Tennis elbow is a form of tendinitis that leads to pain on the outside of the elbow and weakness in the forearm and wrist. It is predictably a common ailment of tennis players, but athletes of any sport and individuals who perform repetitive arm motions at home or work can experience the condition. Most cases are considered mild and can be relieved in less than two months with home treatments. Doctors usually recommend rest, ice, anti-inflammatory drugs, and braces in a home tennis elbow treatment regimen. Severe and persistent pain may require corticosteroid injections or possibly surgery to repair seriously damaged tendons.
An individual with tennis elbow may find it difficult and uncomfortable to perform everyday tasks, such as opening doors or holding a plate of food. The first step in tennis elbow treatment is simply resting the joint as much as possible, which can be accomplished by consciously using the other arm or keeping the injured elbow secured in a sling. Applying ice every few hours can help numb the pain and reduce swelling. The elbow might feel less painful but still stiff after a few days of rest and ice, which can be remedied by engaging in light stretching exercises.
Doctors and physical therapists have identified a number of exercises to regain flexibility and strength. An individual can try to slowly extend and bend the elbow joint in repetition, stopping when pain increases. After the person can bend the elbow without discomfort, he or she can practice grasping and lifting light objects to regain strength in the wrist and forearm. Wearing an elbow wrap and brace can help to provide extra protection and stability as the joint starts feeling better.
It is important for a person to identify the original cause of his or her pain to engage in further tennis elbow treatment. A tennis player, for example, may need to adjust his or her technique to take strain off of the elbow. A construction worker who repetitively hammers nails might decide to invest in power tools or take more frequent breaks during the workday. By making lifestyle adjustments and taking preventative measures, a case of tennis elbow is less likely to return.
If an individual does not find relief through home remedies, he or she may need to seek professional tennis elbow treatment. A doctor can perform a thorough examination and take x-rays to determine the extent of tendon damage. The patient may need to receive a corticosteroid injection to immediately reduce pain and inflammation, and be fitted with a custom brace for long-term tennis elbow treatment. If a tendon is severely stretched or torn, the patient may need surgery and follow-up physical therapy sessions to fully regain strength in the elbow.