can be in and around the elbows, but also in the arms too.
Typically, the cause of elbow tendinitis is overuse or overload…
Overuse means you are doing the same motion over and over and the tendons in and around the elbow start to wear down. There can be tiny tears in the tendons or they may simply just get irritated and start to swell. That can be from gripping things for long periods of time (like a tennis racquet, a tool or even a shovel, etc…), which forces the tendons in the arm to overwork and eventually start to break down.
Overload refers to a specific incident where you “overloaded” the tendons with a force that was too great for them to handle safely, so there was an injury. It was most likely more minor than a significant tear in the tendons, but still leads to a little bit of tendon tearing, swelling and irritation.
Unfortunately, once, you have elbow tendonitis, it can take a long time to get rid of the elbow pain. In some cases, the pain never goes away…
Also known as lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow occurs when the lateral epicondyle becomes inflamed (hence, the “itis). So, we would call tennis elbow a specific form of elbow tendinitis.
Tennis elbow is almost always an overuse condition and can affect the elbow and arm. Again, it doesn’t just have to be tennis players and often isn’t, although it does affect up to 50% of people who play racquet sports.
However, it can also be golfers, plumbers, painters, handymen, cooks and anyone who receptively and repeatedly uses a mouse and keyboard. Tennis elbow usually occurs in people from ages 30-50.
So when does it act up and cause pain? Normally, when you have to grip something, shake hands, turn a screwdriver, doorknob, hold a cup of something or carry bags, etc… Anytime you have to engage that lateral epicondyle, it can cause pain and weakness from the elbow all the way down to the forearm and wrist.
TREATMENT FOR ELBOW TENDINITIS AND TENNIS ELBOW
Tennis elbow significantly affects quality of life, so it is very important to deal with it sooner than later. Left untreated, the pain may never fully go away. Fortunately, therapy is highly effective at eliminating pain and increasing strength in the elbow. (MayoClinic.com. 15 Oct. 2008. Web. 10 Oct. 2010. Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery. 19 (6): 917–922. The New York Times, August 25, 2009).
In other words, rehab is the best way to get rid of elbow pain and the good news is that you can do it all at home, without little to no equipment. You can either go see an excellent physical therapist or use our extremely safe and effective at home Tennis Elbow Program.
In addition to rehab, it is a good idea to give the sport or activity that caused the elbow swelling and irritation a short rest. Ideally, try to avoid that activity for about 1-2 weeks, while you do the specific rehab techniques to heal.
Once you’re out of elbow pain and feeling good, you will be ready to go back to your favorite activity, hobby or occupation. But, this time, continue doing the rehab a few times a week to protect your elbow AND try to take more breaks. Don’t let the elbow get overloaded or overused too often and you will be going a long way to keep the pain away for good.
Following these tips will help ensure you can recover from elbow tendinitis and tennis elbow quickly and safely while also helping protect you from future injury!