We see a surge in tennis elbow after Christmas – cleaning, shopping, all the chopping and cutting that comes with all that food prep (oddly enough it’s not as much from tennis as you’d think!). Suddenly things can start to hurt and the elbow is often the first place to take the hit.
Tennis elbow is a name given to a condition in which the outer part of the elbow becomes sore and tender. Activities such as lifting, gripping, opening jars and twisting of the arm are generally painful.
Tennis elbow (or lateral epicondylalgia to use the medical term!) is usually caused by repeated use of the muscles that straighten the wrist and make you grip, and these attach to your elbow.
WHAT DO I DO IF I THINK I HAVE TENNIS ELBOW?
- If your elbow pain is caused by a strenuous or repetitive activity, you should avoid that activity until your symptoms are gone. The longer you keep pushing through the pain, the more likely it is that the tendon will start to develop some wear and tear, which can take longer to settle.
- Ice the elbow with an ice pack, 10 mins on and off, then repeat. Do this several times a day (once your skin can tolerate it).
- Taking anti-inflammatory medication if the pain is less than 2 weeks old can be helpful. After 2 weeks the pain is less likely to be from the inflammation and more likely from wear and tear in the tendon. If that’s the case a specific exercise problem can usually help.
- If the above measures don’t clear your pain, or if you have symptoms longer than a couple of weeks, best to get it assessed. Treatment for tennis elbow is very successful but the earlier it is caught the quicker it recovers.