Tennis elbow is a potentially painful condition that occurs when the tendons on outside of the elbow become inflamed. Clinically known as lateral epicondylitis, it usually results from the overuse of the muscles in the forearm. You might have this problem if you notice discomfort when lifting or bending your arm, gripping small objects or twisting your forearm. Tennis elbow can also make it hard to fully extend your arm. As its name suggests, it can be caused by playing tennis, but other activities that put strain on the joint can also trigger it, including playing the violin and even decorating.
You might be relieved to hear that tennis elbow is a self-limiting condition, meaning it usually gets better without the need for medical treatment. However, don’t expect it to disappear overnight. Because tendons heal slowly, it can take a number of weeks or even months for them to fully recover. In some cases, the problem can persist for over a year. Luckily, there are things you can do to help speed up this process. For example, you can take advantage of the hold and cold therapies offered by medical suppliers such as Steroplast. This brief guide talks you through these treatment options.
The importance of rest
However, before you start considering such therapies, it’s important to appreciate the need for rest. To prevent any further damage to your arm, you should stop doing the activity that caused the problem. This might be frustrating and inconvenient, but it’s vital if your body is to recover.
As well as resting your affected limb, you can take advantage of the ice packs, freeze sprays and other cold treatments now available. Ice can decrease blood flow to the injured area, thereby reducing inflammation. It can also prevent muscle spasms and help to reduce pain. As soon as you feel discomfort in your elbow, apply cold therapy for 10 to 15 minutes. You can repeat this process several times each day. Cold therapies are best used in the first couple of days after you suffer an injury.
You may also benefit from using heat therapies once you’ve stopped applying ice packs. These therapies open up blood vessels, increasing blood flow and helping to promote healing. They can also dull pain and improve flexibility in your muscles, tendons and ligaments. As well as using hot water bottles and taking warm baths, you can apply the deep heat rub and spray products now available.
Bear in mind though, you should not use warming treatments if you notice any swelling, as they can increase inflammation. Also, don’t apply heat for more than 20 minutes at a time. As a general rule, you should only turn to heat therapies once you’ve stopped using cold treatments.
Knowing when to see your doctor
By resting your arm and using the right combination of cold and warm therapies, you should start to see improvements in your condition. However, if you don’t think your elbow is getting better, you may need to visit your doctor to establish whether you are suffering from any other complications, such as nerve damage.