Seasonal Elbow Pain

Dear Medical Health Ministries,

We live on 3 acres of land and when I was clean up yard and raking a few weeks ago, I developed elbow pain. Someone said this may be tennis elbow. What is tennis elbow and what can I do for this?

With the summer upon us, often times we find ourselves engaging in activities that “wake up” old muscle groups or muscle groups that have lied dormant for weeks, months and even years. This could be due to performing activities such as gardening, yard work, or recreational activities such as canoeing, tennis or volleyball.

When performing activities that exert muscles beyond their physical capacity, we often times end up in muscular fatigue and are susceptible to soft tissue injuries such as myositis, tendinitis and sprain / strain syndromes. One of the most common soft tissue injuries this time of year is a tendinitis in the elbow, commonly referred to as tennis elbow.

Contrary to popular belief, a person could have tennis elbow without even picking up a racket. In fact, the majority of patients we rehabilitate with tennis elbow is obtained by injuries off the court. Any type of repetitive activities such as golf, laying bricks, or carrying heavy boxes, are examples of activities that could cause this type of tendinitis. The pain results from placing a strain on the elbow joint which involves the ligament which allows you to rotate your hand and forearm.

Tennis elbow can strike hard and fast or it can come on gradually. More typically, there’s a bit of soreness which gradually grows until a person cannot even shake hands with their opponent across the net. This condition is an ailment which hits world class players as well as homemakers, construction workers, and weekend athletes.

If caught in the infant stages, ice massage, bracing and activity avoidance could bring this condition to resolution. In more advanced and chronic cases, manual procedures including Guasha and soft tissue manipulation to elongate, break up scar tissue and relax musculature is sometimes utilized. Therapeutic ultrasound and interferential current is also beneficial. In more resistant and severe cases, we may recommend injections and cast the elbow for 3-6 weeks.

Our office has rehabilitated “tennis elbow” patients successfully for many years. There, however, needs to be a co-operative effort on the part of the physician and patient concerning activity modification, rest, avoidance, bracing and exercise.

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